Faced with a rapidly increasing world population, inequality in access to fresh and healthy foods, and food production uncertainties related to changing climatic conditions, maintaining the economic viability of the small and mid-scale farms that operate the majority of U.S. farmland is paramount. Small and mid-scale farms reporting less than $1 million in gross cash farm income account for 95% of all U.S. farms, produce one-half of the value of agricultural production, and operate 74% of US farmland. Small farms alone operate 52% of all farmland. Preserving the land and farmer technical knowledge as critical assets depends on farm economic viability. In recent years small and mid-scale farm viability has been enhanced by consumer demand for locally-grown food from identified sources, both direct-to-consumer in the form of farmers-markets and CSA/box programs or intermediated through food service and grocers. Just as these farm operators have found profitable relationships with consumers and buyers in cities and towns, there lies a potentially profitable set of market links to another type of community: those of university and college campuses. Campus communities comprised of students in residence, staff, administrators, and faculty, operate in ways analogous to small cities dotting landscapesacross the U.S. The potential for campus communities to act as economic drivers has been recognized for their direct and indirect impact on employment and a host of other benefits.The long-term goal of this project is increased economic vitality of small and mid- scale farmers and their communities through the development of profitable market opportunities on university campuses. The partner campuses in this project are six Minority Serving universities in North Carolina. The general challenges to building supply chain linkages from small and mid-scale farmer/vendors and campus dining services are well known, and include inadequate farm production volume and prohibitively high costs of transportation, insurance, and compliance with food safety regulations. Yet the continued interest in locally-sourced food, and the characteristics attached to this attribute--knowledge of the grower and growing method, desire to support local businesses, minimal processing of product--remains strong. In many cases dining services, university administrators, and student local food advocates have the same goal-- broader access to locally-grown food on campus--but lack a common understanding of "how the system works," and do not have an awareness of local farmer-vendors that are available toengage in campus food supply chains. Small and mid-scale farmers also often lack information on how to engage--who to talk to, and the basic prerequisites for engagement such as appropriate packaging and labeling requirements. This project addresses in a practical and applied way the needs of campus community members and small/mid-scale farmers to understand the system, to connect and engage, and to mutually work to establish a local food presence on campus that supports local agriculture. The project has three core objectives: Establish through research activities the current status of food supply chains at six campus communities that are in areas that include limited resource farmers and through this identify the mutually beneficial entry points for bringing local foods from small and mid-scale farmers to each campus; identify and assess small and mid-scale farmer readiness to sell into these six campus communities and provide information and trainings to build farmer capacity; based on these research and extension activities, create transferable tools for application to link small and mid-scale farmers to campus community food systems across the U.S.
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