By Kelli Scott, Montgomery County Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent, Virginia Cooperative Extension
The conversations around agriculture, food, and community continue to bubble up in localities across the Commonwealth and the nation. County, city, and local government bodies see a benefit and overall positive impact in building a collaborative team among service providers and practitioners working to promote community, local, and regional food systems as an economic driver all while looking at improving food access, health, and nutrition options for all members of the community. The conversations are often messy at first where multi-sectors of the community are working together that may not have done so traditionally. These interwoven teams are often called “food councils” or “food networks” and have a much greater opportunity of success when we all work together. Read more
By Meredith Ledlie Johnson, Coordinator, Food Access and Availability Initiative, Family Nutrition Program (EFNEP and SNAP-Ed), Virginia Cooperative Extension
Overview of Program
An exciting pilot farmers market manager certification program was developed in response to market managers’ stated need for continuing education. The goal of the certification program was to professionalize the role of market manager, and lessen turnover in this position.
The certification program was developed through a collaborative partnership between Virginia Farmers Market Association and Virginia Cooperative Extension, with sponsorship by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Read more
By Liza Dobson, Healthy Food Retail Coordinator, Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program, Lynchburg
The Family Nutrition Program’s (FNP) (http://blogs.ext.vt.edu/eatsmart-movemore/) mission is to teach limited-resource families and youth to make healthier food choices and become better managers of available food resources for optimal health and growth. Our programs focus on basic nutrition, physical activity, safe food handling, and thrifty food shopping. FNP Program Assistants conduct educational programming in schools, foodbanks, farmers markets, community gardens, and numerous other venues, contributing to the reduction of healthcare costs for 148,000 SNAP-eligible Virginians. Read more.
By: Maureen McNamara Best, Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP) (www.leapforlocalfood.org)
We all eat. So that means we all understand, value, and think about food, agriculture, and food producers, right?
As a society, our school systems and holidays still nod to our agrarian past. But for most us, our lives are not structured around soil preparation, planting time, harvest schedules, or feeding livestock. And, if at all, we only spend a couple minutes a day thinking about where our food comes—and that time is probably focused on the logistics of purchasing food from a retailer and/or consuming a prepared meal. In a complex, industrialized society— we specialize. And in that sense, the food industry is no different. But at what cost? Read more
By Tracy Kunkler, MS – Social Work, professional facilitator, planning consultant, and principal at http://www.circleforward.us/
Image 1 – Photo of AFP team meeting.
In the blog on May 4th, Propositions for Organizing with Complexity; Learnings from the Appalachian Foodshed Project (AFP), Nikki D’Adamo-Damery described nine propositions that emerged from the work of the AFP. Proposition #2 was: “Establish Consent instead of Consensus.” The following story describes one of the experiences that led to this proposition.
This arose when the AFP management team met to award mini-grants to on-the-ground projects that addressed community food security. The team included the principal investigators, graduate students, extension agents, and representatives from community-based organizations, and so reflected some of the diversity of the system within which they were working. The team was using a collaborative decision-making framework, and the basis for decisions was the principle of consent. Read more
Do you have questions about community, local, and regional food systems? Do you want to have a solid foundation of terms, concepts, perspectives, and potential practices?
Are you an educator involved in community development and change processes? Do you want to better understand localized food systems as a social movement?
Click here to see a compilation of articles and reports that can give you a sound understanding of community, local, and regional food systems. The list contains reports on recent trends in local and regional foods, discussion on the meaning of local foods, a glossary of terms, and how land-grant universities like Virginia Tech and Virginia State University can strengthen community, local and regional food systems.
Interest in more durable farm-to-market linkages along the food value chain continues to grow. A key component for making these market linkages is having accessible points of aggregation and distribution. Regional food hubs have developed in Virginia and across the country to serve this purpose. Food hubs are a critical food system link and an accessible point for producers, processors, and distributors to retail, wholesale, and institutional markets.
The Local Food Hub in Charlottesville, VA serves as a critical link for regional farmers and businesses in central Virginia.
The US Department of Agriculture defines a regional food hub as a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy retail, wholesale, and institutional demand. If you are interested in learning more about regional food hubs, below are some guides and informational reports in the form of an annotated bibliography to get you started. Read more
by Nikki D’Adamo-Damery and Phil D’Adamo-Damery, Former Deputy Director of the AFP (2011-2016), currently serving as the Community Coordinator for the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust
Image explaining the Cynefin Framework (Snowden & Boone, 2007)
How do you create a place-based food system that is resilient, accessible, affordable, and healthy for Appalachian communities? That question was at the heart of the Appalachian Foodshed Project’s (AFP) work in West Virginia, southwest Virginia, and western North Carolina. The AFP engaged nutritionists, food distributors, sustainable agriculture experts, NGO’s, funders, government agencies, educators, producers, and community activists to creatively address food security across Central Appalachia using funding from the USDA’s AFRI* program. Over the course of 5 years, we moved beyond the search for silver bullets and easy solutions, and instead focused on how we might create the conditions for long-term, dynamic change.
In order to make this shift, we had to change the way we understood food security. Community food security is not a simple, or even a complicated, problem, even though we often treat it as such. It is complex, involving ever-moving relationships between culture, economics, environment, and policy. In order to address this complexity, we need to find new ways of working together so that we can nimbly respond to changing dynamics. (Read more)
by Liz Kirchner, Virginia SARE Outreach Coordinator and Healthy Food Access Project, Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, Northern District
Home garden food production – even if that means a tomato in a bucket – is widely recognized to contribute to household nutrition and self-reliance. Garden produce strengthens ties between neighbors as those tomatoes are swapped, and maintains traditional foodways as gardening stories, seeds, and cooking skills are shared. However, not everybody realizes that SNAP benefits can be used to purchase seeds and seedlings, a caveat to the 1973 Farm Bill gauged to help people plant gardens. To raise awareness – and home gardens, too – Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Health Food Access program will host a series of seedling planting events with food pantry clients throughout the spring.
We will begin in May, after the frost-free date. The project goal is to send SNAP clients and other food pantry participants home with a planted seedling and a mapped list of nearby SNAP retailers who sell seedlings. Retailers identified using the ArcGIS, Google Maps, and the Buy Fresh Buy Local Guide include Walmart, some Food Lions, independent groceries, and the Staunton, Dayton, Waynesboro, and Harrisonburg Farmers’ Markets. (Continue reading)
The 31st Baptist Church Urban Farm Is supported by Virginia Cooperative Extension, USDA, Bon Secours, and Tricycle Gardens. A high tunnel greenhouse was recently installed in the community garden via the National Resources Conservation Service cost-share program. Photo provided by Dr. Morris Henderson.
By Joyce Latimer, Professor of Horticulture at Virginia Tech
The Virginia Cooperative Extension Community, Local, and Regional Food Systems Forum opened with a powerful success story of communication and cooperation between Brittany Council and Twandra Lomax-Brown of Virginia Cooperative Extension in Richmond City and the community told by Dr. Morris Henderson, pastor of the 31st Street Baptist Church in Richmond.
Dr. Henderson and his church have been feeding the hungry and homeless in their community since 1990 when the local soup kitchen closed. In 2009, Dr. Henderson had a great vision to use his church property, and members and volunteers to create a community garden that would help feed the citizens of Richmond and contribute to the eradication of food deserts in the city. The church founded the Darrel Rollins Memorial Community Garden in honor of a previous pastor at the church.
Dr. Henderson had church members with gardening experience, but he needed the depth and breadth of knowledge, technical assistance, and networking that VCE could provide to expand this community garden into a fully functional urban farm that could help address the food desert issue. Dr. Henderson approached Extension agents Council and Lomax-Brown for assistance. They connected him with Amber Morgan, 4-H youth development agent, and Joe Logan, youth family nutrition program associate, who provided individuals with information about youth programs and basic education on the selection, use, and nutrition of fresh produce. In addition, local Extension Master Gardeners provided basic educational resources such as soil sample kits and growing guidance and assistance, and worked with the Mayor’s Conservation Corps Youth summer interns to begin the actual work of forming of the community garden on the church property.