The local food movement that made farmers markets all the rage in recent years is expanding to large institutions in Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Maryland, as hospitals, colleges and school districts buy increasing amounts of produce and meat from local farmers. The trend has the potential for major positive impacts for the environment and for the survival of small farms in the region. The nature of the trend, its hopeful signs and obstacles, will be the focus of the 13th Annual Conference, of Future Harvest—a Chesapeake Alliance For Sustainable Agriculture, Jan. 13-14, at the National Conference Center in Lansdowne, VA.
The conference will include workshops by farmers aimed at helping other farmers with practical information about production, marketing, even butchering demonstrations. Workshops also will help food service and procurement officials learn how to succeed in buying and serving local food.
If large institutions purchase food from local farmers who use conservation practices that trend could help convince other farmers to become more sustainable. That’s good for local rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay. It’s also good for small, local farmers, who struggle to stay in business. The institutions also benefit. Hospitals, colleges, schools and other institutions are realizing they can provide healthy, tasty menus at comparable prices.
The conference will explore the biggest obstacle to the trend: more institutions want local food than farmers can now supply. Panelists will discuss how to build business relationships between farmers and institutions, possibly nurturing intermediary organizations to collect, process or deliver farm food. One session, for instance, will highlight the work of the Local Food Hub serving Charlottsville, VA that collects food from 50 farms within a 100 mile radius of the city and delivers it to the University of Virginia dining halls, the Charlottesville City Public Schools and other schools.
An attached fact sheet provides other examples of leading institutions and practices in Virginia, D.C., and Maryland, as well as contact information.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is a member of Future Harvest, a Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. Future Harvest—CASA is a network of farmers, agricultural professionals, landowners and consumers living and working in the Chesapeake region. Future Harvest—CASA promotes profitable, environmentally sound and socially acceptable food and farming systems that work to sustain communities.