Our Projects & Accomplishments
We stay busy making it easier for you to buy local food! Here is a list of our projects and our plans. If you have project ideas, please contact us!
Let’s Go 2020!
Better newsletter – We’ll give you news you can use and we’ll stay in better touch with you. We’ll encourage you to tell us what you think using our social media and our website comments. We exist to serve you. Let us know what you need and we’ll do our level best to make it happen. World peace? Ok, let’s work on that. Texas farmers and ranchers earning a decent living? Yes, that’s the ticket. Healthy food for everyone in Texas? Absolutely and this heavy lift requires us to row in essentially the same direction.
Our mission is centered on increasing demand for healthy local food so farmers and ranchers can earn a decent living. We’re making the pie bigger through our K-5 Farm-to-Kids Texas program. We teach young children in Elgin Texas where food comes from through farm tours and experimental learning and they prepare the food and eat it. Hands on, real world stuff for kids and their families. This increases current and future demand for Texas family farmers’ food. Oh yea and it’s all aligned with the Texas Science Education standards. Yum!
We’re working with the University of Texas at Arlington on a cool project to improve logistics for small family farmers. Farmers spend a lot of time driving to deliver great food to customers like restaurants, grocers, farmers markets and you. They also have to be on the phone a lot to make that next sale. So …. yes, you’ve got it.. they run out of time and have to make calls while they drive. Well, no one wants that, so we’re working with a team of engineers at UT Arlington to understand how a routing app or an Uber-type app might help farmers do deliveries using less time and saving them money. We’ll be piloting various possibilities with farmers in Central Texas and in Alabama in 2020. Of course tech won’t solve everything and we’re open to any solution to this gnarly farmer problem.
How do we get more people to buy healthy food from Texas farms and ranches? in 2020, we’ll dive deep into this… is it that folks don’t know where they can buy? are farmers markets too inconvenient? is the price too high? If HEB carried healthy local food, would more people buy it? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this.. so please drop us a line today. Where do you buy your food? What would it take for you to buy more food from Texas family farmers?
Projects in 2019
We developed new relationships as we sought funding partners who share our vision of healthy people, animals, and planet – and our belief that by stimulating economic development through community-based collaboration, we will see our mutual vision unfold in Texas.
- Elgin Local Food Center (ELF) – We worked hard to raise the additional $1.6M required to begin construction of the ELF in 2019. We didn’t make it. Because this was a capital construction project, there weren’t many grants available. Foundations typically fund services not buildings. Nonetheless, we tried hard and gave it a herculean effort. We still believe that small batch food processing can indeed revive rural Texas and increase profits for family farmers. The ELF was planned as a rental commercial kitchen, business incubator, and training center to be located in downtown Elgin, Texas in a partnership with the City of Elgin and the Elgin Economic Development Corporation (E-EDC). Even though local politics seem to have shifted, we’ll keep this project on our future radar.
- Statewide Local Food Leader training – This is an evolving project that would result in trained local food leaders in communities across Texas. We worked with Iowa State University in 2018 and 2019 to conduct a pilot for a Texas focused training that includes a strong focus on equity in food systems. The training is designed for teams working together in their communities to create local food projects that stimulate sustainable agriculture and local food economic development. This project is ready to be funded for implementation in central Texas and then across the state. Budget is $90,000/yr.
- Elgin ISD After School local food and agriculture – In 2018 we expanded this program to double the number of classes for Elgin ISD K-5 students. We also worked with consultant Jade Florence to update our curriculum to prepare for replication by other school districts. In 2019, we will create a web presence for the program and recruit central Texas schools to pilot our program that we’re now calling Farm-to-kids.
- Farmers Market Metrics – Under the direction of the City of Austin Office of Sustainability, we coordinated development of a regional system for sharing famers market data to tell the story of the economic impact of farmers markets on the central Texas economy. We use the Farmers Market Metrics system developed by the National Farmers Market Coalition. We released a terrific first public report in March 2019.
- Agriculture and Food Resource Directory – This directory is a cornerstone of our ongoing work to help local food entrepreneurs including farmers, ranchers, and makers find the resources they need to support their businesses. A joint project with the National Center for Appropriate Technology, the directory includes resources for technical assistance, funding, supplies, commercial kitchens, and much more. Business Members of the Texas Center for Local Food are automatically listed in the Resource Directory.
- 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.
- 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 were responsible for supply analysis and conducting focus groups and doing outreach sessions. We completed our supply analysis in 2018 and the team issued our final report in early 2019.
- 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 – We continue to maintain this key statewide resource with our partners, Foodshed Investors and Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. Please enter your event and spread the word!
- Continue to share! – We will continue to share our work widely and learn from others in 2019 through conference presentations and creation of a new “Reports & Presentations” section of our website. In February, we presented at the Smithville Texas EcoFest and Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Conference in Corpus Christi.
- Continued participation in the Austin Community College Sustainable Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Industry Advisory Council.
- Continued 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.
- Elgin Local Food Center (ELF) – We completed our preliminary design work and secured a commitment of $800,000 toward construction from the Elgin Economic Development Corporation. We have until September 1, 2019 to reside the remaining $1.55M and 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.
- Elgin ISD After School local food and agriculture – This partnership with Elgin ISD began in the 2016-17 school year and in 2017-18, we 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. 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?
- Presented at the South Texas Producers Conference on the topic of collaboration. Here’s the presentation PDF. Power in Numbers: Local Food Collaborations
- Continueng to share! – We participated in a panel discussion at the National Good Food Network Conference in Albuquerque March 27-30, 2018. Along with NCAT, we presented a poster on our project Beyond Fresh at the Our Farms, Our Future conference in St. Louis, MO April.
- Event Calendar for Texas food and agriculture events – At last, Texas has an event calendar for agriculture and local food events! We collaborate with Foodshed Investors and TOFGA (Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association) to launch in 2018. The idea is that organizations across Texas 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. Add you events and share this amazing Texas-wide resource today!
- Beyond Fresh: Farmer Guide to Value-Added Processing – Led by the National Center for Appropriate Technology, we released the first edition of this guide in December 2018 to help Texas farmers decide whether to pursue value-added processing of their farm products. Visit the ATTRA web site to download the PDF for free or order a printed copy.
- Local Food Leader training statewide pilot – With Iowa State University, we conducted a pilot training for the Iowa State Local Food Leader and Community Food Systems. We tested applicability in Texas and in 2019 we’ll look at planning a Texas training. This program is designed for teams of folks working together in their communities to create local food projects that stimulate sustainable agriculture and local food economic development. We visited Iowa in January 2018 to learn more about the programs underway across Iowa (yes, it was freezing!)
- Presented at the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Conference (TOFGA) in sessions on Value-Added Production (PDF) with Jonathan Hogan from Wicked Good (PDF) and Food Systems from a Farmer View (PDF). Learn more about our presentations at the TOFGA conference in this news post.
- Local Food Price Study – View our report here. 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 and conceived with our partner Austin Foodshed Investors, this study deepens our understanding of this issue of price.
- 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.