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Whole Foods Market® Partners with Florida Organic Growers for Region-Wide Donate Your Dime Campaign

WHOLE FOODS MARKET® PARTNERS WITH FLORIDA ORGANIC GROWERS FOR REGION-WIDE DONATE YOUR DIME CAMPAIGN

Florida Organic Growers, First Regional Participant in Quarterly Initiative

Whole Foods Market, America’s healthiest grocery store, is partnering with Florida Organic Growers (FOG) for its first region-wide Donate Your Dime Campaign. The quarterly initiative launched its second term on Monday, January 18, 2016. Traditionally, each store partners with a different local organization for the program. In an effort to collectively raise awareness and funds for FOG, all 25 Florida stores have joined forces to maximize efforts. This also marks the first time in Whole Foods Market history that a region partners for the Donate Your Dime program.

The program consists of Whole Foods Market giving back ten cents per bag to customers who re-use their own shopping bags for their purchased groceries. Customers then have the choice to accept it as a discount on their bill or donate the cash back to the store’s chosen non-profit organization or to the Whole Planet Foundation.

Each fiscal quarter, Whole Foods Market selects a local non-profit partner who receives a donation of monies collected during that three month period. The Donate Your Dime Program has been an ongoing initiative for Whole Foods Market Florida region since 1997.

“When customers choose to reuse their bags, they are making a very positive impact for the environment,” said Karen Doyle, Whole Foods Market’s Regional Healthy Eating and Green Mission Specialist. “Most plastic bags end up in the landfill because they are not accepted in most residential recycling centers. Plastic bags are one of the most common items polluting our environment eventually ending up in our waterways and oceans.”

Florida Organic Growers is a Florida non-profit organization that promotes organic agriculture and healthy and just food systems by informing producers, consumers, media, institutions and governments about the benefits of organic and sustainable agriculture.

“We are extremely grateful to Whole Foods Market for the Donate Your Dime partnership,” said Florida Organic Growers Executive Director Marty Mesh. “This campaign will allow us to share our passion for organic, healthy and just food and farm systems with the Whole Foods Market community. Funds raised from this campaign will benefit our statewide, national and international education initiatives, various projects and improving public policy. As pioneers in the transformation of Florida’s organic food and farming movement, we are excited for this opportunity.”

Non-profits interested in partnering with Whole Foods Market for the Donate Your Dime initiative can submit applications online at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/service/florida-community-giving.

FOG partners with the USDA to make organic certification more attainable for farmers

As 2015 comes to a close, we reflect on our amazing accomplishments this year through Moving Mondays, a campaign that spotlights how we are making efforts to improve the food landscape in Florida.

We encourage you to join with us as we continue this invaluable work.

Last month, we partnered with Little Bean Productions and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program to launch a video series called Organic Certification Made Simple: Bite by Bite as part of the USDA Sound and Sensible Initiative, a campaign that aims to make organic certification more accessible, affordable and attainable.

The multi-part series provides a step-by-step overview of organic production requirements and the process of organic certification—by farmers, for farmers.

Featuring both farm footage and animation, the videos aim to be easily digestible and succinct; each video covers a different topic so viewers can pick and choose to watch the videos that correspond directly with their interests or questions. Viewers can watch the whole series to get a holistic overview of the entire certification process.

Throughout the 26 videos, farmers discuss their firsthand experiences with obtaining organic certification and why they decided to pursue it.

We were one of 14 organizations awarded a project contract with a goal to advance the USDA National Organic Program’s (NOP) Sound and Sensible Initiative by identifying and removing barriers to certification and streamlining the certification process.

Our work has impacted farmers, consumers and the community. When you support FOG, you support family farmers throughout Florida and beyond.

Won’t you join with us in 2016 as we change Florida’s food landscape?

FOG expands technical support to farmers and markets wishing to accept SNAP

Our work has impacted farmers, consumers and the community. We want to thank our Friends of FOG members and donors for their support as they have been vital to our success.

We encourage you to join with us as we continue this invaluable work. 

In October, we were awarded a Farmers Market SNAP Support Grant (FMSSG) to increase the capacity of our Fresh Access Bucks farmers markets to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps.KYV Farm

Fresh Access Bucks is a statewide incentive program designed to encourage SNAP recipients to redeem their benefits at farmers markets to purchase fresh, healthy foods directly from Florida
farmers. At participating markets, FOG matches what a SNAP cardholder spends with FREE Fresh Access Bucks – up to $20, every market day. Customers can use them right away or later on to buy Florida grown fruits and vegetables. For example, a SNAP shopper who spends $10 of their SNAP benefits at a participating market receives an additional $10 to purchase fresh, local produce.

The grant funding will increase the capacity of 20 Fresh Access Bucks partners managing the participation of SNAP at 29 farmers markets.

It does so by providing each partner with funding to hire part-time staff to manage SNAP activities for the markets. By providing the partners with funding for part-time staff over two years, we anticipate greater SNAP redemption rates at these 29 markets through increased outreach and visibility of the program.

This is huge for our efforts in Florida!

In addition to supporting the establishment, management and promotion of SNAP/Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) services at farmers markets, FMSS grant funds will also expand our technical support to farmers and farmers markets wishing to accept SNAP.

Won’t you join with us as we change Florida’s food landscape?

FOG supports the formation of agricultural cooperatives

 

As 2015 comes to a close, we want to reflect on our amazing accomplishments this year through our Moving Monday campaign, a weekly email sent Mondays throughout the month of December that spotlights how we are changing the food landscape throughout Florida.

Our work has impacted farmers, consumers and the community so we want to thank our Friends of FOG members and donors for their support as they have been vital to our success.

We encourage you to join with us as we continue this invaluable work.

KYV Farm WorkshopThis past spring, we worked with the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and Rural Advancement Foundation International with the support of the USDA AMS – Local Food Promotion Program to help support the formation of agricultural cooperatives in the North Central Florida.

Farmers throughout the state have been taking great strides to join forces for greater efficiency, economy and camaraderie. FOG’s work on this project gathered over 60 farmers throughout the North Central region of the state to discuss and plan potential avenues for cooperation.

Farmer-owned, farmer-controlled organization could potentially aid in the distribution, sales and marketing for many farmers. By working together, local communities could receive greater access to sustainably-raised local goods, as well as increasing the income and resources of our Florida farmers.

In order to continue growing the momentum for our local and regional food systems through cooperatives and beyond, we need your support!

Please join with us as we continue this program and create a sustainable, local, just, organic food and farm system that is environmentally and ethically sound.

Let’s change the Florida food landscape together!

 

What moves you to foster change?

As 2015 comes to a close, we want to reflect on our amazing accomplishments this year through our Moving Monday campaign that spotlights how we are changing the food landscape throughout Florida.

Our work has impacted farmers, consumers and the community so we want to thank our Friends of FOG members and donors for their support as they have been vital to our success.

We encourage you to join with us as we continue this invaluable work.

 This past April was an amazing month for FOG as we received a Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant, which supports projects to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables among low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by providing incentives at the point of purchase.

Our proposal, “Fresh Access Bucks: Increasing Food Access And Florida Farmer Sales At Markets Statewide” will serve 50 markets over a 3-year period located in at least 21 counties throughout Florida!

Fresh Access Bucks (FAB) increases the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by enabling farmers markets to accept EBT and allows SNAP users to purchase double-their-food dollars for
fresh, Florida-grown produce at farmers markets. Englewood FM manager Lee and SNAP Manager Amy

Eight months into our project, we have already partnered with 28 markets in low-income communities and work with various community organizations, private businesses, and state and local government agencies to implement this program.

Ultimately, this project will benefit more than 18,000 SNAP recipients throughout Florida and will increase farmer revenue by $2.1 million.

Since the program’s inception in 2013, more than $200,000 was generated in revenue for Florida grown produce, more than 150 Florida farmers participated and expanded to more than 3,000 new market shoppers.

In order to continue to serve communities throughout Florida with various workshops and programs associated with this grant, we need your support!

Join with us as we continue this program and create a sustainable, local, just, organic food and farm system that is environmentally and ethically sound.

 Let’s change the Florida food landscape together!

Florida Organic Growers receives Farmers Market SNAP Support Grant

Florida Organic Growers (FOG) has been awarded a Farmers Market SNAP Support Grant (FMSSG) to increase the capacity of their Fresh Access Bucks farmers markets to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps.

Fresh Access Bucks (FAB) makes fresh, local produce more affordable and accessible to low income families while supporting Florida’s farmers and enhancing our local economies. It does so by increasing the purchasing power of SNAP participants by providing a one-to-one match for Florida grown fruits and vegetables. A SNAP cardholder who spends $10 of their SNAP benefits at a participating market receives an additional $10 to purchase fresh, local produce.

The grant funding will increase the capacity of 20 Fresh Access Bucks partners managing the participation of SNAP at 29 farmers markets.

It does so by providing each partner with funding to hire part-time staff to manage SNAP activities for the markets. By providing the partners with funding for part-time staff over two years, Florida Organic Growers anticipates greater SNAP redemption rates at these 29 markets through increased outreach and visibility of the program.

In addition to supporting the establishment, management and promotion of SNAP/Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) services at those markets, FMSS grant funds will also expand Florida Organics Growers’  technical support to farmers and farmers markets wishing to accept SNAP.

“We are thrilled to be able to utilize this grant at 29 of our Fresh Access Bucks markets across the state,” said Fresh Access Bucks Manager Carmen Franz. “To increase the use of SNAP benefits at farmers markets for the purchase of fresh, local, healthy produce is a win-win for both SNAP recipients and our state’s farmers.”

FAB Program

This project benefits more than 5,000 SNAP recipients throughout Florida and is expected to increase farmer revenue by $580,000 over two years by expanding the ability of these partners to implement SNAP activities, hiring a part-time Fresh Access Bucks assistant to expand technical support to farmers and farmers markets wishing to accept SNAP and increase Florida Organics Growers’ capacity to manage the Fresh Access Bucks incentive network statewide.

For more information on Fresh Access Bucks and the participating markets around the state, please visit the Florida Organic Growers website.

FOG kicks off growing season by providing Fresh Access Bucks to communities around Florida

Program expands access to healthy food for low-income families

Florida Organic Growers is kicking off the growing season by partnering with farmers markets around the state to provide Fresh Access Bucks, a program that expands access to healthy food for low-income families.

Currently, there are 23 farmers markets participating in the program.

Fresh Access Bucks makes fresh, local produce more affordable and accessible to low income families while supporting Florida’s farmers and enhancing our local economies. It does so by increasing the purchasing power of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants by providing a one-to-one match for Florida grown fruits and vegetables. A SNAP cardholder who spends $10 of their SNAP benefits at a participating market receives an additional $10 to purchase fresh, local produce.

FAB Program

This past April, FOG, the organization that created that program, was awarded the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant to continue providing FAB to communities in Florida. Through the grant, FAB will serve 50 markets over a 3-year period located in at least 21 counties throughout Florida. FOG works in partnership with markets in low-income communities, supportive community organizations, private businesses, and state and local government agencies to implement this program.

Since the program’s inception in 2013, more than $200,000 was generated in revenue for Florida grown fruits and vegetables, more than 150 Florida farmers participated and expanded to more than 3,000 new market shoppers. This project will benefit more than 18,000 SNAP recipients throughout Florida and will increase farmer revenue by $2.1 million.

“Families eat more fruits and vegetables when they’re accessible and affordable, and simply taste better than food shipped long distances,” said Fresh Access Bucks Manager Carmen Franz. “Shopping at farmers markets also strengthens the local economy as it keeps more money circulating in the community, making it more resilient in economic downturns.”

For more information about the program and participating markets, please visit the Fresh Access Bucks website.

The #1 reason to buy local

Buy local. Support a farmer. 

Do you believe in the importance of buying local?

When you do, you are directly supporting your local farmer, who could very well be your neighbor or the farm you drive by regularly.

Local farmers play a vital role in our communities.

FOG works with local farmers in a myriad of ways, one being through the development of agricultural cooperatives. Through these cooperatives, farmers share best practices, resources and connect through the growth of the food and farm movement.

In addition, we provide programs at farmers markets around the state that encourage consumers to buy directly from their local farmer and support the local economy.

FOG works hard every day to strengthen the local food system.

We want you to join us as we continue our efforts by becoming a Friends of FOG member.

Join today and let’s change Florida’s food landscape together!

Farmer Cooperation Growing in North Central Florida

By: Mary Hathaway, Farmer Education Coordinator

The first thing anyone will tell you about cooperatives is that forming a cooperative is different from forming any other business entity.

To start up, a group of potential members must agree on a common need and a strategy on how to meet that need. Growers face unique challenges in every state, and while Florida’s farmers boast fresh produce production second only to California, the “Fresh from Florida” label is better recognized nationally and internationally than on the Florida dinner table.

Responding to interest and demand from local farmers to increase the local consumption of Florida produce, Florida Organic Growers (FOG) engaged local partners in applying for the USDA AMS – Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) planning grant. This grant would allow FOG to help facilitate the conversation and assist with any technical planning in concert with state and regional partners, including SSAWG, RAFI, FDACS, Healthy Jacksonville, SBDC, Local Roots Distribution and farmers in the North Central Florida area.

In October, the LFPP grant was awarded and, in January 2015, three North Central Florida farmers interested in the Cooperative attended the Southern SAWG conference and were able to meet with managers of cooperatives and food networks: Robin Robbins of Virginia and Frank Taylor of Mississippi, respectively. In addition to the informative workshops at the conference, these meetings brought out the different logistic, labor and infrastructure issues that the leaders of the cooperative will need to organize, as well as what capacities should be understood before formulating a business structure.

In the following months, FOG has worked with growers to organize meetings in Jacksonville, Live Oak, and Gainesville to focus on the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for farmers and Jacksonville co-op meetingarea food system. As the meetings progressed, participants tried to figure out what the most efficient way to organize area farmers, and the main ways that a cooperative could benefit all involved. Growers agreed that marketing and sales, including increasing the communication between farmers, buyers, and resource providers, collective purchasing, equipment sharing, education, and training, were some of the great possibilities that, by working together, may be able to increase the capacity of participating growers, while also benefiting their community.

While the focus is on the farmer, we know that we can’t operate in a vacuum, so information and feedback was also solicited from area purchasers and distributors. Overall, buyers want local food, but face many obstacles in consistently ordering from their local growers. Some of their issues were the lack of variety, inconsistency in availability, lack of certifications or insurance, price points and communication. Cognizant of all these issues, the meeting groups moved forward with what would help them increase their sales and resources, with the reality of their markets.

Work has continued throughout the region with the help of many partners, and much thought from farmers and local distributors. While the formation of the cooperative is still nascent, communication amongst producers has increased through face to face meetings, the formulation of the North Central Florida Farmer Cooperative group and the North East Florida Farmer Cooperative group on Facebook has allowed for quick and easy updates and communication on prices, collective buying needs, and event postings.

In May, growers met together with RAFI, FOG and Matson consulting to discuss the relative health of their own operations before delving into a collective business. Additionally the group discussed the resources that may currently be available to them both federally and within the state of Florida. Together, they wanted to make sure there was a possibility of sharing market prices, creating a local logo for their clean, local produce, and eventually building their capacity to sell to their community. The group decided they would research what it would take to become a 501c5 (Agricultural Organization), and what local universities or design centers would be interested in helping them create a logo. Plans for a following meeting left the attendees excited about the possibilities and motivated that they had action items to complete for upcoming meetings. While the business plan is yet to be written, the movement towards a more robust local food system starts in small steps like these!

To learn more and get connected, please contact Mary@foginfo.org.

Join our Facebook groups:

North East Florida Farmer Cooperative or North Central Florida Farmer Cooperative!

Slow Food Gulf Coast serves low-income families in Northwest Florida

By: Lindsay Rae Myers, Slow Food Gulf Coast

Slow Food Gulf Coast is a chapter of Slow Food USA, an international organization that promotes good, clean, fair, and humane food for all.Group photo

We are in our third year of matching low income families with incentives to help stretch their dollars to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at our local farmer’s market. In that time we have helped
these families purchase thousands of dollars worth of fresh produce- money that goes directly back to our local farmers and local economy. We set up a booth weekly at the Palafox Market to share our love of locally produced food as well as accept SNAP benefits on behalf of the farmers at the market. It has been wonderful to build relationships with the farmers over the past few years and learn more about their needs as well as the needs of those using SNAP benefits.

We have two exciting events coming up in June!

We are partnering with FOG to host an on-farm workshop on June 11 at Coldwater Gardens in Milton for farmers to learn to improve their their branding and diversify their crops with mushrooms.

A Community CooksWe also are gearing up for our annual “A Community Cooks” event on June 14 which pairs local chefs with local farmers to showcase the talent of our local food producers as well as those who prepare the food. Last year we had a fantastic demonstration about catching, preparing, and cooking the invasive Lionfish and this year each chef/farmer partnership will have the opportunity to share their knowledge with participants. The goal of this event is to raise awareness of locally produced and prepared foods as well as to raise funds to supplement our FOG grant to continue working towards food security in our community.

We are proud to offer these services to northwest Florida and grateful FOG has given us the opportunity to serve our community in this way.

To learn more about Slow Food Gulf Coast, please visit our Facebook page!