Field Notes: Local Food and Farm Task Force Explores Options
The State’s Local Food and Farm Task Force held its third meeting on Friday, January 23, in Topeka. The Task Force was established by the passage of Senate Bill 286 in the 2014 legislative session, and is responsible for preparing a local food and farm plan containing policy and funding recommendations in order to increase locally grown food production. The recommendations are due to the legislature in January 2016.
The task force is meeting monthly and has invited speakers who can answer questions pertinent to local farm- ing and food systems in Kansas. Previous meetings have featured KRC’s Feeding Kansas (See the report at http://kansasruralcenter.org/feeding-kansas/ ) and the recently adopted Kansas Farm Bureau resolution regarding local food systems: http://www.kfb.org/Assets/uploads/images/capitolgovernment/2015finalstatres.pdf.
The Jan. 23 agenda included presentations on access to farm loan and crop insurance programs, and potential for development of vegetable crops in Kansas. Featured speakers were Todd Barrows, agriculture program specialist with the Farm Service Agency; Lee Hartford, also of FSA, speaking about the agency’s loan programs.
Dr. Chuck Marr, retired professor of horticulture for K-State Research and Extension, provided a report about the potential for vegetable crops in Kansas. He noted that Kansas — particularly the Kansas River valley — was once one of the most productive regions of the U.S. for vegetables. He provided an overview of opportunities for Kansas to reclaim some of the opportunity in vegetable crops, including processing, grower-shipping and further development of local markets.
He said local markets offer the following benefits:
* They are an inexpensive way for farms to expand, requiring little investment and allowing for connection directly to the consumer
* local stores are actively seeking local products and seeing loyal customer relationships develop around those products
* social media and new app technologies provide more opportunities than ever before for connecting through marketing
* From the Land of Kansas offers an excellent driver of opportunities to buy locally
* Local foods provide community development and social atmosphere.
As for potential vegetable crops with good potential in Kansas, Dr. Marr singled out the following:
* salad processing crops including potatoes, cabbages and carrots
* pumpkins and other fall decorative squash, which are also low-water crops
* sweet corn, which would utilize existing growing knowledge and significantly less water
* watermelons and muskmelons, which can grow with little water and at very high quality in Kansas
* sweet potatoes
* varieties and crops to meet the needs of ethnic populations
* crop extension with technologies like high tunnels as well as double-cropping crops such as cabbages, that Kansas can harvest twice in a year.
Dr. Marr’s advice to the Task Force was to not count vegetable crops in terms of acres under cultivation, as oth- er agricultural crops are inventoried. Instead, he suggested, utilize dollars and jobs created, as other economic development efforts do. He gave the example of an acre of tomatoes that might generate $50,000-$60,000 in income and employ several people for harvest, in comparison to a factory that would not measure square foot- age but rather jobs and dollars generated. He also supported the need for providing additional support through K-State Research & Extension agents.
Task force members are: farmer and Chairman Ron Brown, David Coltrain of Seward County Community Col- lege, Dr. Cary Rivard of K-State Research & Extension – Olathe, farmer Loren Swenson, and Annarose White and Julie Roller representing KDA. Legislative appointees are Rep. Adam Lusker, Frontenac, and Sen. Dan Kerschen, Garden Plain.
The next task force meeting is set for Friday afternoon, February 20, at a Topeka location to be determined, and the following on March 13, in the morning. Future topics for presentations to the task force will be cooperatives, meat production, K-State Research and Extension funding, and tours of facilities such as warehouses. Members of the public are invited and encouraged to attend, and information about upcoming meetings can be found at http://agriculture.ks.gov/.
From KRC’s Legislative & Policy Watch Weekly E-Updates, January 30, 2015, issue. To receive Policy Watch in your Inbox each week, please subscribe here.