Progress 09/01/12 to 08/31/15
Target Audience:Franklin County--home to nearly 72,000 residents in twenty-six towns--is consistently among the poorest counties in Massachusetts. Greenfield, the county seat, is home to over 17,000 residents (nearly one-quarter of the county's population), 3,000 of whom live below the poverty line.As the county's hub, Greenfield is a magnet for agencies that work on behalf of Franklin County's low-income communities, as well as the center of large institutions including the only hospital and the only college in the county. The Growing Together project is well situated to similarly convene diverse stakeholders throughout the County's food system. Franklin County's local food movement, despite having grown over the past several years, remains socially and economically fragmented. Although farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture, and farm-to-table restaurants have proliferated, a significant amount of the population remains outside the local food system. According to the most recent data by The Food Bank of Western MA, over eight thousand Franklin County's residents are food insecure, and nearly two-thirds lack access to healthy food.Not surprisingly, percentages of overweight and obese adults in Franklin County are above the state average, at 58% and 27.5%, respectively. The beneficiaries of Growing Together are those residents of Franklin County who currently lack access to, and information about, local healthy food, as well as local schools that lack access to affordable local food throughout the year. Changes/Problems:Cold Storage construction was delayed due to other funding. Once a loan from USDA Community Facilities Program was secured we were able to increase the size of the Cold Storage which will benefit more area farmers and food producers. The Mobile Market was not developed. Instead Just Roots sold at the weekly farmers market and sold at theirCSA. Everything was accomplshed. An additional accomnplishment was the creation of of a series of 12 videos highlighting different aspects of our regioal food system. This videos are being shown on the local cable stations. Link to the videos is here -https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVxInSyp71xNk3s2ZpEN4llJ1BpyyXBKf What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided? Expanded workshop offerings include weekend intensives such as Women in Farming and Draft Horse Training. Established "The Snack Market,"an in-school program that runs weekly, introducing school-age children to a variety of locally grown vegetables and fruits, many of which they have never tried. Active internship program for high school and Community College studentsduring the spring, summer and fall. Outdoor education opportunities at our farm, and year round farm-to-school programming. Just Roots received a multi-year grant to create developmentally appropriate science curriculum, K-5, to utilize the classroom and the out-of-doors, including The Community Farm. Just Rootshas offered many opportunities for the community to become involved at the farm through farm visits, walks and tours. In the last full year, 2014, over 1,000 school age children visit the farm.An annual Fall Farm Festival in Octoberdraws more than 500 community members. Franklin County CD, along withMA Farm to School offered wholesale preparedness training for 35farmers, promoting food safety measures for institutional sales. Continually work with schools and food service management companies to educate them on howto bring locally grown, locally frozen food to schools throughout the winter. Greenfield Community College developed the Liberal Arts Degree Option, wit an annual enrollment of26 students. Placed 14 Interns who received college credit for work on the community farm or at the college's gardens, in retirement communities, in soup kitchens, at the local correctional facility and more, Designed curricula and offered three courses: Intro to Food Systems, Permaculture Design, andSoil Science, Developed and offered a new 3-credit course: Food & Farm Entrepreneurship, Established a Certificate Program for students interested in a one year course of study or who already had a college degree. The Farming and Food System program also offers the following agricultural electives: Organic Gardening, Beekeeping, Four Season Farming, Food Preservation and Storage, Wild Foods, Plant Propagation,and three 1-credit courses: Mushroom Cultivation, Creating Farm & Food Cooperatives, and Permaculture Installation & Management. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?The Franklin County Food Council recevied updates about the project at each of their quarterly meetings. The members of the council represented almostall segments of the community involved infarm and food work and they disseminated the information to their constituents. In addition, there was a final Celebration of this Project on August 19, 2015 that was attended by approximately 30 people from the local community as well as state and federal representatives. A brochure was created for the event which can be found on the Frnaklin County CDC website atthis link -http://www.fccdc.org/images/PDF/Program_Booklet.pdf An article about this tour and celebration was also printed in two regional newspapers. Thisis thePress Release written after the event. Growing Together Celebration Last week we hosted a group of food and farm advocates to celebrate the success of a 3 year project we recently completed along with our partners Just Roots Community Farm, Greenfield Community College and the their Farm and Food Systems program and the Franklin/Hampshire Regional Employment Board. All four organizations were doing important work to promote a healthy community and 3 years ago we decided to join forces to maximize our impact and increase the number of people we reached. We applied for and were awarded a 3-year Community Food Projects grant from USDA National Institute of Food & Agriculture. Three years later this Growing Together collaboration has moved forward to close the gaps identified in our food system. We increased access to healthy food for low income people, put youth to work, strengthened the food production and preservation infrastructure for our region, established educational opportunities to improve our food system, placed more local food in schools and created a Food Council to sustain the work. Last Wednesday, about 30 people toured the Greenfield Community Farm and the Food Processing Center to see and hear about the successes. We then met to discuss how to continue this work. The new USDA Rural Development State Director, Scott Soares, was on hand as well as Bonita Oehlke from the MA Dept. of Agriculture and they agreed that this collaborative project has had an important impact in Franklin County and they would like to see more of them around the state and region. High School students, recruited and prepared by the Regional Employment Board were mentored by GCC students at the Community Farm. Just Roots developed 6 soups, using produce grown on their farm, which is being produced at the CDC's Western MA Food Processing Center and served in schools, hospitals, food pantries and throughout the region. GCC created a degree program for Farm and Food Systems and the students visit both the Processing Center and the Community Farm to get hands on practical experience. All four organizations helped start the Franklin County Food council which will continue to promote and educate people about tour local food system. Just Roots and the FCCDC have sold more local food into area schools. GCC and Just Roots have developed a relationship with the Franklin County House of Corrections so inmates can take courses inside and work on the Farm outside. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?
What was accomplished under these goals?
Growing Togetherincreased Franklin County's ability to meet local food needs by increasing demand for, supply of, and access to local food by all segments of our population. For a full accounting of the accomplishments of the Growing Together projectplease follow this link to the Evaluation Report - http://www.fccdc.org/images/PDF/Growing%20Together%20Evaluation%20Report%20final.pdf Summary: Franklin County Community Development Corporation expanded the capacity of the shared-use Western MA Food Processing Center in Franklin County by adding equipment to make the facility more efficient and useful for more businesses to use local produce. This includes the development of large, multi-user, community-owned commercial cooler and freezer food storage facility located in Franklin County. This allows farms and food businesses in Franklin County to process and store more local food that is distributed throughout the year, which extends the season of local food availability for both the suppliers and the consumers. With this expansion the FPC purchased 70,000lbs of produce working 8 local farms, supplied frozen local produce to 4 area school districts, served healthy, locally grown vegetables to over 3,000 students during the winter months, and hired 4 food production assistants for the 5 months during harvest season. Just Roots built a sustainable community farm featuring community gardens, educational programs and employment opportunities on 60 acres of town-owned land. Just roots implemented the following objectives: active community gardens on two acres, an operating market farm, a sliding scale CSA with every full-share matched to a subsidized share, a mobile market to encourage low-income residents to participate in the programs of Growing Together, a mobile kitchen demonstrating delicious recipes and preparation methods for food grown on the farm, a year-round farm to school program based in four elementary schools and on the Community Farm. It also offers ongoing single-topic community workshops. Greenfield Community College hired a part-time coordinator to develop and oversee the Farm and Food Systems (FFS) program. In addition to program design and management, this person also served as advisor to all FFS students and taught Introduction to Food Systems in the fall and Permaculture Design in the spring. She also developed curricula, recruited adjunct instructors - many of them professionals in the industry - and maintained active relationships with community partners. The Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board promoted employment opportunities in agriculture and recruited high school students for the Green Team summer internship program at the Greenfield Community Farm. The REB staff person recruited potential interns from local schools and facilitated the hiring process. The Growing Together partners collaborated in the creation and are involved in the ongoing functioning of the Franklin County Food Council. The Food Council has met quarterly since 2013 with representatives from the four project partners, farmer representatives, low-income stakeholders, local food producers, and regional food system workers. The Council shares best practices,provides opportunities to learn from and assist each other in food system work, provides education on different topics each quarter and facilitates project evaluation.