Cultivating Healthy Entrepreneurs and Farmers

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In 2009, the Corporation for Findlay Market (CFFM) received a two-year Community Food Projects Grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). These competitive grants are designed to increase food security in communities by bringing the whole food system together to assess strengths, establish linkages, and create systems that improve the self-reliance of community members over their food needs. The Community Design Center is assisting CFFM in quantifying the levels of food production in Hamilton County and comparing these with the levels of agricultural production. These numbers can help us understand how close we are to possibly being self-sufficient and will serve as a springboard for discussion about the Cincinnati and Hamilton County food systems. Additionally, the Center is helping CFFM study produce auctions as a method to improve consumer access to locally grown produce while providing an alternative marketing opportunity for farmers.

WHAT IS A PRODUCE AUCTION?
Have you ever been to a place where fresh fruits, vegetables, and the occasional houseplant are sold off by a fast-talking auctioneer? In many rural areas of the Midwest and Northeastern U.S., smaller farmers and buyers ranging from roadside stand owners to buyers for local grocery chains convene at these events, called produce auctions, to get the best deals on the freshest locally grown fruits and vegetables. A produce auction is an alternative marketing strategy for small farmers. It differs from a farmers’ market in that farmers can generally move larger amounts of their product with less of a time investment. However, farms that are too small to sell to broadline-distributors can also participate in produce auctions because there is much flexibility in the size of the lots they can sell. Combined with other small- and medium-sized farms’ product, they can create the critical mass necessary to attract buyers. In turn, the buyers benefit because they can fill their entire order, look at the produce before buying, buy directly from farmers while still getting a competitive price, and satisfy the growing consumer demand for locally grown produce.