Growing For The Future
Senate Bill 383: The Healthy Food Crop Block Grant
The Senate Bill 383 Healthy Food Block Grant (SB 383) is currently waiting to be taken up in the House Finance committee, it’s one of the last hurdles before becoming a bill. This bill would create a fund to develop a granting system to help farmers scale their production to meet healthy food initiatives. Myself, and other crop farmers are eager to increase our current production and expand our variety however there is some uncertainty of what the investment may or may not return is a risk too high for farmers to take.
However, West Virginia needs increased and varied crop production to support healthy food initiatives (HFI) taking place around the state. Since first becoming involved in 2017 with the HFI in Wetzel County, I have seen the importance of introducing healthy and local produce to schools. Kids are eager to learn, making the perfect opportunity for programs like the Kids Pop Markets to be widely successful for both students and farmers. Across Wetzel, Preston and Tyler counties, the farmers market travels to the students. Students learn firsthand from the farmers about the benefits of local produce. They get to taste test new fruits and vegetables they may have otherwise not been exposed to and pick out their favorites to bring home.
HFI continues to gain more and more traction within communities but are dependent on the time, money and efforts of farmers. For many specialty crop farmers, every penny counts. My farm has a greenhouse and high tunnel, so while I have space and protection from the weather to grow more, the out of pocket costs hinder my production if I’m not sure everything that is harvested will sell. Receiving funding upfront allows for farmers to continue growing for HFI without worrying about having leftover produce and lost money.
The SB 383 will also allow farmers to plan ahead of the season and grow according to what the initiatives need and want. Currently, farmers have to play a guessing game for the quantity of anyone produce that will be needed for programs like the Kids Pop Up Markets. Without being able to plan ahead of time, farmers are left with either too much produce or not enough to supply the demand. If every farmer knows what is needed ahead of time, and has the money ahead of time to plant, it would save a tremendous amount of time, stress and money.
If the SB 383 were passed, and funding appropriated, the benefits from it would be felt across West Virginia. I know that for myself and other farmers involved in HFI, the SB 383 would greatly increase our ability to produce at volume and variety we desire to contribute. We take pride in the quality produce that we grow and want to see it be enjoyed by our community. Without funding, we are limited to what we can afford to lose, and therefore limited in what we can provide the community through the initiatives. Knowing there is a ready market for our crops gets us eager to start the next growing season. The SB 383 would enable us to confidently cater to the needs of the initiatives, knowing that what we grow is needed.
Dave Clough runs his CSA, Creekside Farms in Sistersville, WV.