Small Farms: The backbone of a healthy local foodshed

(Menomonie, WI)-  In April the Menomonie Market Food Co-op (MMFC) launched the Fund our Foodshed Grant Program, a program funded by co-op customers through a round-up at the register program and a donation by the co-op. The program furthers the co-op’s mission of creating a thriving and healthy foodshed by supporting the growth of regional farming, food processing, and product development in the Chippewa Valley.
 
The Farm Bureau estimates more than 20 percent of farmers are beginning farmers (in business less than 10 years) with women making up 30 percent of the total number of US farm operators. Many beginning small farms struggle against an economic and regulatory system that favors large scale over small. The Fund Our Foodshed Grant Program meets a need by supporting these small operations with projects that help to strengthen their infrastructure and keep them growing.
 
In early May the Fund Our Foodshed grant committee (comprised of co-op board of directors, staff, and customer-owners) reviewed twelve applications and made selections for five local projects. Award recipients were selected based on a variety of criteria; most importantly, the potential positive impact on the agricultural economy of the Chippewa Valley. 
 
Supporting the viability of small farms has a powerful multiplier effect that strengthens the local economy which in turn creates healthier and more resilient communities. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that “during the last century 75% of crop genetic diversity has been lost and livestock are dying out at a rate of six breeds per month. The loss of genetic diversity in plant crops and animal breeds makes the food supply more vulnerable to outbreaks of pests and disease.” Small farms tend to grow a wider variety of crops which means greater access to a wider diversity of food and product offerings that are grown and produced in the Chippewa Valley. 
 
Rachel Henderson of Mary Dirty Face Farm in Menomonie shares, "Family farms that produce nutritious, fresh food to market in their home communities are unfortunately at a disadvantage in our agricultural landscape. MMFC's grant program demonstrates a high degree of local support for these small beginning farms. Beyond meeting a specific need on our farm, this makes us feel valued in our community!"
 
The 2018 Fund our Foodshed Grant recipients are all beginning farmers. 2018 Fund our Foodshed grants are awarded to: Mary Dirty Face Farm (Menomonie), Deutsch Family Farm (Osseo), Baruk Yah Organic Eggs (Menomonie), EB Ranch (Ridgeland), and Bifrost Farm (Boyceville). The co-op will share each farm’s project story through our website, farm visits, and a public reception this fall to celebrate their farm improvements. Watch for more information throughout the summer at www.mmfc.coop.
 
Menomonie Market Food Co-op is forty-five year old community-owned grocery cooperative whose mission is to be central in building a thriving healthy community. MMFC offers full service grocery, from scratch deli and hot bar, community classes, and knowledgeable, friendly service to everyone. The market is located at 814 Main Street, Menomonie, WI. Store hours are Weekdays 7am-8pm and Weekends 8am-7pm. www.mmfc.coop
 

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Published on

May 30, 2018

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