Congregationally Supported Agriculture

Project Overview

LNC98-128
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1998: $38,900.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2001
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Phillip Arnold
Center Chapter Sustainable Farming Assn

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Fruits: melons, apples, berries (other), berries (strawberries)
  • Vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), lentils, onions, peppers, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts
  • Additional Plants: herbs
  • Animals: bees, bovine, poultry, goats, rabbits, swine, sheep
  • Animal Products: dairy

Practices

  • Animal Production: free-range, homeopathy, grazing - multispecies, pasture fertility, probiotics, grazing - rotational, feed/forage
  • Education and Training: networking
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, cooperatives, marketing management, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Sustainable Communities: urban/rural integration

    Abstract:

    This project helped create a marketing network of sustainable farmers and customers who share belief in an alternative food system. The focus of the effort was to target church congregations (and similar interest groups) as education and marketing points. The project was successful in establishing relationships with nine churches and one convent. However, we discovered that it takes hard work and patience on both sides to make the relationship worthwhile. It is not always convenient for customers to buy food this way. They must be motivated to making it work as a partnership with those who raise their food.

    Objectives:

    This farmer directed project was intended to develop a marketing and educational network of producers using sustainable practices, and consumers who care about how and by whom their food is raised. The consumers included, but were not limited to, members of church congregations. Our goal was to establish relations with the members of eight churches that would be firmly grounded on the friendship and common goals of the participants. The marketing network and infrastructure developed with the help of this grant was to help the Whole Farm Cooperative (WFC) to grow. We hoped a model would be created that could be replicated by groups of farmers in other geographic areas.

    Methodology:

    The Whole Farm Cooperative (WFC) was established to market member’s products by the Central Chapter of the Minnesota Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) in December of 1997.

    The model for this project was based upon our experience with the Judson Baptist Church in Minneapolis. We learned from these people that churches hold groups of people who are ready to ally with farmers to create an alternate food system based upon sustainability and social justice.

    Early in the project we contracted with an intern from the University of Minnesota’s Sustainable Agriculture program to conduct a survey of customers needs and values. The same intern also interviewed producers and wrote profiles of the original 25 members and their farming operations.

    We also established a quarterly newsletter, set up a web page, and held an annual “Fall Gathering” where customers and producers could share time together over a meal of WFC products.

    Results:

    The project was very successful as we are currently delivering to eleven churches and have several more that wish to begin deliveries. Our base of other customers has also increased using the same method of identifying a group in an area and establishing a drop site with a coordinator. At the end of the grant period, people marketing products through the Coop. had grown from 25 to 64.

    The customer base that we have developed is very loyal, and knowledgeable about food and sustainable issues.

    Impacts and Potential Contributions:

    Because the project has been successful, it has caught the imagination of many people who are looking for alternatives to industrial agriculture. The impact upon members of the WFC and our local area has been significant.

    Project objectives:

    The objective was to create a sustainable marketing connection between farmers and members of eight urban and rural church congregations.

    We proposed developing a method for linking groups of consumers and producers that will educate consumers about sustainable farming, and put a human face on the currently faceless exchange of consumer’s money for food.

    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.