Wooster-area farmers connect consumers and producers

December 25, 2013 by  

Martha Gaffney, Jennifer Grahovac and Monica Bongue, who are all small farmers in the Wooster area, have come up with an idea that will allow buyers from urban areas to patronize small farms, and in the process, have created a sort of food ministry.

The farmers realized that they and others in the region have more capacity for growing than they do customers, so they were looking for a way to make their products available in urban areas.

They wrote to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) explaining that, although Wayne County agricultural sales amount to $247 million, only $1,392,000 is sold to county consumers. Since the county has a small population, small farms are often producing more than they can sell locally and need to reach the urban market in order to thrive.

The USDA responded with a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant, and the farmers formed the Farm Roots Connection Cooperative. In this effort, customers join the co-op, which provides farmers with the initial capital they need to raise livestock and grow produce using sustainable methods. In return, the farms provide a weekly share of high-quality dairy, eggs, fresh produce, and baked goods.

In addition, the co-op received large donations that paid for produce for the food pantry, People to People Ministries. This helped both parties: the farmers were able to sell their produce while needy people received food.

Since the program is still in its infancy, Farm Roots could work with brochure printers to create a mailer for county residents describing the program and urging them to get involved.