OSU’s new Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems, a product of the Extension Center Small Farms Program, is fostering a new era of strong local food systems at a time when the demand for local food sources is growing exponentially. The new center, led by Director Garry Stephenson, will enhance current opportunities for small farmers by promoting collaboration with community and family health programs, and community based organizations.
For more than 15 years, the Small Farm Program has excelled at responding to the needs of local small farmers by providing education, marketing strategies, and the latest in scientific innovation in agricultural research and advancements. Participants have always understood that these small farms exist within a larger regional food system, which consists of a network of food producers, processors, distributors, and consumers. The center will facilitate partnerships between all members of this network by helping farmers navigate the local food system channels.
In addition to amping up current programs, several new projects have already begun. One such project aims to increase the availability of nutritious, locally grown, sustainable food to a wide variety of consumers in local supermarkets and similar venues. Stephenson and Associate Director Lauren Gwin also hope to create an endowment to create new positions for small farms extensions in communities which have historically lacked in such opportunities.
Stephenson, a small farms specialist who has coordinated the Small Farms Program for over 15 years, leads the center with Gwin, a food systems specialist and expert in food chain logistics and regulatory issues. According to Gwin, “OSU is positioning itself to do more for farmers and the community” by launching the new center. Together, the duo hopes to take their work with small farmers to the next level. Gwin adds that this program will also put OSU on the map as a champion of food systems approaches.