Over the past year and a half, as part of our mission to grow Ohio’s local food movement, OEFFA has worked with our friends at Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy (CVCC) to help specialty crop farmers scale up and take advantage of the growing opportunities to sell to retailers, wholesalers, and institutions.
Thanks to Specialty Crop Block Grant funding from the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we brought farmer and food safety expert Chris Blanchard to the 2013 conference to lead a full-day session on food safety, offered more than a dozen educational webinars (available on our website at http://bit.ly/SCSeMD ), organized a four day Scaling Up the Food Chain intensive series last November, and held a full-day session on wholesale marketing with farmer, organic pioneer, and 2014 conference keynote speaker Atina Diffley.
Now, we are proud to continue this mission by supporting the creation of Great River Farms. Part of our grant funds were designated for assisting the development of a central Ohio growers group that would help organic farmers build the volume and capacity to serve wholesale markets. Our work led us to many conversations with Wayward Seed Farm about their long standing efforts to organize central Ohio growers around an organic label. They had a sound plan to build a brand in partnership with Good Food Enterprises, and were working with a number of talented and experienced farmers. Great River Farms multi-farm Agriculture Supported Community (ASC) was born.
Their inaugural program is a 30-week market bag featuring produce from their network of farms. The bags are distributed at 19 workplaces and other distribution points in the Columbus area. Once all member farms and the handling facility achieve certification, the group will be able to offer an organic market bag under the Great River Organics, or GRO, label. Great River Farms’ network of farmers includes Wayward Seed Farm of London, Sippel Family Farm of Mt. Gilead, Clay Hill Farm of Tiffin, Rock Dove Farm of West Jefferson, Dangling Carrot Farm of Williamsport, Sunbeam Family Farm of Alexandria, Harvest Sun Farm of New Knoxville, and Toad Hill Farms of Danville.
Grant funds allowed the purchase of reusable plastic crates for packaging so Great River Farms could set uniform quality and quantity standards and efficiently aggregate product from member farms. Additional funds were put toward their branding and website development.
This budding farmer network has great potential to help increase the supply of Ohio-grown organic produce, and develop additional marketing opportunities for organic farmers. In the future, OEFFA will partner with members of Great River Farms on educational opportunities so that others can learn from their experience.
For more information about Great River Farms, or to learn about joining their network of farmers, go to www.greatriverfarms.org.
This article was published in OEFFA's Summer Newsletter. To download the entire newsletter, click here.
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) was formed in 1979 and is a membership-based, grassroots organization, dedicated to promoting and supporting sustainable, ecological, and healthful food systems. OEFFA's membership includes farmers, consumers, gardeners, chefs, teachers, researchers, retailers, and students. Together, we are working to recreate a regionally-scaled farming, processing, and distribution system that moves food from farm to local fork. A vibrant, local food system can provide Ohio's family farmers with a secure income, while protecting our environment and meeting the growing consumer demand for fresh, safe, healthy food. Learn more at www.oeffa.org.