Strengthening our local and regional food system to create an equitable, healthy and sustainable future.

 

Keep Farming in the Hilltowns is an ongoing initiative to strengthen our local and regional food system. The program seeks to engage the community in developing a plan of action with strategies that address the needs of both producers and consumers.

The initiative was initially funded with a Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) federal grant in 2014 and has more recently partnered with Healthy Hampshire and Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) to continue engaging key stakeholders and developing an alternative food distribution pilot project.

Our guiding questions in designing the pilot project:

  • What food choices do Hilltown residents make that they would prefer to not make?

  • How do those choices currently impact the economics of the Hilltown food system?

  • What kind of food system improvement would mitigate the barriers Hilltown residents face in acquiring food they want to eat?

  • How can we strengthen the local Hilltown food system?

  • Would a program that provides assistance to food insecure residents have a negative impact on the existing food system in the Hilltowns?

  • Is there a way to get to win‐win solution — an intervention that strengthens the local food system and also increases access for the food insecure population?

Keep Farming in the Hilltowns continues to focus on three threads — technical assistance to farmers, advocacy and exploring shared infrastructure to expand local food markets, and mechanisms to increase access to fresh local food for low income residents and isolated seniors.

Goal 1:  Marketing to brand the region to increase general awareness of farms in the Hilltowns

  • Develop marketing campaign to promote the region — farms, local food and health

Goal 2: Increase sales of local farm products to area stores and residents

  • Buyer/Producer meetings — facilitate communications

  • Explore opportunity for existing food aggregation business to expand into the Hilltowns

  • Explore feasibility of delivery of local farm products to isolated elderly and low income residents

Goal 3: Increase farmer's awareness of existing programs & resources 

  • Website clearinghouse for agricultural resources

  • Farmer potlucks for information sharing and networking

  • Facilitate or promote informational workshops on existing programs or grants

  • Conduct business assistance tailored to small farms

Goal 4: Research existing & needed infrastructure to meet the needs of area farms

  • Assessment of buildings/barns in Hilltowns that could be re-purposed for shared use facility to rent to farmers (processing, storage, freezers, etc)

  • Research regulations/feasibility of small scale processing facility for meat

  • Explore availability of land for new and expanded agricultural and forestry production