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Georgia Sustainable Ag Coalition sets sights on food hubs By Candace M. Pollock-Moore

Local food hubs may be the next evolution in Georgia’s agricultural industry, turning the state’s largest economic sector into an even larger engine of job creation and rural community revitalization.

Food hubs are infrastructures that provide an outlet for local farmers to get their products into the hands of local businesses. To help develop them, agricultural stakeholders have joined forces to create the Georgia Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Ag partners across the state

Key partners include the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University, Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia Farm Bureau, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Georgia Organics and Community Health Works.

The coalition was made possible through a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education, or SARE, Planning Grant. One of the coalition’s goals is to create two food hubs in the state within the next five years.

“The goals of the group are to support sustainable agriculture systems and improve rural economies and communities by collaborating to create and deliver science-based information to current and future farmers, students, policymakers and the general public,” said Julia Gaskin. She coordinates UGA Cooperative Extension’s sustainable agriculture programs.

Meeting set for Oct. 27

To help create awareness among stakeholders, policymakers, farmers, businesses and others interested in sustainable agriculture and the future of Georgia’s agricultural industry, the coalition will hold a kick-off event Oct. 27. Food Hubs for the Future: Growing Georgia’s Mid-Size Farms will take place from 2:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. at The Georgia Center for Continuing Education, Mahler Auditorium in Athens, Ga.

The event is free and open to the public and will be broadcast via a free webinar.

The featured speaker will be Jim Barham, of the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service. A panel discussion will included Gary Black, Georgia Department of Agriculture; Govind Kannan, Fort Valley State University; Scott Angle, UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; Alice Rolls, Georgia Organics; and Don McGough, Georgia Farm Bureau.

“We’ve got a strong agricultural industry, and we’ve got all of these great resources,” Gaskin said. “The purpose of this group is to have a coordinating body that can help leverage and focus those resources in areas where there is sufficient public and private interest.”

For more information about the Georgia Sustainable Agriculture Coalition or the kick-off event, contact Gaskin at jgaskin@engr.uga.edu or Kate Munden-Dixon at katemd@uga.edu or see the website 0036 http://extension.uga.edu/calendar/event.cfm?pk_id=928 0216 .

(Candace Pollack is the public relations coordinator for the Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.)

Vidalia onions
Vidalia onions

A newly created ag coalition plans to create food hubs to help small producers sell their crops and consumers gain access to them.

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A newly created ag coalition plans to create food hubs to help small producers sell their crops and consumers gain access to them. Download Image
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