Nov 9, 2011

KRC Receives Two New Regional Food System Grants

Whiting, Ks. -The Kansas Rural Center is pleased to announce that it was recently awarded two grants focused on regional food system development and producer education and outreach.

A $171,520 USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG), through a sub-grant from the Kansas Department of Agriculture, will permit KRC to expand the Our Local Food (OLF) program in Kansas. This program seeks to spur the development of community-based food systems by creating regional networks of local farms, farmers markets, food businesses, agricultural professionals, supportive organizations, as well as consumers who are committed to increasing the production and sales of fresh, local foods in Kansas.

The SCBG will assist in further developing OLF program resources such as subsidized membership fees, educational opportunities and consultation services for producers and food businesses, an interactive website and online food hub development, as well as member tool kits. Two chapters–a South East and a State chapter–will be added to the existing three, enabling the program to cover the entire state.

Additionally, this grant will permit KRC to bring back Savor the Season, a program started in 2009 to increase the diversity and boost sales of specialty crops at farmers markets. In 2012, ten new crops will be added to the sixteen highlighted in previous years. To increase the diversity of crops grown in the state, K-State Research and Extension Horticulture Agents will partner with experienced growers and OLF program staff to develop crop guides focusing on production, post-harvest, and marketing best practices for at least five featured crops.

Producer education on selected crops will also be offered in multiple formats including webinars, workshops and field days. Additional partners, including the KSU Research And Extension (KSRE) Nutrition, Food Safety and Healthy Program Leadership Team and KSRE Family and Consumer Science Agents, will focus on educating consumers about specific specialty crops and how to select, store, and prepare them. OLF member farmers markets will be eligible to apply for mini-grant and cost-shares to promote Savor the Season crops at their markets.

A second grant, the $99,673 USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) award, will support numerous collaborations between KRC and other partners to increase opportunities around local food production. Using conferences, electronic communications tools, workshops and other venues, the project will enhance producers ability to locate risk management information and training, and to strengthen risk management education and training to a broadened agricultural audience.

RMA grant-supported programming includes the 2011 KRC sustainable agriculture conference, a full-day food safety workshop at the 2012 Great Plain Growers Conference, the Kansas Grazers Association’s winter conference, and a two-day grazing school to be held in fall 2012.

KRC will also partner with the Kansas Farmers Union (KFU), Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops (KCSAAC), and KSRE Douglas County to develop a Strategic Marketing for Livestock Producers educational series in winter of 2012. Composed of an introductory webinar and four workshops, the program will focus on the basics of marketing, including identifying a target market, selecting appropriate outlets, developing a marketing plan, and creating effective materials.

RMA funding will also allow the Our Local Food program to expand its resources for meat and animal product producers, and are not covered by the Specialty Crop grants.

The Kansas Small Farm and Direct Marketing Guide, a collaboration of KDA’s Food Safety Division, KCSAAC, the KFU, and KRC, is also funded through the RMA grant. This guide will provide base-line information that all direct marketing farms and beginning farmers need to be aware of to increase the likelihood of success and remain within regulatory compliance. Topics to be covered include licensing, taxes, insurance, and labor topics as well as rules and regulations for processing and direct marketing diverse agricultural products.

On the national level, direct-to-consumer sales, through outlets such as farmers markets, farm stands and U-pick operations, totaled $1.2 billion in 2007. This represents an annual growth rate of about 10% between 2002 and 2007– twice that of the rest of the food economy.
Activity in Kansas not only mirrors that national trend, but demonstrates even more potential. The number of farmers markets across the state has doubled over the past decade. Furthermore, between 2002 to 2007, Kansas rose from 45 to 33 in state ranking based on vegetable acres per 100 people. These statistics point to a burgeoning demand for local food that the USDA estimates will reach $7 billion by 2012.

“This rapid increase, not only in sales but also in the number of small farms entering the direct marketing arena, demonstrates that the need for resources, training and networking is great. With the award of these two grants, the Kansas Rural Center and its partners are in a position to address several of the opportunities and challenges of rebuilding regional food systems,” said Mercedes Taylor-Puckett, KRC’s Local Food and Farmers Market Project Coordinator.

You can contact Mercedes at

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