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Extension > Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships > Southwest > Re-energizing local food in Willmar

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Re-energizing local food in Willmar

Purpose

We have identified four barriers to increasing the use of local foods in the SW Region:

  1. lack of product,
  2. need for a central ordering system where schools, restaurants and other large users can make a one-call order,
  3. lack of necessary school equipment and
  4. training for school kitchen staff and simple recipes.

Our focus thus far has been to identify potential users and, then find a way to increase product. We are currently mapping our current vendor locations to determine a distribution system and create Willmar as one of a series of regional food hubs in the SW Region. In response to a request from Ryan Pesch to include the Willmar, Montevideo, New London-Spicer and Community Christian Schools' request for cooking classes in our current grant dollars, we have learned that the school system will commit to purchasing as many greens as we can grow. They have expressed much interest in being able to freeze and preserve other produce when quantities are bountiful. We are currently working with the only existing greenhouse in Willmar (at the MnWest Technology foods (even though it also has solar panels and a biomass burner). These barriers include rental costs, repair costs, and the need for a comprehensive greenhouse management plan. We will continue to work with the MnWest campus to determine how this greenhouse can be a part of the Willmar local foods hub.

The Food Shelf Board has approved the donation of a piece of property to Willmar Design Center Becker Market if we will use it to construct a greenhouse or greenhouses. Estimated value of property: $11,000. We are currently exploring the possibility of using waste heat from the Willmar Municipal Utilities as a secondary heat source for the greenhouse. We need to pursue this great opportunity and have called together a diverse group of supporters to make a big vision for local food come true that could be replicated in any community in Minnesota. The project started 5/13.

Partners

Activities

Re-energize the drive to produce local food, develop and build a greenhouse(s), establish a storage facility/distribution hub, invigorate and bring to fruition the Willmar Community Owned Grocery (COG) by:

Objectives or strategies:

Timeline:

  1. 8-1-13 Presentation with graphics complete, including cost estimates
  2. 8-1-13 through 9-30-13. Presentations, relationship building, fundraising, education close proximity to the greenhouse and assist the COG in securing the downtown store location.
  3. Secure investors for building purchases (Hub and Commercial Kitchen/Value Added Processing
  4. October-November: Preliminary Designs, systems, building plan for greenhouses in place.

Outcomes

Our goal is to increase the local food supply, which will create small town economic development based on a sustainable and available local product. By creating the full circle of product to value-added to food safety and preservation, we will increase growing capacity and create a secure food system for the SW part of Minnesota. This, in turn, brings secure employment in a field that cannot be outsourced. This ultimately creates a healthy and vigorous population.

Evaluation methods:

Measurable results:

Funding

Last updated 10-11-2013
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