MFMA & LSP Host Putnam, Gustafson To Talk Local Foods
MFMA and Land Stewardship Project were happy to host Senators Aric Putnam and Heather Gustafson, and other members of the MN Senate Ag Committee at Simple Harvest Farm Organics, Nerstrand, on July 20. MDA Assistant Commissioner Patrice Bailey attended, as did several market managers, food farmers, and folks involved with food policy in MN.
Chair Putnam gave MFMA’s and LSP’s bill asking for $10,000 grants to every farmers’ market in MN and the Tribal Nations a hearing in committee during the 2023 session. Although that bill, authored by Senator Mary Kunesh, failed to get funded, the Legislature did fund $200,000 over two years to help farmers’ markets with the costs of SNAP EBT.
A tour of Zeman’s Simple Harvest Farm, a MN Ag Water Quality certified farm that has all certified organic inputs and is 100% grass-based with trees in all paddocks for shade for the livestock, included discussions on:
MN’s Local Foodshed is Booming - Where Can Funding Come From For the Needed Infrastructure?
Bucking state and national trends of aging and decreasing number of commodity farmers, MN’s small scale and emerging farmers population continues to show marked growth, especially in growing food crops and livestock. The Statewide Cooperative Partnership 2022 data shows that farmers in this category average over 60% more in market value sales per acre than 'all farmers,' in the 2017 U.S. Ag Census.
Data confirms the growth and potential of MN’s local foodshed; what’s needed next is funding to support the ‘local foodshed infrastructure,’ also called the ‘community food web.’ Once this investment happens in community commercial kitchens, community food hubs (including farmers’ market food hubs), community food storage warehouses, community food grade transportation, then growth in MN’s ability to grow food increases exponentially, and in doing so builds resilience across greater MN as well as the burgeoning urban ag farms.
Senator Gustafson’s bill to provide free meals to school children was passed in 2023. Once the local foodshed infrastructure is built out, it will make it easier for those meals to come directly from MN food farmers, revolving that money in MN. As COVID illuminated, having multiple sales channels for food farmers is critical: farmers’ markets, farm-to-school, farm-to-institution, etc.
Senator Putnam said it was his intent for the Senate Ag Committee to visit farms this summer and listen to the stories; the group has 40 farm tours scheduled already. He encouraged our group to research and build relationships with other Legislative committees and state agencies, because our work includes food access, food security, economic development, workforce development, education, etc.