TROY — The Miami County Local Food Council (MCLFC) is a group of farmers and community organizers that have been working together for around two years. They are dedicated to bringing healthy, affordable, and sustainably grown local foods to this northern Miami Valley community. The executive director of Miami County OSU Extension, Brian Raison, has identified in a successful grant proposal that residents and institutions have limited access to this kind of food in the area.
Approximately $45,000 has been awarded for this pilot project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create the Miami County Virtual Farmers Market (VFM). A second initiative within the project is to create a mobile computer training lab for managers, farmers, and organizations who are creating local food markets across the state. The Internet training will familiarize participants with social media and web sites as they develop an online marketing plan.
Champaign County has been conducting a successful virtual farmers market for several years that is very popular. Consumers order online and pick up at a designated time at the local YMCA. Farmers and vendors thereby know how much food to produce and deliver. Several benefits accrue to the community with this economic model. Firstly, there are fewer middle men in the process so that more of the food dollar goes to farmers; secondly, food is fresher and therefore more nutritious. Also, according to Raison, “More food dollars remain and circulate in the local economy and create new jobs in the agriculture arena and (related businesses).”
Another aspect of the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) in Miami County is that traditional commodity crop farmers (90 percent of all farmers in this region) may wish to convert some acres to production of fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy — the so-called specialty crops. The incentive is more dollars per acre by selling local foods.
MCLFC has been working for two years to build community support among diverse organizations and individuals. Raison indicated that around 70 people have contributed more than 1,200 volunteer hours to work on all the various action projects. They are all aimed at the common goal of bringing traditional small scale foods directly from the farmer to the consumer in this west-central Ohio region.
The food council has successfully conducted related activities and commerce in several venues. They include the following: 1) The Miami County food Summit was held Sept. 25, 2015, at Edison Community College; 2) a sold-out locavore dinner took place on Sept. 17, 2015, at Staley Mill Farm; 3) volunteer teams are developing food policy and education and outreach programs 4) a marketing team has started a winter market at the Troy Rec on the first and third Tuesdays, 4-7 p.m., and is implementing the VFM plan starting with hiring a market manager 5) another exciting development effort is to create a community commercial kitchen for home bakers and other so-called cottage food producers (e.g., small scale).
Two years from now, the goal is to make the Miami County Virtual Farmers Market self-sustaining. For more information or to get involved, contact the Miami County OSU Extension Director Brian Raison at email@example.com
Steadily increasing markets for what is sometimes called fair food that improves water, soil and wildlife quality is more than just a fad — it’s a national movement that has been gaining momentum for a decade. And Miami County is about to become a bigger part of this movement. It is all something of a rediscovery of traditional small-scale agriculture. The people who are working hard to build this new economic activity also generally agree that better health from better nutrition is both a motivation and a likely outcome for others.
Caroline McColloch is a freelance writer, farmer and local foods advocate. She can be reached at (937) 773-0663 or firstname.lastname@example.org.