USDA Awards Grant to Horticulture Department for Promoting Local Foods
Farmers markets are a great outlet for local growers, but a grant from the USDA Local Foods Promotion Program may help area producers find opportunities to add to the local food system.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Horticulture Department in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas has received a planning grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to promote the local food system in Northwest Arkansas.
The grant is for $25,000 with a match of $8,334 for a total of $33,334, which was awarded through the USDA Local Foods Promotion Program.
The project, “Building the Capacity of the Northwest Arkansas Food System,” is using an advisory committee, surveys and stakeholder meetings to determine challenges and opportunities associated with bringing local products to market.
“This project is a partnership of the University of Arkansas, the Fayetteville Farmers Market and Fayetteville Public Schools,” said Heather Friedrich, program manager with the Horticulture Department and the Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability. “The purpose is to address challenges and opportunities associated with local growers working together to meet institutional markets such as Farm to School programs. Challenges include efficient delivery systems, production planning – both in the field and meal/kitchen planning – and providing training for kitchen staff to handle fresh produce.”
One of the goals is to get growers to think about diversifying their markets so they aren’t exclusively reliant on farmers markets, which can be impacted by weather, holidays and other events.
“Customers, such as schools, want to buy local foods in places other than farmers markets,” said Friedrich. “There are elements, such as getting growers to work together to meet market orders and the distribution of those products, which can be improved but don’t have easy solutions.”
Friedrich said Fayetteville Public Schools wants to increase local food purchases for its Farm to School program, and is serving as the “pilot” market by working with growers on planning, delivery dates, guaranteeing sales and training kitchen staff.
“We hope to address the potential for integrating distribution needs into existing Northwest Arkansas infrastructure, and look into the potential for developing additional institutional markets,” said Friedrich. “This project impacts Northwest Arkansas growers and Fayetteville Public School students directly in the short term. However, we are hoping it addresses larger issues that further strengthen and build our local food system, such as establishing new markets, and developing efficient aggregation and distribution systems so more people can purchase local foods in venues in addition to farmers markets.”
The project began in October and the scheduled to be completed in September.
About the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences: Bumpers College provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates who will be leaders in the businesses associated with foods, family, the environment, agriculture, sustainability and human quality of life; and who will be first-choice candidates of employers looking for leaders, innovators, policy makers and entrepreneurs. The college is named for Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas governor and longtime U.S. senator who made the state prominent in national and international agriculture.
About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.
Robby Edwards, director of communications
Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences
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