Development of Market Infrastructure to Support Local and Regional Food Systems
Marketing infrastructure is the necessary link in the development of more sustainable farming practices. It is also the most difficult to develop in the chain that connects consumers who will purchase products grown in sustainable farming systems.
This project has concentrated on building food systems in two regions of Indiana. The west central Indiana project focuses on target markets for organic and natural food in Indianapolis and Bloomington, Indiana. This project has identified some target markets, fostered the development of sustainable production practices to supply those markets, facilitated the development of processing capacity and facilitated the development of networks that link production from several farms to the identified markets.
CityFood is a component that grows organic produce on five project-owned city lots in an African American neighborhood 30 blocks north of the center of Indianapolis. This produce has been marketed at the project’s neighborhood farmstand. The objective of this component is to stimulate marketing capacity in the inner city for rural farmers in the region. The goal for CityFood is the commitment of neighborhood residents to operate the project well into the future. This process is still in transition, as this commitment has been difficult to attain.
Another phase of the central Indiana project connects rural farms to city markets. For most farm products other than fruits and vegetables, processing that meets government regulations has been lacking. With this project’s assistance, there now exist a few approved on-farm facilities that are in some stage of completion. These include inspected kitchens, a state-inspected processing plant for organic poultry, a cheesemaking facility and a yogurt plant.
Most products from these facilities will be marketed in Indianapolis and Bloomington as well as on the farms. Even more importantly, these facilities will perform custom processing. That reality is already stimulating further production for direct marketing from farms in the region.
In northeast Indiana, this project has facilitated the development of a farmer marketing group named SAFE (Sustainable Agriculture For Everyone). Members are making weekly deliveries to restaurants in Chicago. In September a food fair attracted 150 farmers and consumers for a meal of regional food, education about sustainable agriculture and a tour of a farm the raises pastured pork.
In the spring of 2000, a new market will open in Goshen, Indiana. This market will offer a full complement of organic and natural farm products and will also consist of a CSA in which members can redeem subscription credits with any of the vendors at the market. This market is attracting many farmers from the region and plans to operate the year around.
The impact of this SARE project has been to establish models for production, processing and marketing of farm products raised in accordance with sustainable practices. We are already witnessing the multiplier effect that only a small amount of infrastructure can generate.
One example is that an organic vegetable grower wanted to raise turkeys to keep his asparagus beds weeded. Because an Amish farmer who raises organic poultry on pasture constructed a state-inspected processing facility on his farm, the vegetable farmer can get his turkeys processed and sell them to Thanksgiving and Christmas markets.
As we witness how marketing infrastructure stimulates further development of sustainable farming, the potential for rapid development is already obvious. The networking that develops around these marketing activities promotes consumer demand for other products, and so forth.