Food Assessment Aims to Connect Local Producers, Consumers

The Northwest Arkansas Regional Food Council is encouraging consumers, producers and commercial buyers such as restaurants, hospitals and schools to participate in a survey so the council can gain a better knowledge of the market for locally produced food.

That survey, which can be completed at the regional food council’s website, is a key to helping Karp Resources evaluate what’s needed to make it easier for local farmers to find customers for their fruits, vegetables, meats and other products and for consumers to be able to purchase those products from local farmers.

“Our goal is to promote and strengthen our regional food system,” said Cheri LaRue, chair of the regional food council and owner of Green Fork Farm in Farmington.  “The food assessment will help us identify strategies to support local farms and food businesses, which will bring more local products to market and make them available to local consumers.  This will help strengthen the role of food and agriculture in our region and make Northwest Arkansas an even better place to live and work.”

LaRue said some farmers are producing more perishable food than they can sell yet there are some locally produced foods in high demand and not in enough abundance to statisfy consumers.

Those consumers include people such as 22-month-old Elijah Danner (pictured above), who wasted no time at all in gobbling down the plump strawberry he removed from a table on Tuesday at the Fayetteville Farmers Market. The strawberry was grown at McGarrah Farms in Pea Ridge. Crystal Johnson, whose father runs McGarrah Farms, said farmers must move their berries soon after they’re ripe and ready to go or they'll go to waste.

“That’s what makes it challenging,” Johnson said. “They taste great, but you’ve got to sell them right away.”

The Northwest Arkansas Council assisted the regional food council in obtaining grants from Endeavor Foundation and The Walton Family Foundation to pay for the regional food assessment being conducted by Karp Resources, a New York City firm recognized for its excellence in helping governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations evaluate comprehensive food system strategies.

A story published last month by The City Wire provided an excellent overview of Karp’s work. Arkansas Business published a story last week about the survey that’s being conducted.