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Ohio Farmers Market Network Wins $265,000 USDA Agriculture Grant

[COLUMBUS-OH] The Columbus and Franklin County Local Food Action Plan (LFAP) continues to reap the harvest of its commitment to neighborhood health and wellness. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the Farmers’ Market Management Network dba Ohio Farmers Market Network is the recipient of a $265,284.28 USDA grant to fund increased access to locally and regionally produced agricultural products in Central Ohio.

“This gives us the opportunity to expand access to locally grown food and produce,” said Councilmember Priscilla Tyson. “Our communities need pathways to affordable, fresh, local produce and this funding aligns with the goals of the LFAP allowing us to provide the training on how to create, manage and enhance farmers markets throughout the City and Franklin County.”

The Local Food Action Plan was a substantial element that supported the Ohio Farmers Market Network’s (OFMN) application. The Local Food Action Plan’s structure, resources and focused support to the Network proved to be a unique and notable partnership to improve access to healthy and affordable food closer to where Columbus and Franklin County residents live, work, and play and to enhance opportunities for those who grow to have a profitable market to sell food.

“This award will help connect producers from all over the region with families that need access to healthy food options,” said Franklin County Commissioner John O’Grady. “The rural connection is essential to the success and viability of local urban markets. Without our rural farmers, there would not be enough food or vendors to support our markets in the City and County.”

The OFMN was formed in 2008 to educate farmers market managers and producers about best practices, regulations, tools and opportunities for sharing ideas. They work together to address the needs and concerns of the markets both large and small. Members are located throughout Ohio.

On September 18, 2018, the USDA announced a $102.7 million investment to increase opportunities for farmers, ranchers and other growers across the country through five grant programs. The funding supports a variety of locally-led projects intended to expand markets for local food promotion and specialty crops.

“Every state has agricultural priorities that contribute to the well-being of farm families, consumers and the economic health of rural America,” said Under Secretary Greg Ibach. “These programs target resources to the state, local and regional level where the people who understand the issues best can find solutions that help everyone.”

The program directed $13.35 million to 49 projects supporting direct producer-to-consumer marketing projects such as farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, roadside stands, and agri-tourism through the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP).

“We are thrilled to have been granted this opportunity to assess, strengthen and grow farmers markets in the Central Ohio region,” said Michelle White, Vice President of the Ohio Farmers Market Network. “Our work will focus on research and data collection at each of the 31 markets in our region, market manager training and technical assistance across the state, and developing a marketing campaign to support local food and farmers. It is our hope that building a network of professionally managed markets will lead to an increase in opportunities for residents to access locally-grown food, and an increase in sales for our region's food producers.”

The OFMN plans to increase consumption of and access to locally and regionally produced agricultural products in Central Ohio (Franklin, Union, Delaware, Licking, Madison, Pickaway, Fairfield and Fayette counties) through: targeted technical assistance and training for market managers; the development of a regional marketing campaign; and a market assessment to create a strategic plan for the improvement and growth of farmers markets.

In 2014, Columbus City Councilmember Priscilla Tyson and Franklin County Commissioner John O’Grady partnered to launch the Columbus and Franklin County Local Food Action Plan, a community planning effort to create a stronger, more sustainable local food system. Local Matters, a non-profit organization was engaged by the City to ensure robust community participation and feedback in the process.

The Plan provides common goals and actions to unify efforts in growing, processing, transporting, selling, consuming and disposing of food. The goal is to address inequalities in access to healthy food, affordable food, and local food.

Council passed ordinance 1484-2018 earlier this year which allocated over $40,000 to support initiatives identified in the Local Food Action Plan including improving access to and education about healthy, affordable and local food. Nearly, $32,000 was dedicated to the launch of the farmers market in Linden. Moreover, The Linden Farmers Market greatly benefited from the expertise and training of staff from the Ohio Farmers Market Network.