WKU, Farmers Market get USDA grant

Taylor Harrison

WKU and the Community Farmers Market of Bowling Green received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for their joint initiative, “Local Food for Everyone.”

The initiative consisted of ways to get local food out into the community, including to people who usually don’t buy local.

Christian Ryan-Downing, WKU sustainability coordinator, said both the CFM and WKU received around $82,000 from the USDA.

Ryan-Downing said the partnership worked well because CFM had a lot of WKU association already from the many faculty members who work with the market.

“So, we kind of already had a nice connection just in that way,” Ryan-Downing said.

One project in the grant proposal is a directory that will list local farmers and producers, to help farmers get their names out into the community.

Another part of the initiative is the mobile market, which Ryan-Downing would be like a “kitchen on wheels,” that would reach people who couldn’t get to the market and teach them how to make healthy food.

The initiative will also help further a program that gives refugees food vouchers for the market, and another gives “mini-grants” to farmers to help them with marketing strategies.

Michelle Howell of the CFM said the goal of the grant was to help reach a wider group of consumers.

“Our goal is to reach maybe your traditional people who’ve always bought local food, but then also low income people, refugees, moms with young kids,” Howell said.

 Martin Stone, Leichhardt Professor of Horticulture at WKU, said it’s very important to support the local economy.

“We want to keep the dollars circulating in the local economy,” Stone said. “There’s also the idea that people want to support and like the idea of a family farm.”

Ryan-Downing said buying local also helps the environment.

“The average food item, we know, travels 1,400 or 1,500 miles from farm to fork,” she said. “Clearly, going local reduces your carbon footprint.”

Stone said the initiative was a team effort. He works at the CFM himself and owns a blueberry orchard.

“Our goals were the same goals as the USDA, so we were a good fit for what they were funding,” Stone said.