Re-energizing local food in Willmar
We have identified four barriers to increasing the use of local foods in the SW Region:
- lack of product,
- need for a central ordering system where schools, restaurants and other large users can make a one-call order,
- lack of necessary school equipment and
- 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.
- University of MN Faculty/student/departments that will be involved at various stages
- Center for Small Towns interns (Arnie Kildegaard)
- University of Minnesota-Morris (interns and information already developed on local foods)
- Ridgewater College
- The Food Shelf
- The Municipal Utilities
- The Willmar School System
- Beverly Dougherty, Project Coordinator, Willmar Design Center
- Willmar Design Center
- Willmar Area Food Shelf
- Willmar Public School System
- City of Willmar and Kandiyohi County EDC
- City of Willmar and Kandiyohi County HRA
- City of Willmar
- Becker Market (a farmers market project of the Willmar Design Center)
- Willmar Community-Owned Grocery
- Willmar Municipal Utilities
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:
- Developing a comprehensive business model/plan
- Developing a detailed and comprehensive presentation to use for fund development, membership recruitment and discussions with Mills auto regarding the vacant auto facility in downtown Willmar
- Engaging two willing, able and experienced individuals whose task it will be to drive the efforts noted above to conclusion in conjunction with the COG Board of Directors and members.
- Provide a teaching commercial kitchen for food safety and value-added processing
- Create 40 - 50 new jobs plus additional growers in the region
Objectives or strategies:
- Create a business plan with cost estimates
- Develop a Visionary powerpoint of the entire project including graphics and timeline
- Determine the best location for the food hub storage area and value-added processing space
- Bring the vision together in a powerpoint presentation and look for investors and grants
- Expand hours for Beverly Dougherty and Kristin Anderson Rosetti to accomplish the goals with measurable outcomes
- 8-1-13 Presentation with graphics complete, including cost estimates
- 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.
- Secure investors for building purchases (Hub and Commercial Kitchen/Value Added Processing
- October-November: Preliminary Designs, systems, building plan for greenhouses in place.
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.
- Were we able to continue and expand the work we have started?
- With property match money and searching out additional grant funds through MDA and USDA, can we get to larger grant amounts for actual property purchase and construction?
- All results are visual and therefore measurable.
- SWP Board Funding Investment: $20,000