Increasing the Professional Technical Support for Local, Sustainable Food Distribution Systems in the Southern Region

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2013: $79,776.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Keith Richards
Southern SAWG

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: potatoes
  • Fruits: melons, apples, berries (other), berries (blueberries), berries (brambles), figs, peaches, berries (strawberries)
  • Nuts: pecans
  • Vegetables: sweet potatoes, artichokes, asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), leeks, onions, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips
  • Additional Plants: herbs
  • Animals: bovine, poultry, goats, swine, sheep, fish
  • Animal Products: dairy
  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms


  • Education and Training: mentoring, networking, workshop, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: cooperatives, budgets/cost and returns, e-commerce, farm-to-institution, feasibility study, agricultural finance, risk management, value added
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships


    Southern SAWG facilitated a two-year learning network for 52 agricultural professionals, NGO assistance providers and farmers who are assisting farmers and community members in strengthening local, sustainable food distribution systems by developing regional food hubs or food value chains. Participants engaged in several learning activities, including two networking meetings and six educational workshops at SSAWG conferences, and two webinars and three facilitated discussions on conference calls. Southern SAWG also provided useful resources, notices of events, and other key information through email communication. Recordings of the webinars and conference presentations were posted online and promoted to all.

    Project objectives:

    The overall goal of this project is to equip Cooperative Extension agents, USDA field personnel, NGO technical assistance providers, and other agricultural professionals and educators in the southern region with the tools and resources to provide effective technical support to farmers and community members who are developing or strengthening local, sustainable food distribution systems.

    Objective 1: At least 50 agricultural professionals will participate in a learning network with associated training on local, sustainable food distribution systems offered through this project. Lessons to be taught will include, but not be limited to: key factors that contribute to the success or failure of regional food hub and food value chain activities, how to finance stages of development and reduce risk, options for legal business structures, and methods for assessing community assets that could be components of a regional food hub.

    Objective 2: Participants will gain improved understanding of the keys to effective development of local, sustainable food distribution systems, and how their work can be of assistance to this development.

    Objective 3: Participants will gain access to tools and resources that can be readily used by agricultural professionals or other community members to support the development of local, sustainable food distribution systems. They will include user-friendly electronic materials available online or on CD that they will share with others or refer to when called upon to provide needed technical information.

    Objective 4: Participants will gain access to professional relationships with other agricultural professionals across the region working on similar issues who they can contact for specific information needs. They will draw on these contacts when called upon to provide needed technical assistance.

    Objective 5: Participants will gain improved capacity to deliver technical assistance to producers and community members seeking to develop local, sustainable food distribution systems. This capacity will be gained by utilizing the information presented in the training, through the newly accessed tools and resources, and through continued networking with other learning network members. 

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.