People want to know the origins of their food, and increasingly, locally grown food is one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture.
BAINBRIDGE – People want to know the origins of their food, and increasingly, locally grown food is one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture. Consider this: According to the United States Department of Agriculture, consumers purchased about $1 billion of local food in 2005. By 2012, that number hit $7 billion.
“The fact that the number of farms engaged in direct-to-consumer food sales has increased dramatically in the last 10 years is evidence that these ‘New Generation farmers’ are not only sustaining their operations, they are engaged in their local communities,” said Duane Watson, Relationship Manager at Southwest Georgia Farm Credit. “They’ve learned to use social media to promote and market their products and they value selling to people they know who are seeking a healthier lifestyle.”
Recognizing the trend towards locally produced food, Southwest Georgia Farm Credit began the Fresh from the Farm Mini-Grant program four years ago as a way to provide cash for marketing and promotions to road side u-picks and farmers’ markets. Through an application process, the association picks 10 qualifying producers each year and donates $500 to each, mostly for marketing and promotional purposes.
“The intent was to offer some cash for the local u-picks to enhance their signage, maybe buy an ad in a local paper – anything they could do to let people know when they are open and what they are selling,” Watson said.
The number of applications has increased 23% in three years and Watson said he’s not surprised. “If you simply look at the fact that organic food sales doubled from 2004 to 2011, you begin to understand the appeal of locally grown food,” Watson said. “While all locally grown food is not organic, the desire to know the farmer, understand his or her motivations, and become acquainted with his or her growing practices, that’s the concept that has caught fire nationwide,” he said. “It’s not about fast food anymore for a large segment of our population. It’s about health, nutrition, and neighbors.”
Again this year, Southwest Georgia Farm Credit will offer the Fresh From the Farm Mini-Grants.
Applications are available under the News tab at SWGAFarmCredit.com or by contacting Frances Edmunds at 229.493.0140 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications can be mailed to Southwest Georgia Farm Credit, Attention: Fresh from the Farm, 305 Colquitt Highway, Bainbridge, GA 39817; emailed to fedmunds@SWGAFarmCredit.com; or faxed to 888.834.9128. The deadline for applications to be received is April 15.