The representatives of the community established the following long-term goals and objectives for this project. The long-term goals of this project are to: <OL> <LI> Help socially disadvantaged farmers establish farming operations and/or increase the economic viability of their current farming operations by developing lower cost methods for intensive production on small acreages, establishing local markets for their produce and providing agricultural business management training.<LI> Break the barriers that have kept small-scale socially disadvantaged farmers from marketing locally through USDA food assistance programs. NOTE: Often these producers are unable to benefit from the requirements in USDA food assistance programs that encourage 50 percent of fruits and vegetables to be locally grown. Institutions using the food assistance programs, such as schools, are accustomed to purchasing from one or two large nationwide distributors, so they are uncomfortable dealing with multiple small-scale producers. By developing a model of a marketing network among small-scale, socially disadvantaged farmers, these farmers will be able to break the barriers that keep them from selling locally through USDA food assistance programs in schools and in other direct and retail venues. <LI> Empower socially disadvantaged farmers with technical assistance thereby helping them develop and stabilize their farm businesses to the degree that they are attractive for their sons and daughters to continue farming. <LI> Enhance communication and understanding between Michigan's socially disadvantaged farmers and relevant USDA and other technical assistance providers so that access for socially disadvantaged farmers to available assistance is increased. </ol> Objectives for the next three years include: <OL> <LI> Providing training and one-on-one assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers on techniques to produce fruits and vegetables that can be marketed locally through USDA food assistance programs such as free lunch and snack programs and other local venues. <LI> Providing customized education and training in areas of marketing, packaging, distribution and food safety that will enable producers to provide a high quality product needed to market locally through USDA food assistance programs as well as other local venues. <LI> Enhancing the capabilities of the cooperative of SDF, Southern Michigan Agriculture Research Team (SMART), to develop the accounting systems that will allow the farmers to use SMART as a tool for marketing cooperatively to the Covert School System and other venues. <LI> Enhancing the network among the socially disadvantaged farmers that will allow these small farmers to work cooperatively to produce, store, and sell their fruits and vegetables locally through USDA assistance programs and other local venues. <LI> Provide training and one-on-one assistance session in both English and Spanish to meet the needs of the targeted audience in southwest Michigan. <LI> Develop a model that can be used across the country that brings small farmers together to produce and market their fruits and vegetables locally to schools through the USDA school meal and snack programs.
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: This project seeks to utilize the full range of USDA programs from various agencies to create a local food system that: 1. Helps socially disadvantaged farmers in southwest Michigan produce and market fresh fruits and vegetables locally, including using low-cost season extension systems, such as unheated plastic hoop houses. 2. Enhances the harvesting and storage techniques and capabilities of SDF so that the fruits and vegetables that they grow meet the standards that consumers desire for fresh consumption rather than for processing. 3. Creates a local market for the fresh fruits and vegetables of SDF through the use of the USDA, Food and Nutrition Service Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and school meal/lunch programs at the Covert School System. This model food system will bring the Covert community together to address the needs of the farmers, businesses, consumers and the school children. This project will focus on using the enhanced opportunities provided through the 2008 Farm Bill in: 1) FSA loans and Farm Storage Facility programs, 2) NRCS conservation programs, 3) Rural Development programs for farmer cooperatives and business programs, and 4) FNS lunch and snack programs that seek to use locally grown foods.
APPROACH: This project seeks to create a local food system that provides socially disadvantaged farmers with: 1) a ready local market for their fresh fruits and vegetables, 2) a cooperative network for storage and distribution of these products, and 3) educational opportunities needed to maintain their farms. The local food system will help not only the local SDF, but the youth in the community who will have access to fresh local fruits and vegetables in meals and snacks during school. An OASDFR Project Advisory Committee will meet on a quarterly basis to review project plans, accomplishments, and to provide overall direction to the project. Outcomes and Indicators 1. Socially Disadvantage Farmers (SDF) increase economic viability of farms. Increased net income Improved tax management Secured appropriate USDA financial assistance Improved asset/liability ratio SDF's use business plans/computer records to secure commercial loans A market is developed that accepts crops that are produced. 2. SDF develop local market Individual farmers develop & implement marketing plans. Individual farmers or small groups produce, harvest, package, and distribute to the Covert School System and other local venues. 3. Local Food System is created that brings products of SDF into the local School for the USDA meal and snack programs. School system is able to purchase some of the fruits and vegetables needed for the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and locally grown in the school meal and snack programs. NOTE: The 2008 Farm Bill set a goal of 50% of the fruits and vegetables used in the program would be locally grown. 4. SDF attract sons, daughters to farming. Parents' desire for children to farm Younger people's involvement in farming Number of intergenerational farming agreements Network of supportive farming colleagues who share knowledge, expertise, and provide encouragement. 5. Increased and more positive interaction between SDF and USDA and other farming infrastructure organizations. Number of SDF contacting farm agencies (NRCS, FSA, MDA, etc.) Number of farm agency representatives making special efforts to include SDF in programs. Number of SDF participating in farm agency programs Number of SDF participating in MSU Extension educational programs. Number of SDF joining farmer organizations Evaluation Approaches Interview farmers Number of farmers receiving FSA loans Number of farmers using systems of SMART to purchase inputs and to sell cooperatively to the school system. Number of farmers selling locally to the school system. Data recorded by MIFFS staff and partners based on their discussion with SDF. Records from Covert School System on purchases for the Fresh Fruit/vegetable Program. Data provided by USDA agencies on participation by SDF