It’s a drop in the bucket compared to what the federal government doles out in farm subsidies to big agriculture, but 26 rural communities around the country are receiving a combined $650,000 for Local Foods, Local Places. It’s a federal initiative providing direct "technical support and expertise to community partners integrating local food systems into regional economic action plans."

Each community will work with a team of experts on agriculture, transportation, environment, public health, and the economy to implement specific, local food projects.

Here are a few of the projects in development.

  • The Flippin School District in Flippin, Arkansas, will receive technical assistance to transition chronically empty properties adjacent to the high school parking lot into a farmers market.
  • Unity, Maine, will receive technical assistance to create a more connected, walkable community; to better market the community’s agricultural character; and to create a local food system that serves all residents.
  • The Rodale Institute will receive technical assistance to create a strategic plan to transform Allentown, Pennsylvania, into an urban agricultural center that includes a city-wide network of community gardens, farmers markets, and programming to promote healthy living and eating.
  • Williamson, West Virginia, will receive technical assistance to establish a Health Innovation Hub that brings local foods to market to improve the health of residents while building a vibrant local economy.
I like how local agriculture and food are being connected to other important community needs in these projects, things like walkable communities, healthy living, and making good use of empty property near schools. Improving the health of the people in a community and the community itself often takes an integration of all these things, not just opening up a farmers market.

Communities selected to receive the federal funds were not chosen randomly. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the Local Foods, Local Places initiative last summer and invited communities to apply. 

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.