Connecting Farmer to Consumer through Small Businesses of Rural Main Street

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $5,989.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Carissa McKenzie
Horse Creek Ranch

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Additional Plants: herbs, native plants


  • Education and Training: participatory research
  • Energy: energy use
  • Farm Business Management: market study
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    Consumers want to know more about their food sources – who grows it and how it’s grown. Retail businesses looks for local suppliers of food to provide what customers ask for. Local producers seek profitable markets for food they grow using sustainable methods. The problem this project will address is how to match up these three groups successfully within our county of 6,000 people. Carissa is seeking a SARE grant to implement an action of the newly adopted Strategic Plan for Wabaunsee County, Kansas. Capitalizing on consumer interest in buying food from local sources, Wabaunsee County Economic Development Council (WCEDC) members believe Slow Food’s focus on the role food plays in our lives can create opportunity for our rural residents. Their first step was to establish a state inspected kitchen to manufacture food items at Alma Community Center. Individuals apply to Kansas Department of Agriculture for a one-year license to use the commercial kitchen. Both wholesale and retail applications are allowed. Project will identify local producers, processors, wholesale and retail stores; prepare a resource guide; develop farmer profiles for publicity; assist growers wanting to join the Slow Food movement, and work on product placement at shops and events in the county and cities within 60 mile radius (Manhattan, Topeka, Emporia, Cottonwood Falls, Wamego, Junction City). Participants will be provided with marketing information from Kansas Department of Commerce, Kansas Department of Agriculture, County Extension, and product testing from Kansas State University. Project leader will take advantage of the community-supported kitchen facilities to process blackberry jelly, dessert sauce and garden produce. Manufacturing under license allows for expanded sales to local grocers, shops and festivals. Carissa will keep a diary documenting steps from her garden through processing and placement, preparing a demonstration “How To” guide. WCEDC’s next annual meeting – a thankful dinner for businesses supporting our local economy- will introduce Slow Food, the concept, and showcase local bounty. Produced in our county are elk, bison, beef, pork, lamb, poultry, goats, eggs, cheese, wine, fruits, vegetables and baked goods. Council web-site profiles existing and new businesses while providing contacts for consumers. We will provide questionnaires for attendees requesting feedback of products sampled. Rural communities of the North Central Region struggle with maintaining entrepreneurs, their Main Street image, and youth retention. It is often said, small family farms cannot succeed in the general market place because of the expense of getting products to consumers. Food now travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from farm to table in the United States, as much as 25 percent farther than two decades ago. Reliance on long-distance food has a negative impact on rural economies, as farmers and small food businesses become the most marginal link in the global food chain. Using local ingredients can reduce petroleum transport consumption by 4 to 17 times. The Slow Food movement, begun 20 years ago in Italy, will be used in this project to connect consumers and rural Main Street businesses with farmers and ranchers who have always maintained a philosophy of living where food is grown.

    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.