One in ten U.S. households does not have access to enough food to meet their basic needs, according to worldhungeryear.org. Over 49 million people live in these food insecure households, including nearly 17 million children. Food insecurity is closely tied to poverty, as the working poor and others with genuine need, including small family farmers, may not have the money to access nutritious food. Through its work in the United States, Heifer International is addressing the challenge of connecting people with quality food while working to ensure a future for sustainable family farming in America.
Organic Agriculture as an Avenue for Better Livelihoods
The Heifer International MORE project is focused on organic production as a component of sustainable agricultureThe Heifer National MORE Project is specifically focused on organic production as a component of sustainable agriculture. Organic production centers on the use of natural systems vs. synthetic or chemical inputs, and has demonstrated potential to provide sustainable livelihoods for farmers while improving the stewardship of natural resources. The challenges of learning new farming methodology and the costs of transitioning to organic agriculture and becoming certified organic provide obstacles to many farmers.
The four-year National MORE Project works to provide organic-specific learning, transition and certification opportunities in an effort to overcome these barriers and bridge the divide between organic production and organic supply in genuine need communities.
The specific goals of the National More Organic for Everyone (MORE) Project are:
- To increase the supply of diverse organic producers.
- To improve access to high quality organic food by under served communities, and to strengthen the linkages between organic producers and communities in "food desert" areas, where sources of wholesome and healthy food are limited or nonexistent.
The MORE project represents Heifer USA's emerging model of integration and efficiency, utilizing networks of strong, well-established regional partnerships to make the greatest impact. Together with these partners, Heifer USA is addressing the challenge of connecting people with quality food, while working to ensure a future for sustainable family farming in America.
The MORE Project partners include the following organizations:
- Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture
- Northeast Organic Food Association of New York
- Minnesota Food Association
- Georgia Organics
- Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)
- Northwest Wisconsin Regional Food Network
- University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
- Organic Valley Family of Farms/ CROPP Cooperative
Organic Valley / CROPP was the inspiration behind the National MORE Project and continues to play an important role in its success. In addition to funding, CROPP helps provide access to trainers, technicians, marketing specialists, networking opportunities and workshops. Learn more about Heifer's partnership with Organic Valley of Farms.
Overall Project Objectives and Activities
By 2011, at least 60 farmers have received technical assistance and resources toward organic farming, including certification.
To date, 117 families have received technical training and equipment. Training topics covered: organic farming and certification, organic pest control, organic dairy production, soil fertility and biology, seed saving fundamentals, crop planning, rotation and companion planting, vegetable and fruit production, understanding weeds to control them, sustainable beekeeping, pastured poultry production, post harvest handling, farmers markets, irrigation systems, sales tax/advanced organics, CSA business operations, farm business planning, record keeping, basic engine operation and diagnosis, social media and internet marketing for farmers, policy influence on food access, land leasing, local food economy/food sovereignty, traditional foods and food safety.
By 2012, at least 600 limited resource families have increased access to organic food in genuine need communities, and policies and advocacy strategies have been developed to promote organic agriculture and its access in genuine need communities on state, regional and national levels.
The multi-lateral partnerships between NOFA-NY, GO, MOSES, MFA, KCCUA, UAPB, CROPP, CFSC, and Heifer International have been developed and/or strengthened. Additional partnerships with state and federal WIC programs, emergency food programs, and other food purveyors have been instrumental in discussions and analysis of closing the food gap in food desert areas.
To this end, in the project's third year, one national meeting bringing organizations and farmers together to share strategies for getting organic food into food desert communities will be organized.
Passing On The Gift
Farmers will receive peer-to-peer, as well as classroom-type, training and pass on high quality food to food insecure families, as well as peer-to-peer training for others entering organic agriculture. Organizations pass on education and advocacy initiatives to identify policy gaps and opportunities to get high quality food into identified food desert areas.
Testimonials and Project Holder Comments
From the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES):
MOSES is addressing the issue of access to local / organic food through a variety of initiatives including the "Paying It Forward" Project, a youth service-learning and outreach program started by the NW Wisconsin Regional Food Network. Organizers worked with a number of youth organizations such as 4H, FFA, church youth groups, the Barron County Boys and Girls Club and local schools, exploring service learning and market gardening ideas. Heifer resources are being used to develop this project and the Somali youth served, providing access to formal and informal trainings according to their projects' needs.
MOSES engages regional partners such as West CAP (West Central Wisconsin Community Action Agency), who work with farmers and community volunteers to form food system development working groups in an effort to develop policies aimed at providing limited resource families with access to local/organic food.
From Georgia Organics:
Picture of the Georgia Organics Urban Ag mentoring program mentees. The regular training classes and farm visits as part of the urban agriculture mentoring program are going very well. Below is a testimonial from urban ag mentoring program mentee, Alfred Arberman: I would like to thank everybody involved at Georgia Organics for the Urban Agriculture Training Program, which is making my dream come true. My name is Alfred Arberman, 64 ½ years young. And having lost my job, this is the best thing that could have ever happened to me, preparing myself to become an organic backyard gardener and, in my next life, an organic farmer. The experiences and classes I am having I would have never gotten from books alone. Especially the personal life stories, encouragement, and practical examples I am getting from the farmers themselves are invaluable. You don't get that from books alone. Specifically when working hand-in-hand with the volunteer farmers, I am learning to do the various things in different ways and learning to adapt them to my specific needs and requirements.
Since I started the program, I finished building several raised and standard beds which are planted, harvesting and eating from them already. I've improved my methods of seedling, learned the proper way of composting, and learned the principles of crop rotation, planning, and companion planting. I've also started building a walk-in hoop-house. And if everything works out okay, I'm planning to sell at local farmers markets soon.
From Minnesota Food Association (MFA):
There are 9 'farms', representing about 25 farmers in the full training program from communities in Hmong, Mexico, Kenya, Cambodia, and Karen (Burma), farming on plots of ¼ acre to 3 acres. This semester five first-year farmers have established their own other direct markets. MFA helped one new Hmong farm family register at a new local farmers market. All the other farms have 4 or more diverse markets set up – wholesale distributors, farmers markets, CSAs, restaurants, coops, schools and more. Farmers in the Program will earn gross revenues of between $3,000 to over $10,000 per acre and continue to increase their yields and efficiencies. One farm has started its own greenhouse at the Big River Farms and is producing transplants for sale as well. This is the only immigrant producer-own certified organic source of transplants in MN.
The farmers in the MFA training program are the only certified organic immigrant farmers in MN. The program continues to show growth in the number of immigrant communities and the diversity of trainees.
From Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), New York:
NOFA-NY Food Justice Coordinator continues to support food policy work – as a participant in the Rochester Food Access Working Group and Urban Agriculture Initiative, as well as new Food Policy Efforts headed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga County (Syracuse, NY).
NOFA-NY's Food Justice Program Coordinator and Assistant Director advocated on policy supporting small organic farmers by testifying and educating about NY Farm Labor Bill. This bill consolidated a number of farm-labor reforms into one piece of legislation and failed to account for the seasonal nature of farming nor for farm scale. Lea Kone, Assistant Director, testified in Albany and spoke on a panel in NYC.
NOFA-NY's Policy Coordinator continues to oversee advocacy efforts that support small organic farmers in NY State in the areas of: GMO's, labor, meat processing, food safety, gas drilling. Policy Coordinator also fosters productive relationships with NYS Farm Bureau and partners on some labor regulation policy work.