'Carroll County Fresh!' created to boost local foods

Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Carroll County Fresh! brought together people from across the county to discuss aspects of food availability and quality. After lunch, the group broke up to address a variety of different goals. The findings from the discussions will be assembled in a draft report, which will be presented in early April. Mike Ellis / Carroll County News

BERRYVILLE -- A meeting Saturday at the Berryville Community Center brought together a wide variety of people interested in improving the quality of food available to local residents.

The Berryville Farmers' Market Association, working through a grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, hosted an all-day strategic planning session attended by more than 40 people, including representatives of local government, small farmers, educators, business leaders, and others.

The BFMA has sought to expand its scope beyond Berryville, and to involve the entire county. The name Carroll County Fresh! was chosen to bring together stakeholders from across the area.

Carroll County Fresh! is dedicated to providing fresher, healthier, and safer food. In the course of the seminar, the fragility of the country's food system came up again and again. Most of the produce in this country comes from California, Florida, or Washington state, and that food must travel thousands of miles to its eventual market. Much of this country's food comes from other countries, which may not have the same requirements for production and safety as the United States.

The farmers' markets in Berryville and Eureka Springs already help to provide an outlet for locally grown products, but Carroll County Fresh! is committed to greatly expanding the role of local food producers. The economic factors underlying small agriculture are a critical part of this equation.

Carroll County Fresh! will pursue avenues to improve incomes for small farmers by looking for other ways to market their products. For example, the Eureka Springs school district purchases produce for the school lunch program from the Eureka Springs farmers' market. Expanding such markets will increase the incomes of small farmers.

Linda Jones is the manager of the BFMA, and said, "The BFMA is grateful to the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation for their support of sustainable agriculture, and to the city of Berryville for their leadership and support."

Saturday's seminar was led by facilitator Judy Turner, who is serving as the strategic planning consultant for the BFMA under this grant. She said, "This was a very important gathering of people who had not had the opportunity to come together before. A lot of great ideas came out of this meeting."

In her introductory statement, Turner listed the following goals:

1. Educate the general public about food security and promote a "buy local" ethic in Carroll County consumers.

2. Bring more human and product diversity into the local market.

3. Increase incomes for small-scale farmers and food sector entrepreneurs.

4. Prepare area small farmers to successfully engage Carroll County growth.

5. Start and operate an economic development organization focused on agriculture.

Throughout the day, those attending the session broke into working groups to develop strategies and tactics for pursuing these goals.

Once the information from this meeting is digested, Turner will prepare a draft report. The BFMA expects to hold another meeting in early April to consider that report and plan future steps.

Further information is available from Dan Krotz at (870) 423-1894.

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