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The Cross-pollination Tour

Cross Pollination group
 
Cross Pollination group
Just like cross-pollination creates stronger plants; the exchanging of ideas and knowledge creates stronger local food systems and healthier, brighter communities.

On March 20 and 21, 2015, eleven North Dakota local food leaders set out on a local food education trip to learn about light processing and what it takes to build a thriving local food system. Funded by the NC-SARE Leadership for Local Foods project, the trip was dubbed “The Cross-Pollination Tour.” Like bees carrying pollen from plant to plant, this group travelled across North Dakota to Montana carrying their various experiences in local food systems (as well as a gift basket of North Dakota-made treats), and returned loaded with the pollen of ideas they’ll use to expand local foods across the state.

This two day trip began with a tour of Stone Mill, Inc. a specialty seed and grain cleaning plant in Richardton, ND, followed by lunch with faculty from Dickinson State University’s Agriculture and Technical studies program at Sticks N’ Twigs, an organic café in Dickinson. Following lunch the participants made their way to Glendive to the Farm to Table Co-op.

Farm-to-Table is a multi-faceted nonprofit started in 1998, dedicated to building a sustainable local food system for eastern Montana. Today they have a local food store, a demonstration farm, commercial kitchen, community garden, and two brands (Western Trails Foods and Prairie Home Cuisine). They also own the Prairie Development Center, a building that provides income through the lease of office space to other businesses, and they launched a producer co-op, which is not yet aggregating product, but they are selling shares. Additionally, they have completed a feasibility study and hope to create a local food restaurant and micro-brewery along the river.

The NC-SARE Leadership for Local Foods participants enjoyed a presentation and tour of the Farm to Table Co-op facilities, and also appreciated a wonderful meal prepared by Farm to Table Co-op farmers and members. The van rides to each location included an activity to help the groups learn about NC-SARE Leadership for Local Foods participants, and the trips back were used to reflect and share the most important things learned.

Here are some of the lesson’s learned from the Cross-Pollination Tour participants:

“A light processing facility can be set up in a relatively small space. Starting hubs, centers, etc. should start out with dry goods or nonperishable items to build the infrastructure necessary to support the growth into perishable items. And you need to have an anchor product or business year round to keep you afloat.” – Holly Mawby

“As a producer I am thinking about encouraging others to make steps to grow their businesses. Also in getting serious about thinking beyond farmers market as a valuable income source.”

“Building distribution capacity around shelf stable products has changed a lot about how I see business growing. ” – Rachel Brazil

“A business incubator for local food would benefit producers. An Ag-marketing co-op could make my operation more profitable.” – Glen Philbrick

“Visions can be exciting - generating interest - the plan must include steps which contain visual tangible results to keep the interest. (The importance of knowing the ending and writing for the evaluation.)” – Irene Graves

“Farm to Table put the most energy into creating a solid plan, by hiring the best people to write their feasibility study. They executed the plan on their own, slower timeline, piecing together the equipment they needed from donations and salvage and piecing together their funding from various sources.”

“It takes all kinds to make a food system work: producers, planners and developers, consumers, funders. They have people who support their vision enough to purchase preferred shares at $500 each.”

“You need the right people; those who are passionate about the project. Their staff are a mix of paid staff, Experience Works, (Americorps and VISTA in the past), and volunteers.  They do some hand cleaning of the beans, too. “ – Stephanie Blumhagen

Cross-pollination Tour Participants: (aka the "Local Food Bees")
Sue Balcom - FARRMS
Stephanie Blumhagen - Dakota College at Bottineau
Rachel Brazil - Cooperative Enterprise Development Corporation
Jackson Brazil - Rachel's son, junior entrepreneur
Trisha Feiring - NRCS Beach Field Office
Irene Graves - McLean County Extension
Bonnie Helm - McHenry County Jobs Development Authority
Holly Rose Mawby - Entrepreneurial Center for Horticulture
Morris Nelson - Van Driver
Mirek Petrovic - Slavic Heritage Farm
Glen Philbrick - Hiddendale Farm
Toby Stroh - Dickinson State University

Demand for local food in rural communities is growing. Sustainable local food systems need to have strong community support to build and maintain the infrastructure needed to bring food from farm to fork. This website provides resources to support rural communities just beginning to build their community food systems as well as those whose local food systems are already strong. Resources are intended for farmers and producers, community organizations, and Extension Educators but may interest anyone in community and local foods. While this website was a partnership between Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, most resources are applicable for any rural community.

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