Summer Opportunity: Production and distribution overview project
The job: figure out what local and sustainable food is available in your region, what of it your university could be buying, and what’s missing to make this happen. You’ll talk to producers, producer unions, processors, and distributors, not to mention non-profits, and maybe folks in the government too. You’ll probably visit some farms and taste some samples somewhere along the line. By the end of the project, you’ll know the agricultural industry of your area like the back of your hand– not just how it’s working now, but how it got to where it is, and how universities can support its future.
The big question: Where could our food be coming from, and how?
What you’ll need to find out to answer it:
- Who’s producing food in your area? What type of operations are they: farms, ranches, fisheries, or all three? Are there a lot or a little of each, and how are these distributed throughout your region?
- What types of products are being produced? How does this fit with the specific crops and products that your university is looking to order? If it’s not a good fit, has the region produced the products you’re looking for in the past, or could the climate support them in the future, if there was a market for them?
- On what scale are these products being produced? Are local producers able to provide as much your university is looking to buy? Could producers produce more, if they knew the university would buy it?
- How are these products being produced? Is environmental protection a strength of producers, or a major challenge? What about working conditions for labourers? Do producers have an incentive to improve their production practices? Is there an existing market for sustainably-produced food, or could one start to be built, with the help of your university?
- How are producers getting their food to market? Are they selling at farmers markets and CSAs, to local distributors, to national distributors, or for international distribution? Are producers interested in selling to your university, if a way to deliver the products and managed payment can be arranged? What would this arrangement need to look like to work for them, and for your university?
- Are there processors and distributors in your region that work with local producers? Are they established and successful, struggling to stay afloat, or just starting up? Are there plans to create new enterprises? How can your university use the strengths of the existing system, and help to support any new developments?
- Who can help figure this all out, and who’s working on it already? Can you find champions in producer unions, a provincial or local department of agriculture, regional or local non-profits, community development organizations, or other universities and colleges, schools, and hospitals?
Interested in leading this project on your campus? Get in touch today with Dana at firstname.lastname@example.org, Caitlin at Caitlin@mealexchange.com, or the coordinators at your campus.