Appalachian Grown: Toward Regional Community-based Food Systems

2003 Annual Report for LS03-146

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2003: $154,030.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Charlie Jackson
Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project

Appalachian Grown: Toward Regional Community-based Food Systems

Summary

The goal of “Appalachian Grown: Toward Regional Community-Based Food Systems” is to facilitate continued research and development of effective “buy local food” campaigns as a strategic component in establishing community-based food systems throughout Southern Appalachia. The two-year project will support a systems-centered research and education component for the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s (ASAP) ongoing “Buy Appalachian Local Food Campaign” and will continue the linkage with a national buy local initiative conducted by FoodRoutes Network. ASAP is one of ten organizations in the country participating in the national initiative. The project will facilitate an understanding of the existing regional food system and will establish assessment and implementation “buy local food campaign” methodologies for sustainable community-based food systems.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The project goal is to facilitate continued research and development of effective “buy local food” campaigns as a strategic component in establishing community-based food systems throughout Southern Appalachia. The “Appalachian Grown: Toward Regional Community-Based Food Systems” project has received SSARE funding through spring 2005 to accomplish the following objectives:

Research Objectives:

1. Assess the existing project area food system and identify barriers and opportunities regarding community-based food systems.

2. Assess local market/consumer preferences in context of ASAP’s “buy local food” campaign.

3. Evaluate impacts of ASAP’s “Buy Appalachian Local Food Campaign”.

4. Inventory existing and emerging “buy local food” campaigns in Southern Appalachia.

Outreach Objectives:

1. Production capacity assessment and methodology results will be compiled, summarized and distributed to project partners.

2. Market and consumer assessment results will be compiled and disseminated to project partners and will inform the development of the ASAP “Buy Appalachian Local Food Campaign”. Results will also be disseminated to target grocery and restaurant operations to assist in their response to market dynamics and trends.

3. “Buy Appalachian Local Food Campaign” evaluation results will measure impact and inform campaign development and adjustments.

4. Results from the Southern Appalachian campaign inventory will establish a benchmark status of buy local campaigns in the region and will establish a network of engaged individuals and communities. This network will form the core of a “learning organization” focused on buy local campaigns. Results will be disseminated to project partners and the FoodRoutes Network buy local initiative.

Project results will be disseminated through the following avenues: the project website (www.BuyAppalachian.org and www.asapconnections.org , the ASAP Marketing Working Group; two regional marketing roundtables; the NC Dept. of Agriculture; state and regional sustainable agriculture organizations and meetings; the Cooperative Extension Service network; the Southern SAWG network and annual conference; the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference; Carolina Organic Growers, Inc.; the farmer’s markets in the project area and related WNC commodity associations. In addition, results will be disseminated through publications and the website of FoodRoutes Network and findings will submitted to local newspapers, journals, and agricultural periodicals.

Accomplishments/Milestones

A survey of assessment methodologies in underway and consultation with project advisers has taken place.

Results from consumer and campaign partner assessments and surveys have formed the basis for ASAP’s Local Food Guide — a guide to farms and farm products, tailgate markets, community supported agriculture enterprises, grocers, restaurants, distributors, bed & breakfasts and organizations supportive of the local food campaign. The survey and assessment results have helped shape the ASAP Buy Local Food Campaign, and the Guide has driven market channel and consumer interest in local sustainably produced foods.

Targeted grower and consumer surveys have been conducted at the 9 project area farmer tailgate markets that form the Mountain Tailgate Market Association. A total of 466 intercept surveys were conducted along with 60 vendor surveys and 721 consumer surveys. Analysis of the survey results has occurred and additional analysis of the survey results will provide economic impact information — including estimated economic impact of markets for farmers and additional spending in the area from consumers shopping at the tailgate markets.

ASAP planned and implemented a regional marketing roundtable and conference. The ASAP Marketing Opportunities for Farmers Conference took place in February 2004 at Warren Wilson College and drew over 150 participants from the southeast region. A 230 page Resource Notebook was compiled and provided to conference attendees.

Surveys have been completed by Campaign participants of the 2004 Campaign. Participants include: 122 farms, 16 apple farms, 36 u-pick operations, 16 CSA?s, 36 tailgate markets,
29 restaurants, 11 grocers, 5 distributors, 7 caters and bakers, 8 bed and breakfasts, and 15 organizations. Survey information was collected and is currently being analyzed for the following categories:

General Information:
Track categories (vegetable, fruit, dairy, etc.)
of local foods and specific value-added products
marketed through campaign restaurants, grocers &
direct markets.
Estimated annual percentage increase in gross
sales to local market channels by farmers.
Track the number of participating farmers in the
campaign.
Track the local market channels that farmers sold
their food products to each year.
Identify representative examples where a farmer has increased percentage of sales.

Direct Markets:
Growth in the number of direct markets (tailgate,
CSA, etc.).
The number of local venders participating in the
tailgate markets
The number of directories distributed and the
number of visits to web-based directories.
The increase of consumers purchasing food at
designated farmers markets and CSAs.

Restaurants:
Track the number of campaign restaurants.
Track the dollar amount and percentage of local
food purchased by campaign restaurants.
Track the number of people served by restaurants
participating in partners? campaign.

Retail Groceries:
Track the number of campaign retail partners.
Track the dollar amount and percentage of local
food purchased by campaign grocers.
Track the number of local food products and their
dollar value available at each retail outlet.

Contact and outreach information regarding the survey of the existing and emerging local food campaigns in the 120 counties comprising Southern Appalachia has been complied. A database is being established and the preliminary survey instrument is in process of being developed and tested.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

It is expected that the Appalachian Grown project will directly serve the production and marketing interests of small family farmers and will establish approaches that will assist communities interested in linking local production capacity with local consumption demand. Project research and education initiatives will also assist community efforts regarding “buy local food campaigns”. Furthermore, project outcomes will describe economic impacts of the existing food system and the potential positive economic and security benefits of “buy local food campaigns” and community-based food systems.

Surveys conducted during the 2003 season at Buncombe and Madison county farmers’ markets found that most visitors come to markets as their primary reason for coming to town and that they also plan to spend more money while in town, indicating a direct financial benefit to the community.

Appalachian Grown will help establish a regional benchmark and a “learning community” of interested/committed individuals focused on “buy local food campaigns”.

In addition, Appalachian Grown will establish a foundation for community-based food systems in WNC and Southern Appalachia. Local food systems based on sustainable farming and local focused marketing are projected to have positive impacts on the environment – through reducing or eliminating harmful chemicals in the production process and reducing vehicular miles of transport trucks; the local economy – by reducing the outflow of dollars and increasing the multiplier effect; human and social health – by reducing harmful substances and providing nutritious food to consumers and connecting farmers to consumers and rural communities to cities.