- 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
This project will facilitate a learning network of agricultural professionals, NGO assistance providers and farmers from across the southern region who are assisting farmers and community members in strengthening local, sustainable food distribution systems by developing regional food hubs or food value chains. We will provide several opportunities for participants to engage with each other in highly participatory learning activities in order to share information and create new knowledge to increase the effectiveness of their work. In partnership with collaborators from the USDA Food Hub Team, Wallace Center’s National Good Food Network, land grant institutions, an NGO operating an existing food hub, and consultants working closely with limited resource farmers; Southern SAWG will organize the learning network. We will identify and recruit participants; then conduct a series of networking and educational activities, including two network meetings, three webinars and five e-newsletters, plus educational sessions at Southern SAWG conferences in 2014 and 2015. Training content will be based on the needs and interests of the network participants. Trainers with relevant expertise will be contracted for each training event. Learning materials drawn from respected sources such as the National Food Hub Collaboration will be used in the trainings and provided to participants. We will utilize pre- and post-activity questionnaires to measure changes in participants’ attitudes, knowledge and perceived skills in providing assistance. We will also capture the level of training and assistance provided by network participants in their communities, and evaluate their perceived change in effectiveness due to participation in project activities.
Project objectives from proposal:
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. These systems include local food value chains, regional food hubs, and other collaborative ventures of aggregating, distributing and marketing food that allow smaller-scale producers to access wholesale customers, and also allow institutions and other local markets to source local healthy food.
By increasing the capacity of effective technical assistance, we expect this project will assist small and mid-scale sustainable producers in increasing production and accessing institutional markets, restaurants, grocery stores, cooperative CSAs and other local markets; and ultimately provide greater access to local healthy food for community members in the region.
Specific objectives include:
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. Increased knowledge and understanding 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.