- Sustainable Communities: community development, local and regional food systems
Small rural farmers investigate the ability to improve their production, consolidate distribution, and establish new markets while wanting to address the concerns of food access. Their investigation included performing assessment of their operations, researching the region’s demand for product, and developing a strategy for distribution. These farmers faced historical barriers, which has influenced their opinion on their product marketing strategy and utilizing state and federal programs
SouthEast Michigan Producers Association (SEMPA) is a rural producer association established by farmers of color located in an area where three (3) counties in the Detroit region – Wayne, Monroe, and Washtenaw – border. The objective of SEMPA is to consolidate the producers’ efforts in production, marketing, and distribution to increase their capacity, and serve the food insecure areas through a local food system. Previous attempts were made to organize these producers but were not sustained due to the attitudes toward state and federal intervention previously mentioned.
Project objectives:div style="margin-left:1em;">
SEMPA’s principal objectives with this project were the following:
Sustain and Improve Operations. Assist its membership with existing operations, reclaim idle land, and encourage increased capacity, through trainings, workshops, and one-on-one meetings. We were projecting to have 90% of the membership assessed and 50% with improved operations.
Encourage Collaboration. Inform its membership of the value of cooperative efforts for production, marketing, etc. and provide case studies or initiate dialogue with other cooperatives or entities that benefit from such efforts; We were projecting 75% of the membership to have a better understanding of working cooperatively and be encouraged to participate.
Stabilize Existing and Identify New Markets. Assist membership capability at existing markets while investigating farmers markets, wholesale markets, neighborhood markets, restaurants, and schools. Also create an affiliation with farmers markets in food insecure areas and collaborate to market in these areas to increase customers. We were projecting to stabilize all existing markets and identify 2-3 new markets.
Create Distribution/Logistics. Establish a distribution facility for product from membership and others that will allow for storage, processing, and delivery. Proposed facility to be located in proximity of the targeted market, including urban food insecure neighborhoods, wholesale, retail and restaurant buyers. We were projecting to determine facility feasibility and investigate its development.
Acquire Surplus/Grade B Product Demand. Establish system of collecting surplus product from membership, affiliated producers and farmers markets, to return to distribution center for redistribution or value added processing. We were projecting to identify 2-3 significant sources of this product, outside the membership.
Maintain Farming Legacy. Emphasize the importance of maintaining the family farm by assisting its membership in long term planning and family farm education. Workshops and one-on-one meetings with families will be held. We were projecting to have 25% of our membership establishing transition plans.