Appalachian Grown: Toward Regional Community-based Food Systems
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 multi-year project will support a systems-centered research and education component for the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s (ASAP) ongoing “Appalachian Grown Local Food Campaign” and will continue the linkage with a national buy local initiative conducted by FoodRoutes Network. ASAP was 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.
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 initially received SSARE funding through spring 2005. A one-year no-cost extension was secured with a current project end date of March 31, 2007.
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.
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.
An effective methodology for assessing the project area food system was identified. The methodology involves compiling county-level statistics from Bureau of Economic Analysis and Agriculture Census data — along with food consumption estimates for the region — to quantify economic impact to the region of food imports/exports. The data will show current farm production and sales within the region and can be used to illustrate the potential benefits of shifting to more local consumption of locally produced food. This dataset is currently being prepared for ASAP by Ken Meter of the Crossroads Resource Center.
Results from consumer and campaign partner assessments and surveys have shaped the development of ASAP’s 2005-2006 Local Food Guide. The Local Food Guide continues to be a comprehensive guide to farms and farm products, tailgate markets and community supported agriculture enterprises, grocers, restaurants, distributors, bed & breakfasts and organizations supportive of the local food campaign. The 2005-2006 Guide features 167 farms, 13 grocers, 26 restaurants, 10 B&Bs, 8 caterers and bakers, 6 distributors/processors and 19 other organizations.
The Guide’s effectiveness is being evaluated in terms of individual and institutional consumer awareness and use. Campaign partner data has also been collected each year as organizations are entered in the Local Food Guide. Analysis of this five year dataset is in process.
Additional analysis of targeted grower and consumer surveys has been completed and a report documenting the economic impact to the region was released to local media. The surveys collected at 9 project area farmers’ tailgate markets revealed total consumer spending at the markets of more than $300,000 for the months of June, July and August. And nearly $200,000 in additional spending in the area was reported by tailgate market shoppers who indicated that the primary reason they came to town was to visit one of the markets.
The university/college foodservice survey begun in 2004 was completed with data collected for a total of 15 schools in the project area. A survey of 24 public school districts in Western North Carolina was completed, in addition to in-depth interviews of 5 districts that are currently purchasing locally. Results are being disseminated back to schools within the region and will be incorporated into a larger report examining the potential of shifting institutional food demand to local producers.
Institutional surveys have also been developed for camps, hospitals, and restaurants within the region, to assess the current level of local purchasing within these institutions and gauge interest in initiating or expanding local purchasing. Surveying will take place during this final year of the project.
A second annual regional marketing roundtable and conference was held in February of 2006 at Warren Wilson College. The Conference included workshops on wholesale markets, tailgate markets, growing and marketing items such as small fruits, medicinal herbs and eggs, and other topics relevant to farmers. The conference drew over 250 participants from the southeast region. A comprehensive Resource Notebook was compiled and provided to conference attendees.
In follow-up to the survey of 100 Southern Appalachian organizations and agricultural extension agents, in-depth interviews are currently being conducted with organizations identified as “key players” within the regional food system and those with buy local campaigns. Interview data is being used to assess barriers and opportunities regarding the development of community-based food systems within the region, and to guide efforts to facilitate networking among this group of organizations.
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. The project will facilitate cooperation and networking among organizations throughout the region working to build and strengthen community-based food systems.
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.
Results from various surveys will be used to prepare a visioning document for the region, to define how the local food system can be rebuilt to meet demand from individuals and institutional foodservice departments. This vision will be designed to facilitate policymakers and regional planners’ efforts to promote and strengthen community-based food systems within the region.
Strong, sustainable local food systems have positive impacts on:
• the environment, by reducing or eliminating harmful chemicals in the production process and reducing vehicular miles of transport;
• 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 choices, and by connecting farmers to consumers and rural communities to cities.