Ozark County farm owner awarded grant to help build local food economy here
Amelia LaMair, who owns Flotsam Farm near Hodgson Mill with partner Eric Tumminia, has started conducting interviews with local farmers and producers as part of a project titled “Building the Local Food Economy in Ozark County.” LaMair submitted the project idea to the Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education grant program and was awarded $7,436 in funding for the initiative.
“This project will contribute to the economic, social and ecological sustainability of our food system by facilitating collaboration between farms by helping farmers find resources to succeed, increasing consumer awareness of locally available farm products and engaging in the greater community involving youth, organizations, businesses and government in the local food economy,” LaMair said.
Challanges and solutions
In the grant proposal, LaMair explains that she grew up in the country, but it wasn’t until her college years at Truman State University in Kirksville that she became interested in farming.
“I saw the link between sustainable agriculture and positive social change. Shaped by my experience with school gardens, interactions with Northeast Missouri’s farmers and intentional communities, inspired by stories of the ‘back to the land’ movement, and exasperated by the social injustices and environmental degradation that our food system depends on, I decided to move back to the country and start a farm,” she said.
LaMair and Tumminia bought the 8-acre farm and homestead six years ago, and they currently raise dairy goats, laying hens, and ducks. They also grow a wide variety of crops in outdoor gardens and a large high-tunnel, emphasizing their efforts on nightshades, alliums, sweet potatoes, early and late season greens and berries. The couple uses a lot of what they raise and grow for their own pantry and that of their neighbors, but they do operate a roadside farm stand outside the farm during the warmer months of the year, selling produce and goods to consumers.
“I thought farming would be a logical income source, but it turns out that the local food revolution hasn’t really reached Ozark County,” LaMair said in her proposal. She says she hopes the funding from this grant will help build upon efforts that have already begun in the local food movement in the area, making it easier and profitable for farmers to grow food for local residents.
“There is a growing interest from consumers, and many farmers and gardeners would like to provide food to the community,” LaMair said. “Unfortunately, consumers don’t know what is available or aren’t familiar with items like eggplant or Chinese cabbage. Farmers are not making enough income to justify local marketing. Many of us would rather give food away than wash, package, label and transport it to town only to see it linger on the shelves because no one knows it’s there or how to use it, or because another farmer brought in a bunch of the same thing.”
Building the local food economy here
Amelia’s proposal tackles some of those challenges. The first and most important step is visiting and interviewing local farmers to identify their products, production and marketing methods, their future goals and barriers to their success.
“We need to know what is working for them, what challenges they are facing and what could help them in the future to be successful,” LaMair said.
The information will be compiled into a farmer directory that will be used to create a resource guide to address farmer needs such as financial assistance, technical advice, marketing information, growing information, food safety rules, legal advice and agricultural suppliers.
LaMair will also be organizing four “farm summits” that will bring local farmers together to facilitate collaboration.
“We will discuss season plans, coordinating plantings to meet demand, cooperative marketing opportunities, bulk ordering, tool and equipment sharing, labor exchanges and sharing knowledge and experiences,” LaMair said. “It will also provide a much needed social outlet.”
A seasonal newsletter will be distributed and will educate consumers about local foods and farms by profiling area farms, listing locally available products and where to get them, sharing recipes for seasonal produce, listing relevant local events and providing sustainable farm and garden tips.
LaMair also plans to work with youth in the community in some way, organizing a local foods showcase event and meeting with local stakeholders to discuss a monthly farmers market.
Applications now being sought for upcoming grant program
This year’s grant program has opened for the North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education initiative, which solicits proposals that contribute to improving the profitability of farmers/ranchers and associate ag business, sustaining and improving environmental quality and the natural resource base on which agriculture depends, or enhancing the quality of life for farmers/ranchers, communities and societies as a whole. The grants typically range from $10,000 to $200,000 and last up to 36 months. The deadline to apply for the grants is Oct. 19. Find out more at http://www.northcentralsare.org/Grants/Our-Grant-Programs/Research-and-E....