- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems
Growing Food & Community is an initiative dedicated to creating, supporting and uniting community food programs and sustainable agriculture projects as a pathway toward resilient, viable and equitable food systems in the Virginia Piedmont. Our goal is to partner those that produce, distribute and market our food locally with those that consume these foods locally and, thus, galvanize our community, protect the environment, strengthen our local economy and secure our future. To achieve this goal, Growing Food & Community (hereafter referred to as GF&C) is requesting this grant to create and support viable economic models of value-added food production and direct producer-to-consumer partnerships within the Piedmont region of Virginia including Albemarle, Culpeper, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson, Orange and Rappahannock counties. Specific projects we will focus on in 2009 include: Develop a series of regional workshops and a corresponding handbook that focuses on value-added agriculture and food processing enterprises Construct a website that will offer valuable resources and information, as well as networking opportunities, for those interested in value-added food production and sales Expand direct market opportunities for value-added foods by organizing farmers markets and special events and by linking producers directly with local consumers Provide ongoing consultation & administrative support for new and existing farmers markets and community food projects We will accomplish this through building long-lasting, mutually supportive partnerships between those that grow, sell, process, store, distribute, regulate, buy and eat food.
Project objectives from proposal:
Ensuring the security of our food future is a daunting task. Consequently, GF&C has chosen to focus on two objectives for the upcoming year that are built around helping farmers realize their fullest potential by creating new jobs, businesses and revenue streams:
Increasing the amount and quality of value-added agriculture in the Virginia Piedmont region.
Assisting farmers in navigating the difficult process of adding value to their farm-grown products has a direct impact on promoting sustainable agriculture. Farmers need to be supported in their efforts to move from crop production agriculture to value-added enterprises. They need hands-on leadership and guidance to walk them through feasibility studies, marketing research, business plan development and in getting their products to market for a fair price. That is why GF&C is committed to partnering with and networking together those having expertise in these specialized tasks through informative workshops, a printed handbook and a resourceful website.
Strengthening direct producer-to-consumer partnerships as a primary vehicle for sales.
Farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer selling venues are one of the most successful modes of food distribution because of the far-reaching effects they have on a community. Local economies are strengthened, local farmers are supported and local communities are galvanized all as a result of them.
The growth in farmers markets has been fueled by increased public interest in knowing where their food is grown, who grew it and how. They want food that has been grown without damaging the environment and are willing to pay a higher price for it.
“We need to get small farmers into the distribution system,” says Rick Schnieders, chief executive of food distributor Sysco. Considering the many obstacles to getting local, healthy foods onto the shelves of supermarket chains, direct-to-consumer sales and farmers markets present a viable solution for ensuring access to healthy food for all members of the community.