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Chefs and Farmers Initiative Creates Movement

Chefs and Farmers Initiative Creates Movement

Across the country there is momentum to bring more local food to restaurants. Recently we wrote a blog on upcoming trends for restaurants where locally-sourced foods topped the charts for yet another year. Innovate solutions are popping up everywhere in the Chesapeake region too. However, farmers and chefs are busy people who are usually running in two separate directions. So how do local restaurants find all these wonderful farms, and how do farmers make connections to new chefs?

Southern Maryland Chef and Farmer Events

Over the winter of 2015, local catering company Herrington on the Bay, invited chefs and farmers from the Herring Bay region to come together over lunch in order to tackle this question. Herrington organized the meeting, reaching out to local agriculture organizations like SMADC and AAEDC for lists of farmers in their area who sell wholesale and chefs who are interested in local products. Ideas were shared, new connections were made, and a Facebook group was created to allow for transactions to begin to take place. As the year went on, both parties realized that more had to happen to take this concept to the next level.

Herrington Purpose, Mission, Vision for the group
Guiding  principles for the group.

Over the winter of 2016, just a few weeks ago, Herrington hosted a second event, expanding to include a wider reach of producers (including meat, dairy, and produce) and chefs. Around 50 attendees showed up to hear from Anna Chaney, owner and operator of Herrington and Honey’s Harvest Farm, about plans to get more local food on to more local plates. Chefs and farmers are busy people so to have them in the room together was an accomplishment in itself!

Additionally, Chesapeake Farm 2 Table (CF2T) was invited to demonstrate the distribution model they’ve come up with for Baltimore. Becky (owner and operator) and Audrey (general manager) of CF2T laid out for the group what was needed to start their operation:

  • A network of member farmers and chefs wiling to participate
  • An online ordering system that handles multiple farms products and chefs payments (additionally farmers and chefs can do payment offline)
  • A coordinator to receive food to one location (the Hub). Farmers drop the food off in clear plastic bags (vs. crates or other materials) since they will not be returned
  • A vehicle and a driver to deliver to Baltimore restaurants

What’s next for Southern Maryland?

The conversation was buzzing as people mingled, many meeting for the first time, learning about each other and exchanging contact information. Relationship and trust building, from year to year, and a networking group is invaluable!

Local Food Featured At MD Chef/Farmer Event
The kinds of meals we were conspiring to create were also in supply at the event.

The group concurred that this was something needed to benefit the region. There are still many pieces of the puzzle to solve. Who will run it? Can it be run as a pilot program for the region? The intent is to get better food on the table, but it also has to pay the bills for both sides. The group must be willing to work together in some capacity so that a 50 mile transportation radius (likely for our rural area)  isn’t so onerous (for example, maybe a farmer brings product to a central drop point where the van can pick it up). In essence, have more people driving 15 miles vs. 50. And as Anna said during the meeting, “if we all give a little, we can get a lot.” And there are some leaders who’ve already stepped up to the plate to put these pieces together!

Keeping a Regional Perspective

It is imperative that we create synergies across the region to increase local food supply, and profitability for farmers. That’s why it was fantastic that CF2T came down to meet the group, and why SMADC has been happy to lead the efforts to bring the Maryland food hubs (emerging and established) together a few times a year. CF2T said they enjoyed getting to know their neighbors to the south and they were excited to see what’s next for local food sourcing in southern Maryland! We are too!

If you are interested learning more about these ongoing efforts, email us anytime at info@marylandfarmlink.com.

 

Farmers Market vendors – an opportunity to grow your customers

Farmers Market vendors – an opportunity to grow your customers

By: Cia Morey and Priscilla Wentworth, SMADC

Farmers market season kicks into full gear soon in Maryland.
8.13.15FeedingtheFoodshedOver the past few years farmers markets have increased the ability to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Not only does this allow low-income participants the opportunity of adding fresh local fruits and vegetables to their diet, it allows farmers to increase their customer base too.

SNAP redemption generated $18.8 million in Fiscal Year 2014 – “a nearly six-fold increase since 2008.” Since 2008 SNAP authorized farmers and farmers markets grew to 753 to 6,400. (USDA Report)

SNAP is now available for individual farms and farm stands.

The program was recently expanded to include individual direct marketing farms at markets and farm stands. This means that if a farmers market as a whole does not accept SNAP, a vendor now has the opportunity to apply for SNAP.localmarkets  Interested farmers can apply at the SNAP EBT Sign-Up Event at the Annual Maryland Farmers Market Conference on March 15, 2016.  More information and registration can be found here. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service will be there to help. Make sure you bring a picture ID (driver’s license or passport), Social Security Card (or other official document with your name and SSN) and a copy of a voided check for bank account you will use to deposit funds.

Three electronic payment options. Click to expand and for more information.

There is also a grant currently available that may allow you to receive free Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) equipment necessary to process SNAP payments. There are three devices to choose from. Remember, you can use these devices to accept plastic payment from customers, giving your customers another option for payment at markets, and you one device to serve both. I have used the MarketLink product extensively now (pictured on right) working at market, and it works very well.

With Spring around the corner, I know many are making sure the tent is sturdy, price signs are ready, and chalk boards cleaned. Consider too the upcoming event and EBT grant, to help you increase your customer base and provide fresh local products to those in need in your community.

 

 

 

 

 

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