| 2014 Q2 | story by EILEEN HORN, Douglas County & City of Lawrence Sustainability Coordinator |

Jessi Asmussen & Kevin Prather of Mellowfields Urban Farm sell their produce at the Lawrence Farmers Market.

Buying local products at locally owned businesses keeps money circulating closer to where you spend it. A recent USDA study showed that for every $1 spent on locally grown food, $1.63 is generated in other local business sectors. In Lawrence and our region, there are thousands of small businesses throughout our local food chain – from the small or mid-sized farmer who sells at the farmers’ market to the restaurant chef who buys local food for seasonal menu specials. Supporting these food and farm entrepreneurs is one of the key tasks of the Douglas County Food Policy Council.

The Douglas County Food Policy Council is a joint city-county advisory council that advises commissioners on the policies and programs we can undertake locally to build a robust local food system. The Council was formed in 2010, and has 23 stakeholder-members who represent various aspects of the food system. Members represent small farms, large farms, health agencies, agriculture organizations, environmental groups, school districts, restaurants, grocery stores, and nonprofits.

In the four years since its creation, the Food Policy Council has been busy working on policies and programs that support our local food economy, and help make healthy local food more accessible for our citizens. The Douglas County Food Policy Council has emerged as a regional leader in this work, and was recently recognized by the USDA as a “Community of Innovation” for other communities to follow our example.

A few of the council projects include:

1. A “food hub” feasibility study to analyze the market potential for food system infrastructure such as aggregation, storage, and distribution. A food hub would link our farmers with new markets, and make it easier for grocers, chefs, and cafeterias to access locally grown food for their customers.

2. Revised Commercial Incubator Kitchen policies to reduce the cost and extend the hours of the KSU Douglas County Extension Incubator Kitchen on the fairgrounds. This incubator kitchen is a certified commercial kitchen where food entrepreneurs can test their recipes and design new products.

3. A SNAP matching program to provide dollar-for-dollar matching of SNAP (food stamps) benefits at our regional farmers markets. This program not only helps low-income consumers access the healthy local food at the market, but helps the farmers and market vendors reach new customers.

4. The Common Ground community garden and urban agriculture program supports young farmer entrepreneurs at our Common Ground Incubator Farm at 24/40 and 59 hwy, just north of Lawrence. This 5-acre site provides land leased to four farmer-entrepreneurs who are building their businesses.

To learn more about the Douglas County Food Policy Council or to attend one of our upcoming meetings, please visit: www.douglas-county.com/sites/fpc

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