Our Projects & Accomplishments
We stay busy! Here is a list of our projects and our plans. If you have project ideas, please contact us!
Projects in 2018
Many of our projects are made possible through our participation in the USDA FoodLINC initiative. Our USDA FoodLINC funding will end in September, 2018. Our work is to coordinate and catalyze local food economic development. It takes time to develop relationships and see impacts from this work. We are seeking funding partners who share our vision of healthy people, animals, and planet – and believe that by stimulating economic development through collaboration, we can see our mutual vision unfold in Texas.
- Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP) – Led by Edwin Marty of the City of Austin, the GFPP program works to increase wholesale sales to meet institutional demand and do it in a way that supports local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, animal welfare, and nutrition. We are part of the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP) team with Austin ISD, UT Austin, and the Austin Convention Center. Our role is to develop networks and catalyze sales between farmers/ranchers and institutional buyers.
- Local Food Price Study – The perception is that locally grown products are too expensive for institutions to buy. Of course farmers won’t sell their products for prices too low to support their farm business. Funded by the St. David’s Foundation in 2017 and conceived with our partner Austin Foodshed Investors, this study seeks to deepen our understanding of this issue of price. Are there specific crops for which both buyers and sellers can meet on price? Rather than focus on big picture barriers to increasing wholesale sales like distribution and logistics, this study hones in on specific products to discover products where price may be acceptable to both buyers and sellers. We will issue our final report in the first part of 2018.
- Central Texas Food hub feasibility – This study and planning project is led by the Sustainable Food Center and began in October, 2017 with funding from USDA’s Local Food Promotion Program. We’re responsible for supply analysis and we’re conducting focus groups and doing outreach sessions. We expect to complete our supply analysis by fall 2018.
- Agriculture and Food Resource Directory – This directory will help local food entrepreneurs including farmers, ranchers, and makers find the resources they need to support their business. A joint project with the National Center for Appropriate Technology, the directory will include resources for technical assistance, funding, supplies, commercial kitchens, and much more. We built the directory in 2017 and are rebuilding it in 2018. Business Members of the Texas Center for Local Food are automatically listed in the Resource Directory.
- Technical assistance and training for rural business development – With our partners, we will be holding seminars to help rural businesses get started and stay viable. Topics include the Texas Cottage Food Law, Understanding the Costs of your Farmers Market sales, and Local Food as Economic Development.
- Event Calendar for Texas food and agriculture events – At last, Texas will have an event calendar for agriculture and local food events! We are working to collaborate with Austin Foodshed Investors and will be launching this in test mode in early 2018 and we’ll launch publicly as soon as we know it works well for you. The idea is that organizations across Texas can add their events and include the calendar for a particular region on their website. The goal is to increase participation in sustainable agriculture events across Texas.
- Local Food Leader training statewide pilot – With Iowa State University, we will pilot and evaluate this training for applicability in Texas. The training is designed for teams of folks who will working together in their communities to create local food projects that stimulate sustainable agriculture and local food economic development. The program has been developed Iowa over the past two years. We visited Iowa in January 2018 to learn more about the programs underway across Iowa (yes, it was freezing!)
- Beyond Fresh: Farmer Guide to Value-Added Processing – Led by the National Center for Appropriate Technology, we’ll be releasing the first edition of this guide to help Texas farmers decide whether to pursue value-added processing of their farm products. Expect release of the first edition by May.
- Elgin Local Food Center (ELF) – In partnership with the City of Elgin and the Elgin Economic Development Corporation, we have planned the ELF as a rental commercial kitchen, business incubator, and training center to be located in downtown Elgin, Texas. In 2018, we will complete preliminary design work and seek funding to begin construction. In addition to supporting new business development, the ELF is planned as a venue for supporting community health through cooking classes in partnership with Elgin ISD, Sustainable Food Center, and private instructors.
- Farmers Market Metrics – We are in discussions with the City of Austin and area farmers market managers to support common metrics and reporting for all central Texas farmers markets. The intention is to employ the new Farmers Market Metrics system developed by the National Farmers Market Coalition to enable us to tell the story of the economic impact of farmers markets on the central Texas economy.
- Elgin ISD After School local food and agriculture – Our after school program for K-5th grades is so rewarding! Our instructors introduce kids to locally grown vegetables, teach them the science of plants, and how to prepare and eat these yummy foods. It’s no surprise that students really enjoy eating new foods and they have fun preparing and eating salads. Who knew that kids would like Brussels sprout leaves? This partnership with Elgin ISD began in the 2016-17 school year and for 2017-18, we’ve expanded the number of classes to serve more kids. Our two instructors teach classes every week at each of Elgin’s three elementary schools. The students and their families love going on the farm tours we arrange for each semester. Students have visited Green Gate Farms, Skinny Lane Farm and others.
- Conferences and Presentations – We will participate in a panel discussion at the National Good Food Network Conference in Albuquerque March 27-30, 2018. Along with NCAT, we will present a poster on our project Beyond Fresh at the Our Farms, Our Future conference in St. Louis, MO April 3-5, 2018.
- Continue participation in the Austin Community College Sustainable Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Industry Advisory Council.
- Continue to build organizational capacity to support quality service delivery and realize our vision of healthy people, animals, and planet. Recruit new staff from communities of color and disadvantaged communiites. Create succession plan.
- Strengthen our capacity to deliver solid resource and referral services.
- Hurricane Harvey Emergency Relief – With amazing partners, we pulled together a coalition in just 5 days after Harvey made landfall. Together we launched a national campaign with BarnRaiser and raised $14,866. We were interviewed on the Heritage Radio Network along with Aislynn Campbell of Grow Local South Texas and Justin Butts of Four String Farm. Justin’s family farm in Rockport was devastated by a direct hit from Harvey. The coalition distributed direct emergency funds to all 23 qualified farmers who applied. Partners: Grow Local South Texas, Texas Farmers’ Markets, National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) – Texas office, Sustainable Food Center, Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assoc (TOFGA).
- Local Food Price Study – Designed the Local Food Price study, assembled project team, secured funding from the St. David’s Foundation, initiated the study, completed farmer and buyer interviews, and completed the final report.
- Completed the calculators for the Beyond Fresh farmer guide to decision making for value-added production.
- Presented on value-added production at the first ever Texas Hispanic Farmers and Ranchers conference in McAllen, TX.
- Served on a panel discussion on USDA FoodLINC and value chain coordinations at the 2017 National Value-Added conference in Little Rock, AR.
- Participated in work sessions as a member of the National FoodLINC cohort. Toured the beautiful facilities of EcoTrust and the food hub and local food business center the Redd in Portland, OR. Here is our trip report as PDF.
- Joined the Good Food Purchasing Program team led by the City of Austin and including Austin ISD, UT Austin and the Austin Convention Center. The purpose is to increase purchases of locally grown food by central Texas’ largest institutional buyers.
- Completed the business plan for the Elgin Local Food Center (ELF) and continued working with the Elgin Economic Development Corp on detailed design, revenue projections, tenant recruitment, and funding options.
- Launched new website with improved resource directory. Began planning statewide event calendar.
- We were accepted into a pilot program for Local Leader Training by Iowa State University. Assembled planning team for Local Food Leader pilot to include Dr. Sheri Smith (Texas Southern University), Chris Schrek (Capital Area Council of Govts), Edwin Marty (City of Austin), Dr. Rebekka Dudensing (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service), and Rebecca Dunning (USDA FoodLINC evaluator).
- Completed City of Elgin USDA project for the Elgin Local Food Business Center Pilot. Working with area farmers, we prototyped 10 value-added products. We developed labels and tested market viability. We ran a financial analysis based on time and motion during production to determine financial return to the farmer. Of the 10 products, we found 3 that have potential for further development.