Tools of Transformation
- Education and Training
- Sustainable Farming
- Women's Empowerment
In the past two years 2.6 million people slipped into poverty in the United States. Heifer is changing that through the Seeds of Change Initiative by encouraging local farmers.
Despite fertile lands and a large economy, many people in the U.S. are without work and don't have enough to eat. In the past two years, 2.6 million people have slipped into poverty; that's the highest number of people below the poverty line in twenty years. One in six children in the U.S. don't know where or when they will find their next meal.
Two areas in particular suffer from extreme poverty: the Appalachia region, which stretches from rural Pennsylvania to northern Alabama, and the Arkansas Delta, which follows the Mississippi River along the eastern half of the state. Unemployment rates in those areas are double that of the nation, and approximately one in four people in the Delta and one in three children in Appalachia suffer from a lack of access to healthy food.
Arkansas Delta Programming
If you live in Central Arkansas, you can help develop opportunities for local producers while enjoying farm-fresh produce grown in the Arkansas Delta. Our local partner, the Farm and Food Innovation Center at St. Joseph’s Farm in North Little Rock, Ark., trains farmers in sustainable agricultural and serves as the “food hub” for Heifer’s Seeds of Change Initiative™.
Heifer’s strategy in Arkansas is to create a critical mass of farmers. Through the Seeds of Change Initiative™, we will connect them to local markets to increase their income and provide them a sustainable living while allowing Arkansans to have more access to healthy, locally produced food. We are focusing on two main areas: Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) and livestock and agricultural cooperative development — all focused on serving smallholder farmers in the Arkansas Delta.
To do this, it requires innovative, coordinated, and profitable local food markets for existing and new farmers. This is done by harnessing existing production, expanding market penetration and enabling new producers to be successful.
Appalachia is one of the world’s most fertile agricultural regions, rich in farmable land, clean water, and hard-working people. Yet astoundingly half of the region’s families earn less than enough to support a family, and over half of our children do not have daily access to healthy food.
Seeds of Change Farmer Profile
- Entrepreneurial, willing to carry some risk
- Commitment to sustainable, natural production systems
- Basic level of production experience
- Potential growers without some level of experience or land— who will be categorized as “farmers-in-training”
- Raising and marketing grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, pastured pork
How did this happen? There are historical reasons, reflecting an array of social and economic complexities, but one certainly is clear: people and mountain communities are struggling. Increasingly, men and women cannot find adequate jobs while more and more children grow up without reliable access to nutritious food, giving rise to serious food-related health illnesses.
Blue Ridge Seeds of Change (BRSOC) is a community driven coalition of change-makers committed to strengthen economies, improving health and reducing poverty though the far reaching potential of locally grown food.
Inspired and supported by Heifer International, BRSOC has a comprehensive and singular focus: to build a strong and resilient chain of food growers, buyers, distributors, consumers, and sellers in Alleghany, Ashe, Watauga, and Wilkes counties of North Carolina and Johnson County, Tennessee.
Local food movements are becoming engines of economic development all over the country. Producers are responding to skyrocketing demand for local and regional food by increasing production, creating new markets, and launching new businesses. Locally marketed foods accounted for an estimated $4.8 billion in gross sales in 2008, the number of farmers markets nationwide jumped 17 percent in 2011, and all 50 states now have farm-to-school programs. Despite these mark-drive trends, significant infrastructure, marketing, and information barriers are limiting our region’s participation in this opportunity.
BRSOC Partner Organizations: Heifer International, Appalachian District Health Department, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, High Country Workforce Development Board, Region D Council of Governments, NC Cooperative Extension
Seeds of Change Initiative
Supporting local growers and innovators is key to strengthening local economies in the U.S. By encouraging community development on the local level, Heifer is creating opportunities, improving access to markets for small farmers and providing environmental sustainability.
The Seeds of Change Initiative is driven by local motivation, local farmers, local innovation and local leadership. This focus on community-based development is the key to successfully ending hunger here at home.
Areas of Focus
- Production — To meet regional demand for locally grown food, Seeds of Change is working to recruit and support a broad base of small-scale farmers to help increase their production.
- Markets — Market demand is the foundation for rebuilding local food systems in both regions. Seeds of Change will connect small, low-income farmers to larger regional economies and profitable markets.
- Infrastructure — Seeds of Change producers will gain access to community-owned, affordable services and infrastructure. They also receive support in marketing, processing, aggregation and distribution.
- Entrepreneurship — The Seeds of Change entrepreneurial strategy encourages a farmer-to-farmer collaboration and mentorship program that will nurture new producers and move products from farms to markets more efficiently. These food entrepreneurs will, in turn, provide innovative solutions and open opportunities in local food systems.
- Capital — In both Appalachia and Arkansas, many farmers lack access to resources and capital. The Seeds of Change program provides technical support, grants, loans, and direct investments for farmers and food entrepreneurs.