Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund, in the field
I always enjoy my visits to Rockingham County and Tuesday was no exception.
My afternoon began by meeting with the Triad Fruit Growers, an group organized by Paul Marshall of River Birch Vineyards. The Fruit Growers received a community grant from RAFI to establish a processing facility to make apple juice, grape juice and eventually value added products with blueberries, peaches and strawberries. While probably another year away from grand opening, keep your eyes peeled for locally grown and pressed juice at a grocery store near you!
Next up I sat in on a board meeting followed by a lively full members meeting of Piedmont Local Food (PLF). PLF is an on-line farmers market that targets restaurants and buying clubs, is headed up by Cooperative Extension and powered by a group of passionate, dedicated and organized farmers. This is the second year in a row that RAFI has had the privilege to partner with PLF through our Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund program, and it’s been fantastic to watch the initiative thrive as they continually break into new markets and attract more growers.
During the meeting, we watched Alix’ beautiful multi-media story that she did on the group last year. Everyone loved it!
Piedmont Local Foods from RAFI-USA TCRF on Vimeo.
I also got a chance to chat with Gary Purgason, a young farmer returning to his family’s land after serving as a Marine for four years. Gary operates Buckpigg Plantation where he raises free-range eggs and naturally grown produce. He received RAFI funding for his chicken tractor along with a storage and processing facility.
Though I didn’t get to see him on this visit, another of Rockingham County’s star young farmers is Worth Kimmel, owner of Pine Trough Branch Farm. Worth received a RAFI grant to install a solar powered pump and fencing system for his rotational beef grazing operation. You can read more about his management intensive grazing practices on his website.
I made it home by 10pm. Long day – well worth it!
Sonny Perdue is taking on a critical role at a critical time for American farmers. Net farm income is estimated to have dropped 28% since 2014, and across America farmers are feeling the strain of higher debt loads and lower prices, while struggling to stay viable in uncompetitive markets controlled by corporate giants.
We can cheer the fact that the Farm Bill negotiators rejected the intense pressure from poultry companies and meatpackers to roll back key protections that require them to use fair business practices in their dealings with farmers.