News

NDSU helping grow local foods capacity

The North Dakota State University Extension Service is launching a series of workshops to help communities get involved in the local foods movement.

Posted June 17, 2013

The first workshop, Building Capacity for Local/Regional Food and Understanding the Industry, will be held Aug. 13 at FARRMS in Medina.

Interest in eating locally produced food continues to grow among consumers, restaurants, schools and grocers. The reasons vary, but health, safety, freshness and knowing where one’s food comes from are four key drivers.

“The interest in eating local is behind the NDSU Extension effort to train local people to support opportunities to grow foods here,” says Abby Gold, Extension nutrition and wellness specialist. “After the training, program participants will develop projects that help their communities explore strategies to increase local food availability.”

From 2007 through 2010, local food sales increased from $1.2 billion to $5 billion nationally. This trend appears to be continuing because more farmers markets open each year and the number of small farms (those less than 100 acres) is expanding.

North Dakota has gained more than nine farmers markets in the last two years. Plus, existing farmers markets are offering more products and adding new vendors. New means of direct product sales, such as community-supported agriculture (also known as CSAs) and food cooperatives, also are becoming available.

In a 2011 NDSU symposium that examined scaling up local foods, participants acknowledged that training to help expand this effort, especially in local areas, was needed.

“The training needs varied from helping producers with food safety issues to helping consumers better understand how local foods support good nutrition,” Gold says.

Issues North Dakota faces in meeting the demand for locally produced food are the lack of producers, transportation and rural retail outlets.

“Small farm specialty crop producers account for less than 5 percent of our agricultural producers,” says Glenn Muske, NDSU Extension’s rural and agribusiness enterprise development specialist. “Meeting this growing demand will mean helping potential producers see this as an opportunity and helping ensure they can do it profitably.”

To register for the workshop, visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/smallbusiness. The registration deadline is July 15.

The workshop is free of charge. Participants will receive travel stipends and a small grant to initiate a local foods program in their communities.

For more information, contact Muske at glenn.muske@ndsu.edu or call (701)328-9718.