The goal of this project is to assist socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers and food producers in the Southwest to build knowledge, skills, resources and relationships that will enable them to successfully own, operate and expand farming and food production businesses. This will be accomplished through the following objectives:<OL> <LI>Enterprise Development By providing ongoing, individual consultation services that build producers' capacity to manage their finances, obtain new resources (such as USDA programs) and develop new markets, ensure that at least 15 socially disadvantaged producers improve and expand their businesses each year. <LI> Value Chain Development Facilitate relationship building between and among producers, processors, distributors, retailers and other food system stakeholders that enable the development of profitable and equitable value chains accessible to a diverse range of producers in the region. <LI> Increased Sales to Institutional Markets By providing group trainings on topics such as post-harvest handling and Good Agricultural Practices, ensure that an additional 10 socially disadvantaged farmers each year sell to institutional and wholesale markets. <LI> Peer Learning and Networking By creating formal and informal peer mentoring and networking opportunities, engage more than 60 farmers and ranchers each year in sharing skills, knowledge and experience and develop lasting business and personal relationships that decrease stress and increase confidence. Use peer mentors to help at least 6 producers apply for USDA programs. <LI>Dissemination of Models Through existing relationships with regional and national organization, ensure that project methodology and learnings are shared with producers, agricultural service providers, and other food system stakeholders throughout the country.
Non-Technical Summary: New Mexico and the Four Corners region have a strong agricultural heritage and a growing demand for local food. However, the area's underserved producers are challenged by geography, limited resources and access to capital. Vast distances make it difficult for traditional service providers to reach all producers and for producers to learn from one another. Building Support and Success from Farm to Market" thus seeks to help Native American, Hispanic and Mexican immigrant producers in New Mexico, Southern Colorado and the Navajo Nation to develop, expand and improve their farming/ranching enterprises. Farm to Table and partners in the field will provide a comprehensive service delivery approach using three complementary methodologies: 1. Enterprise Development--Farm to Table and partners will provide individualized consultation and technical assistance to small/medium-scale socially disadvantaged producers on business management, record-keeping, marketing and accessing USDA programs. The consultant will also provide referrals to other agricultural and financial service providers. 2. Value Chain Development--Farm to Table and partners will help socially disadvanteged producers to develop mutually beneficial relationships with processors, distributors, and retailers to create new markets for their products and better connect to existing markets. Focus will be placed in two areas of opportunity for local producers-- a regional branding program for beef and fruit and vegetable sales to institutions. As part of this work, group trainings will be offered in season extension, GAPs and post-harvest handling. 3. Peer Learning--Farm to Table and partners will coordinate peer networking opportunities that allow producers in three regions to share experiences and expertise. Networking sessions will be conducted on-farm and provide opportunities for hands-on learning. One session per year per region will be hosted by producers who have utilized USDA programs to improve their businesses. The annual Southwest Marketing Network Conference will provide networking, partnerships, and trainings that support and build on each methodology. <P> Approach: Activity 1: Enterprise Development Farm to Table staff will provide ongoing, one-on-one business consultation services to socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, and food processors in New Mexico, Southern Colorado and Eastern Arizona. These services will be tailored to producers' individual needs. Activity 2: Value Chain Development While building producers' business management skills is an essential part of improving their chances of success (as described in a previous section) there are often barriers that producers face that go beyond the management of their own business and relate to the larger supply chain of which they are a part. Thus, as a follow up and complement to enterprise development, this project also includes education about and development of value chains as a key project activity. Activity 3: Farm to Institution Trainings One value chain that has already gathered momentum is the NM Farm to School program. This project activity will build on the work Farm to Table and New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) are doing to assist farmers in selling to school food service providers and expand its reach to other institutions such as universities, hospitals and prisons. Activity 4: Peer Learning and Networking Farm to Table staff and contractors will coordinate both formal and informal peer networking opportunities. The long distances in the region and the specific necessities of farming in the high desert often isolate producers from one another as well as isolate them from their prospective markets and service providers. This is a serious problem given the vast array of knowledge producers have to share with one another about production, management, marketing and off-farm resources. Farm to Table staff will work with its many partners throughout the state and region to create three peer learning networks. Activity 5: Dissemination of Models and Integration with the Southwest Marketing Network As this project builds on the existing efforts of the Southwest Marketing Network, it is important to ensure that the two projects have a strong connection. We will provide information about this project on the Southwest Marketing Network website, through newsletters and other network activities.