In the fall of2014 we learned that farmers in the Deep South were having challenges obtaining USDA GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) food safety certification. Because we had been through this before, we knew we could help. This spring we received a grant to bring 24 limited resource farmers and NGO intermediaries from MS, AL, and WV to the Appalachian Harvest food hub facility for 3 days of intensive training on food safety and aggregation and distribution processes.
The meeting began with a tour and observation of loading procedures, product traceability, and GAP record keeping. We also covered pesticide, food safety, and organic standards training. The feedback on the 2.5 days of training was very positive, with participants sharing that they felt they could return to their farms to implement these processes. The accessible, down-to-earth style of the educators (Extension, consultants and ASD staff) and the real life, practical examples they provided made the information (food safety documentation alone is a 3” 3-ring binder) understandable and helped them envision implementing these practices on their own farms.
Next steps are for a consultant to travel to the Deep South to do on-farm mock audits to ensure that when an auditor travels to these farms they will pass successfully. Long term we would like for this session to serve as a model for future trainings which would be scheduled biannually. We are also working with these farmers to identify ways products from these farmers can be incorporated into Appalachian Harvest’s existing markets.
Appalachian Farmers Market Association:
We received $114K from Wholesome Wave who was funded by USDA to bring an additional $81,500 in nutrition incentives for SNAP beneficiaries to our region over 3 years. These incentives must be used at to purchase fruits and vegetables – which promotes healthy choices and enables SNAP beneficiaries to buy higher quality food while also providing a strong economic benefit to the communities involved.
We will pass money through to the Appalachian Farmers Market Association, which supports and sustains farmers markets throughout the Appalachian region of east Tennessee and western Virginia. At last count there were 35 markets in the region of varying sizes and capacities which makes sharing knowledge and resources in such a broad geographic area critical. 17 farmers markets in AFMA’s footprint currently accept EBT/SNAP. Six VA farmers markets will be participating in the first year of this program and will receive $25K in the first year to double incentives at farmers markets. Key to the success of this program is promoting this opportunity with community partners in public health and social services.
The USDA 2014 Farm Bill included a new grants program – Food Insecurity and Nutrition Incentive (FINI) – which provides Federal matching funds to organizations that provide food in communities for projects that encourage SNAP recipients to purchase fruits and vegetables by reducing their cost. The grant program is funded at $100 million over 5 years, with an additional $5 million authorized per year through FY2018. FINI grants were quite large and applicants applied for funding across multiple states. (ASD partnered with Wholesome Wave (www.wholesomewave.org) to bring nutrition incentives to southwest VA. TN markets were not included in Wholesome Wave’s grant application. Instead, AARP applied for and received funding for TN.)
Rooted in Appalachia:
Rooted began as a promotional business to consumer campaign to inform consumers where they can find local food, beer and wine. Now, it has grown into a viable marketer and distributor for local farmers and producers in the Tri-Cities region. Rooted employs an easy to use website that connects producers directly with consumers. This openness helps buyers know exactly where their produce is coming from and helps build vital relationships between the two.
In a pilot project with ASD corporate partner, Eastman Chemical Company, Rooted operates a pop-up farmers market on their corporate campus each Thursday afternoon. The pilot was created to support Eastman’s corporate wellness initiative by increasing employee’s access to fresh, healthy food. Each Thursday the farmers market features local products such as Brewery Biscuits for Dogs by the Barkery & Co., and Ziegenwald Dairy. Eastman employees enjoy the healthy, nutritious in-season offerings, samples, recipes and supporting nutrition information and local farmers benefit from money spent locally.