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Local Foods Fair in Mann Library hones in on community connections to farmers

Supporting farmers markets, community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs and roadside stands are a few of the ways that consumers can help farmers and vice versa, said small-farming specialists at the Local Foods Fair in Mann Library, Nov. 19.

Co-sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) and the Cornell Small Farms Program, the event provided an opportunity for the campus community to learn more about the connections between Cornell and the local food industry.

For example, the Healthy Foods For All program, which provides low-income families with access to healthy, locally produced food, is one way that Tompkins County CCE tries to connect small farmers with the community, said Matt LeRoux, agriculture marketing specialist with Tompkins County CCE. Participants receive a weekly allotment of a farm's produce through a CSA share. Program staff negotiates a cost to each family of one-half to one-third the normal rate and organizes fundraising efforts to make up the difference in price to the farmer.

This system allows both farmers and consumers to benefit, LeRoux said. "You don't want to take away from the farmer or the community," he said. "This way it all works out."

Consumers appreciate local fresh produce, but operating a family farm can be challenging, said Michael Glos, co-owner of Kingbird Farm, a small farm in Berkshire, N.Y. A key to his farm's success, he said, is to offer a diversity of products, which for him includes poultry, meat, vegetables, herbs and live plants. He said that, typically, his farm earns about half of its income from its stand at the Ithaca Farmer's Market; the rest comes from its on-farm store, wholesale distribution and egg sales in local grocery stores.

As the farm looks for new ways to maximize efficiency and refine growing techniques, Glos said he turns to CCE publications, some dating back decades, as well as to CCE county educators.

The Local Foods Fair included displays of various Cornell programs that connect producers to consumers, as well as vendors offering local produce and dairy products.

Danya Glabau '07 is a freelance writer in Ithaca.

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