- Education and Training: farmer to farmer, networking, study circle, workshop, youth education
- Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, cooperatives
- Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, community development, community planning, infrastructure analysis, local and regional food systems, public participation, quality of life, social capital, social networks, values-based supply chains
Our problems are many here in the rural Ozarks. We are geographically and socially isolated, the lack of economic opportunities is compounded by people working and shopping outside the county, we live in a “food desert”, the local culture is resistant to change, our soil is generally poor and weather is erratic. However, we are stubborn in our love for the area and our desire to care for each other! Community members, farmers, and organizations such as the Ozark County Homegrown Food Project, the health department, and the chamber of commerce have been working hard to promote healthy, local foods. There is growing interest from consumers, and many farmers and gardeners would like to provide food to the community. Unfortunately, consumers don’t know what is available, or aren’t familiar with items like eggplant or Chinese cabbage. Farmers are not making enough income to justify local marketing. Many of us would rather give food away than wash, package, label, and transport it to town only to see it linger on the shelves because no one knows that it’s there or how to use it, or because another farmer brought in a bunch of the same thing.
We need a central coordinator to breach the gap between consumers and farmers, and to help farmers collaborate to save time and effort. So far this effort has been volunteer-led, but this is too large of an undertaking for a volunteer. While there is a huge wealth of information on building a local food movement, the examples almost always depend on proximity to a large city. While it is nearly 100 miles to a large city, plenty of local people lack access to fresh food. We need to find a socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable way to feed our own community.
This project will build a farmer support network and engage community members in the local food economy in order to make farms more economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable.
I will visit and interview local farmers to identify their products, production and marketing methods, future goals, and barriers to success. This information will be compiled into a farmer directory, and will be used to create a resource guide to address farmer needs such as financial assistance, technical advice, marketing information, growing information, food safety rules, legal advice and agricultural suppliers.
Four “Farm Summits” will bring farmers together to facilitate collaboration. We will discuss season plans, coordinating plantings to meet demand, cooperative marketing opportunities, bulk ordering, tool and equipment sharing, labor exchanges, and share knowledge and experiences. This will also provide a much needed social outlet!
A youth farming internship will give high school students the opportunity to learn about growing food by working on local farms. This program will make youth more invested in the community and allow them to explore farming as a career, and the extra help will also benefit farmers.
Four seasonal newsletters will educate consumers about local foods and farms by profiling area farms, listing locally available products and where to get them, sharing recipes for seasonal produce, listing relevant local events, and providing sustainable farm and garden tips.
A “Local Foods Showcase” event will highlight local farms, allow farmers and consumers to interact, and educate consumers about what is available.
Finally, I will meet with local stakeholders including government officials, local businesses, civic organizations, and other non-profits to discuss starting a monthly farmers market in Gainesville. While starting the market is outside the scope of this grant, we will lay the groundwork by identifying a leadership team, timeline, and potential funding sources.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Contribute to the economic, social, and ecological sustainability of our food system by facilitating collaboration between farms, helping farmers find resources to succeed, and increasing consumer awareness of locally available farm products.
- Decrease reliance on fossil fuels for transportation by improving local marketing channels; spread knowledge about ecologically sound agricultural methods such as water conservation, cover cropping, and rotational grazing; and reduce food waste by educating consumers.
- Help farmers save money by sharing tools and equipment, exchanging labor with each other on large projects, and bulk ordering supplies; provide labor to farmers through youth internship; connect farmers with financial and technical resources; increase local sales by raising consumer awareness; and save consumers money by buying directly from farmers.
- Create opportunities for social interaction among farmers and between farmers and community members, connect youth with farmers and their community, free up time for farmers, and increase public access to fresh, healthy foods.