North Dakota State University is launching a projected to boost local foods.
NDSU received a USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research Education grant for a project aimed at increasing the capacity of rural communities to bolster their local foods infrastructure.
"We will work with farmers, ranchers, food retailers and local community leaders in three rural communities at various stages of food system development in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota," says Abby Gold, NDSU Extension Service nutrition and wellness specialist. "Each community will identify barriers to establishing and advancing local food systems and work with researchers to develop tool kits that will provide resources to overcome those barriers."
The site for the project in North Dakota is being finalized and will be announced soon.
"The ultimate intent of this project is to enhance the environment of rural communities, improve farmer livelihood, increase the health and well-being of farmers and residents of rural communities, and to contribute to rural economic health through the support of diverse agricultural enterprises," Gold says.
Other partners on the project are the University of Minnesota's Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP), Buy Fresh Buy Local South Dakota and the Foundation for Agriculture and Rural Resources Management and Sustainability (FARRMS).
RSDP works on projects directed by citizen-led boards in five regions of out-state Minnesota. The partnerships focus on agriculture, natural resources, tourism, local foods and clean energy. Buy Fresh Buy Local is a marketing and branding campaign focused on raising awareness and promoting locally grown products. FARRMS is an organization that provides education, facilitation and microcredit to sustainable agricultural enterprises.
"Strong food systems contribute to local economies because the money stays in the area and also provides additional opportunities for employment," Gold says. "Strong rural food systems also enable residents to have access to a variety of healthy produce, meats and dairy products that might otherwise be unavailable."