Gaining Ground Names Winners Of $195K Food System Ideas Competition

Friday, May 21, 2010
Jeff Pfitzer, program director of Gaining Ground, announcing the winners of the Food System Ideas Competition. Click to enlarge.
Jeff Pfitzer, program director of Gaining Ground, announcing the winners of the Food System Ideas Competition. Click to enlarge.

Gaining Ground, Chattanooga’s coordinated movement to advance the local food system, has awarded over $195,000 to four projects designed to boost the production and use of locally-grown food in the Chattanooga area. The winners of the Food System Ideas Competition were announced in a press conference at Greenlife Grocery.

The grants are among the first awarded under Gaining Ground, which was launched in April by the Benwood Foundation to create a sustainable and distinctively-Chattanoogan local food economy. The Food System Ideas Competition was created to generate innovative ideas to increase the number of new farmers and food producers in the Chattanooga area and/or increase the capacity of existing local growers and producers.

The competition was announced in December 2009 and generated 20 local submissions, which were reviewed by a jury of nationally-renowned food economy experts that included Cassi Johnson, executive director of Food Security Partners in Nashville; Charlie Jackson, executive director of the Appalachia Sustainable Agriculture Project in Asheville; Yael Lehmann, executive director of the Food Trust of Philadelphia; and Ann Karlan, executive director of Fair Food, also in Philadelphia.

Based on the jury's recommendations, Gaining Ground will offer financial assistance to all four of the proposal teams. "The jury found it difficult to narrow the number down to four given that the majority of the proposals were exceptional," said Jeff Pfitzer, program director of Gaining Ground. "That is a good sign for the future of Chattanooga's food economy."

The selected projects include:

Main Street Farmers’ Market: This project supports the market’s growth and development as a viable and profitable marketplace for local farmers while also establishing it as an agricultural business training resource for local farmers.

Proposal submitted by:
Padgett Arnold, 2010 Main Street Farmers’ Market coordinator; Sequatchie Cove Farm, Sequatchie

Trae Moore, 2009 Main Street Farmers’ Market coordinator; Founder Link 41, Chattanooga

Chattanooga Chefs’ Collaborative: This project proposes to increase the awareness and availability of seasonal and locally-grown food to chefs in the Chattanooga region. The Chattanooga Chefs’ Collaborative aims to inspire action by translating information about local food into tools for making knowledgeable purchasing decisions to help support a sustainable food system.

Proposal submitted by:
Charlie Loomis, head chef Greenlife Grocery, Chattanooga

Trae Moore, 2009 coordinator Main Street Farmers Market and founder Link 41, Chattanooga

Chuck Pruett, founder Greenlife Grocery, Chattanooga

Sustainable regional farmers’ cooperative: This project proposes to create a collaborative organization for Chattanooga-area farmers to help boost the production and profitability of locally-grown food. Farmers’ cooperatives can be a significant advantage to small growers. Through the cooperative, farmers can learn from each other, access larger more sophisticated markets for their products, and band together to purchase new or specialized equipment or facilities.

Proposal submitted by:
Lawrence and Suzanna Alexander, Alexanna Farm, Wildwood

Padgett Arnold, Sequatchie Cove Farm, Sequatchie

Chelsea Askew, student at The University of the South, Sewanee

Mike Burns, Burns Best Farm, Ringgold

Meindert and Elaine Dijkuis, Dry Creek Farm, Sylvaniat, Al.

Robin Fazio, Sonrisa Farm, Chattanooga

Larry and Sherry Johnson, Sheerlark Farm, Flat Rock, Al.

Michael Raines, Frontier Family Farm, Altamont, Tn.

Leslie Rivett, Jay’s Garden Variety, Henegar, Al.

Curtis and Letty Smith, Circle S Farm, Rising Fawn

Butch and Breann Tolley, Clover Wreath Farm, Cleveland

Dave and Verinda Waters, River Ridge Farm, Meigs County

Daniel Wescott, Williams Island Farm, Chattanooga

Jessica Wilson, In Town Organics Farm, Monteagle

Locally-grown food packaging and distribution support: This project proposes to improve the warehousing and distribution opportunities for local farmers, which are significant challenges for small, local growers. By providing assistance in packaging and a consistent market for the products local farmers can produce on a daily basis, this proposal will help farmers access larger markets.

Proposal submitted by:
Lee Pittman, president Dixie Produce, Chattanooga

Dan Bishop, chief financial officer Dixie Produce, Chattanooga

Kenny Pendergrass, vice president Purchasing Dixie Produce, Chattanooga

Along with enhancing the local economy, these independently run projects should help lead the Chattanooga region down the road to a more sustainable local food supply, officials said. “Gaining Ground’s funding support for our regional farmer’s cooperative will help smaller production farmers like myself learn from each other, access resources and tap into larger outlets to share our products with consumers,” said Butch Tolley of Clover Wreath Farm.

Gaining Ground is helping create and develop a sustainable and distinctively-Chattanoogan foodscape through grants, coordinated efforts and public awareness. Commissioned by the Benwood Foundation to help increase demand for, production and consumption of local food, Gaining Ground is helping the region view food in new ways.

Founded in 1944, the Benwood Foundation is driven by the force of its historical devotion to bettering its community and by the dedication of its trustees and staff to build on a tradition of civic leadership. The Benwood Foundation focuses on opportunities that stimulate public education, arts and culture, environment, and community development.

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