Connecting Farmer to Consumer through Small Businesses of Rural Main Street
Project Leader (PL) notified members of Wabaunsee County Economic Development Council (WCEDC) of grant award, elicited discussion of project contribution to implementing action of the newly adopted Strategic Plan for Wabaunsee County (Create appropriate incentives to encourage desirable forms of economic development) by introducing Slow Foods and Locally Grown as market concepts, and finalized tasks for annual meeting dinner. PL assembled food contributions and gift baskets; produced fact sheets; prepared samples of her locally grown blackberry products – baked goods, jam, and wine; and prepared Burr Oak saplings she grew for table decorations and give-aways. PL also helped with dinner set-up, presentations, clean-up, and surveyed attendees on food choices.
Project Leader used grant funds to meet with contributors to the annual meeting dinner to discuss directory of local food sources and get their input.
A Taste of Wabaunsee County featured 10 local producers with a dozen food items and three non-food items. Eighty-five county business people attended. One quarter of attendees responded to the survey.
Project Leader enlisted other WCEDC members to contact producers, businesses, and organizers in the community to promote Slow Food and Locally Grown opportunities.
Traveled to Kansas State University to consult with Extension during the Rural Grocery Store Summit 2010 June 14-15. Heard testimony, networked and led a break-out group focusing on ways to place locally grown food into grocery stores.
Purchased a video camcorder. Paid photographer to take images in seven towns of the county and import digital images to computer for promotional use and to incorporate in a PowerPoint presentation.
Traveled to Alma to meet with technical advisor.
Project Leader hosted WCEDC August meeting at her local one-room schoolhouse featuring lunch items grown within a 60-mile radius including chicken, homemade mayonnaise, and bread, and her own apples, organic wheat torte, salad greens and wine.
Attended the Kansas Pollinator Conservation Planning Short Course August 2 hosted by KSU and the Xerces Society. Shared information with WCEDC and Karen Pendleton, a farm market owner and member of Kaw Valley Growers in Lawrence.
Created PowerPoint presentation for Farmers’ Forum at The 18th Annual National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference in Columbia, Missouri, November 4-5, 2010.
Gave 25-minute talk entitled, What’s on your plate? Capitalize on locovore; was available at SARE booth for outreach, and provided written feedback to SARE.
Met with grocery store owners, retail shop owners, producers, and community organizers concerning events where locally grown food could be featured and sold.
Planted/tended garden. Produce volume and quality reduced by state-wide weather conditions. Locally grown tomatoes nearly non-existent. Blackberry crop was not harvested due to herbicide spraying of road ditches by the County Weed Dept. Therefore, there was no garden produce to process for sales at Symphony in the Flint Hills 2011. Purchase of Food Service License from state deferred until 2011.
I learned economic factors still have greatest impact on success or failure of locally grown food making inroads into retail systems. If one cannot compete within the global economy on production costs and pricing, one needs consumers willing to pay premium prices for locally grown food. Perishable goods especially suffer this condition, but processed foods also are difficult to get into the distribution system. While consumers believe they want locally grown food, it turns out most are not willing to pay more than 5 percent higher when price is the issue. Our local grocer (who runs two groceries, a lunch counter and catering) despairs that people do not support the local economy no matter what they claim. Consumers want the convenience of a local store when in a hurry but prefer the variety and lower cost of big box stores for general purchasing. Rural communities do not have the luxury of consumer numbers that can allow their urban counterparts to be successful.
I learned how to operate a digital camera, import photographs to the computer, and develop PowerPoint programs utilizing those images.
Attendees of my presentation at the National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference asked questions about local food opportunities, but there was more interest in my advice on poultry raising. I answered an audience question at Will King’s Heritage Breed Turkeys presentation and found people seeking me out all afternoon.
Local producers want to be successful but are reluctant to join together with other producers. I suspected this would be an issue. Our elk and bison ranchers and a cheese maker are at full capacity and do not want increased demand at this time
Project Leader will use camcorder to document 2011 growing season for How To guide. She will also keep a diary. Other local growers will be interviewed. Two people will be hired to help harvest produce.
Food Service License will be purchased to process garden produce in licensed kitchen for distribution at regional events and for sales when possible.
Farmer bios will be developed for promotional use and as educational tool for producers. Grant funds will offset costs of materials and travel. Will work on product placement.
Information will be gathered for the resource guide identifying local producers, processors, wholesale and retail stores within scope of project. The new governor of Kansas has ordered agricultural marketing to be reassigned from Department of Commerce back to Department of Agriculture. Procedures are being changed this year. Need to make adjustments for this and what marketing assistance will be available.
Basic PROJECT information was shared with 12 member economic development council to explain concept of Slow Foods and Locally Grown as marketing tools and how we can all help our communities grow economically and socially. Two members have worked to get farmers markets in their communities. Lake Wabaunsee has seen better results than others because consumers are drawn from lake residents (250) and their visitors while Paxico requires visitors to leave the interstate to visit a place they may not otherwise go to.
A Taste of Wabaunsee County annual dinner meeting was a success with 85 guests from the business community attending. Both regional newspapers published feature stories with photographs covering the event.
What’s on your plate? Capitalize on locovores presentation drew perhaps 60 people at the 18th National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference in Columbia, Missouri.
PowerPoint program created for the trade show can be used by Wabaunsee County Economic Development Council on the website and at events such as Kansas Sampler and Symphony in the Flint Hills or by Wabaunsee County Extension Service. Inexpensive computer flash drives open greater possibilities than carting around slide projectors.
Project Leader hopes to generate newspaper and magazine coverage in 2011 and develop a workshop through WCEDC.