Creativity, ingenuity and passion for agriculture were on full display at the 2018 Direct Agricultural Marketing Summit September 17-18 in Arlington, Virginia, where Farm Credit honored three winners of the 2018 MarketMaker Innovation Awards.
MarketMaker is a national network of states that connect farmers and fishermen with food retailers, grocery stores, processors, caterers, chefs and consumers. It is an ever-growing partnership of organizations investing in a coordinated effort to build a virtual infrastructure that brings healthy, fresh, and flavorful food to the average consumer.
The award, now in its eighth year, recognizes outstanding efforts by state and local MarketMaker programs that contribute to the development of local and regional food systems and help farmers connect to new market opportunities. Farm Credit sponsors the cash awards, which the winners and runners-up can use to advance their work.
Louisiana Farm to School Program (LFSP) took first place as the 2018 Innovation Award Winner. The LFSP team, Crystal R. Besse, Alessandro Holzapfel and Carl Motsenbocker with the Louisiana State University AgCenter, uses MarketMaker to inventory farming operations and link schools and child nutrition services with those farmers who can provide them with fresh, local fruits and vegetables. Utilizing this new tool, LFSP reaches new stakeholder groups, builds stronger partnerships and ultimately helps reduce obesity in their state.
LFSP also collaborates with Louisiana Harvest of the Month to bring local food items into schools. To participate in Harvest of the Month, producers and consumers must activate a MarketMaker account. LFSP then developed three video tutorials to increase familiarity with the MarketMaker website to support the influx of new users that registered as a result of this partnership. The videos have been shared with all partner schools, published on YouTube and embedded on the program’s website.
Illinois Farmers Market Association (ILFMA) placed as first runner-up. ILFMA has developed innovative technology in collaboration with MarketMaker to connect farmers markets, farmers and consumers to local products across Illinois, promoting sales and revenues for Illinois producers. Paul Levine, ILFMA board member, represented his team at the awards ceremony.
The Iowa State Community Food Systems (ISCFS) program took second runner-up. Courtney Long and Kaley Hohenshell with Iowa State University developed curriculum about food systems development that incorporated topics such as collective impact, mapping, assessments and project implementation. ISCFS uses MarketMaker as a dynamic tool to identify communities’ food-based businesses in order to analyze potential connections and gaps.
Gary Matteson, vice president of young, beginning and small farmer programs and outreach at the Farm Credit Council, announced the awards at this year’s conference. “The Farm Credit Innovation Award provides an incentive for state MarketMaker programs to describe their innovative projects and share them with other states,” said Matteson. “This year’s winner, Louisiana Farm to School Program, is a great example of how to use MarketMaker’s powerful data set to create more market opportunities for producers selling into new markets.”
“We are thrilled to partner with Farm Credit to give this year’s award winners some well-deserved recognition,” said Dar Knipe, co-founder of the MarketMaker program and managing partner of the Global Food and Ag Network. “We know that shining a light on their good work will also help others who work with farmers and communities improve livelihoods and create sustainable market systems.”