The sustainable agriculture credo – that locally grown food can be raised in environmentally beneficial ways that strengthen local farms and economies and improve individual and public health – will be put to the test at The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s (ASAP) Local Food Center.
ASAP’s Local Food Center will be built in Asheville, North Carolina with initial support from donors, the Southern branch of the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Sustainable Research and Education (SARE) program and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, Asheville’s Mountain Xpress reported recently.
The Local Food Center will enable ASAP to continue to expand its efforts to foster and promote local sustainable agriculture.
Select any item on Jacksonville, Fla.-based Bistro AIX’s online menu and you can trace which farm or producer the ingredients came from. With a few more clicks on the food source’s profile, you can even learn more about what the grower does and the practices used in raising the animal or crop.
This service is provided to Bistro Aix and more than 60 other restaurants across the nation by Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Real Time Farms, an online food guide that gives consumers the tools they need to track their food from farm to table. The goal is to bring transparency to a food system that can often mystify consumers with vague terminology such as “farm fresh” and “all-natural,” said Cara Rosaen, who founded the company this year with her husband, Karl Rosaen.
In New York’s Albany region, FarmieMarket customers are filling virtual shopping baskets with locally grown goods. The online market offers a variety of in season products, from heirloom tomatoes to certified organic pork, to honey and maple syrup, and delivers them to homes once weekly. It’s a model that founder Sarah Avery Gordon hopes will rid consumers of the excuse that shopping locally is too hard.
“If we’re going to sustain the real food economy for future generations, then we need systems in place to provide local food,” said Gordon. “If we can inform customers about the benefits of eating locally, and bring food to their door, we can really provide an alternative to factory farms.”
More local farmers were able to get their wares directly to consumers this year, according to a study released in early August from the United States Department of Agriculture’s 2011 National Farmers Market Directory.
Since 2010, the number of farmers markets across the country has grown by more than 1,000, allowing the largest number of farmers ever the ability to sell their products directly to their local community. A total of 7,175 markets currently operate in the U.S. compared to 6,132 in 2010.
The advent and growth of farmers markets has been a tremendous boon to farmers and consumers interested in supporting community and sustainable agriculture. But sustainable ag and food producers as well as suppliers stand to benefit to an even greater degree by tapping into the food industry’s well-established network of distributors, grocery stores and food chains, according to researchers at Ohio State University.