Small Farms and a Regional Food Bank Grow Community Food Security

Author: Lauren Gwin, Oregon State University Small Farms Program

Publish Date: Spring 2017

At this year’s OSU Small Farms Conference, we heard about an innovative partnership between a regional food bank and local farms. Linn-Benton Food Share (LBFS), which serves Linn and Benton counties, began an “Intentional Growing Program” in the 2016 growing season. As LBFS Director Ryan McCambridge explained, the purchasing power of regional food banks is yet another way they can help build community food security, by supporting local, sustainable farms.

In 2016, LBFS contracted with five small, local farms to purchase an agreed-upon dollar amount of fresh, healthy produce on a regular basis over the season. But in an important twist on a typical supply contract, LBFS did not specify exactly which crops or specific volumes of those crops. This allowed the farms valuable flexibility, in case they had any production problems or delays due to weather or other factors.

Joyful Noise Farm, a new, organic farm located in Corvallis, was one of the four participating farms. Their contract with LBFS was for $4500: ten weekly deliveries of produce, each worth $450, based on an average price of $1.75/lb., with a total target weight of 2572 lbs.

“This program was invaluable to me as a first-year farmer,” Brooke Kaye said at the Conference. “Having a guaranteed market for my produce and income early in the season helped break down some of the barriers to starting a farming operation. It was also important to me to grow great food for people who don’t often have access to local, organic produce.”

The Intentional Growing Program is just beginning its second year, with 5 local, organic farms participating (2 Linn, 3 Benton). All farms participating are within the first 5 years of operation. Based on her experience the first year, farmer Brooke plans to streamline her delivery system as well as help LBFS improve its produce storage.

The idea is simple: everyone deserves fresh, healthy food regardless of their income level. Providing local, organic produce to emergency food clients means not only dignity in the quality of food itself, but further enhances the relationship between volunteer and recipient.