Local Foods Open Space Discussions
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Extension's Local, Regional & Safe Foods team organized periodic open space discussions with the local foods community in Arkansas. All local foods stakeholders - including farms, food stands, farmers markets, CSA's, small grocers, cottage food businesses, farm-to-school programs, restaurants, pop-up food shops, and other food businesses - were invited to attend the discussions which included short presentations on a timely topic followed by an honest discussion and Q&A.
These were recorded and are available below along with additional resources. Future discussions may arise as necessary, so please check back for more information.
Ryan Neal, Cooperative Extension Agent and blueberry grower, shared best practices for u-pick farm operations. Dr. Amanda Philyaw Perez, Cooperative Extension Food Systems and Safety Specialist, shared state guidance and best practices for farmers markets.
Ryan Neal, Cooperative Extension Agent, gave an overview of different direct sales platforms available to farmers and growers as well as other tips for moving your business online. Kim Doughty, farmer and owner of Bell Urban Farm in Conway, shared her experience with their recent online plant sale including delivery and pick-up procedures during COVID-19 as well as Bell Urban’s online presence (Facebook, Instagram, webpage).
Dr. Ron Rainey, Cooperative Extension Economist and Southern Risk Management Education Center Director, presented survey findings from farmers markets as well as consumer shopping perceptions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teresa Maurer, Fayetteville Farmers Market Co-Manager and Vendor Coordinator, shared how the FFM has adapted operations as well as the market’s successes and challenges as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
Sarah Lane, Farm to School & Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, shared updates on the Arkansas COVID-19 Food Access Map, school meals and farm to school programming for Arkansas. Also, Ally Mrachek, Child Nutrition Director for Fayetteville Public Schools, presented on how FPS has adapted and continued to serve meals to students amid COVID-19.
Jeff Jackson, Environmental Supervisor-Retail Food Program with the Arkansas Department of Health, explained guidance and restrictions for operating fall activities and events on farms (which may be considered large outdoor venues) this year. Also, Ruth Pepler, owner of Dogwood Hills Guest Farm and president of the Arkansas Agritourism Association, shared how she and the association’s members are preparing for these restrictions on their farms in order to have a successful season.
Fall Farm Activity Guidance & COVID-19 (April 2021)
Please reach out with questions to any of Extension's Local, Regional, & Safe Foods team members.