Kathy Cooley, a dietician and small-farm operator, wants to get healthy, fresh food to low-income families. It is a goal she shared with a local nun, so a few years ago the pair helped start a food growers group in Batesville, Indiana, the Food and Growers Association. The association has taken off with help from another local partner, Purdue Extension.
Through Purdue Extension’s Rebuilding Your Local Food System program, Purdue specialists and educators recently led the Batesville, Indiana, association through educational programs and field trips. Purdue Extension also helped the association guide their strategic planning process to establish goals and objectives.
“They really opened our eyes to the possibilities,” Cooley says.
Some of those possibilities include providing seminars for local producers about how to grow specialty crops and teaching people how to cook fresh foods. They also learned about creating an asset map for local food, which is a way of determining what resources the community already has and what they need in order to reach shared goals.
After working with Purdue Extension, the Food and Growers Association was awarded a $30,000 planning grant for the Southern Indiana Farmer Training Initiative. The goal is to set up test plots, teach producers how to make a profit growing food for specialty markets, and identify commercial kitchens that will process local foods for institutional use.
“We recognized the value of Purdue Extension as a resource from the get-go,” Cooley says, who with her family operates a blueberry farm.
Thanks to Purdue Extension, Batesville and other Indiana communities are finding ways to increase economic development through local foods opportunities and also address health and food insecurity concerns.
As demand rises for locally grown foods, robust local food systems with year-round markets are paramount. Purdue Extension created two community pilot programs to discuss, understand, and plan growth for local food systems.
Purdue Extension helps communities better understand local food systems. That helped a Batesville group secure a $30,000 planning grant for test plots, producer instruction, and identification of commercial kitchens that will process local foods.
100%. Increase in direct sales of local foods to Indiana consumers since 1995.
100%. Increase in number of Indiana farmers markets since 2012.
$17 billion. Annual amount Indiana residents spend on food.
Purdue Extension will further investigate results from the first two pilot communities and apply that information to develop plans that expand local food system programs into communities across Indiana.