Root Cellar, a local food hub serving Columbia, Jefferson City, and Ashland, has been awarded a $588,000 three-year Local Food Promotion Program grant by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in collaboration with The Loop CID and Greenbelt Land Trust of Mid-Missouri.
This grant will build local food system resilience and help our region adapt to market changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic by assisting regional growers with small-batch production, product distribution, and promotion. The CoMo Cooks Shared Kitchen will play a key role in this effort.
The project will use technology tools and innovative strategies to improve the customer experience, creating the convenience consumers have come to expect while highlighting the farmer-to-customer connection. The collaborative will prioritize supporting farmers and entrepreneurs who have struggled to find a path to market, including minority and economically distressed producers.
Greenbelt Land Trust of Mid-Missouri will lead the effort to organize local farmers and help tell the story of food production in the region.
“We’ve worked a lot with local farmers over the last few years, and one thing that’s become apparent is that our local growers are often among the best land stewards we’ve got,” said Mike Powell, Executive Director of Greenbelt Land Trust of Mid-Missouri. “Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult for these folks to get and keep access to the land they need, especially right now. By growing those relationships in partnership with Root Cellar and the Loop CID, we can help them build sustainable businesses, and provide them with opportunities to keep and protect their land permanently. It’s a win all the way around.”
The Loop CID will support local food artisans and entrepreneurs through the CoMo Cooks Shared Kitchen and critical small business development services. A portion of the USDA grant will help underwrite kitchen fees for local famers starting small-batch production businesses.
“Our goal is to support local makers so we’re thrilled to welcome farmers and small-batch producers to The Loop,” said Carrie Gartner, executive director of The Loop CID. “If we can provide affordable kitchen space, pop-up retail options, and promotional assistance, it would be a game changer for the local food industry."
The project will immediately create a new Distribution Coordinator position at Root Cellar and a Local Food System Coordinator position at Greenbelt Land Trust of Mid Missouri. The collaborative will host stakeholder discussions and provide community updates throughout the project.
Root Cellar is a small market making a big impact in our community. We curate local farm fresh foods with an authentic story and build personal relationships with each one of our farmers. Because of this, Root Cellar can provide the finest and freshest selection of Missouri's goods and produce.
CoMo Cooks is a shared commercial kitchen operated by The Loop CID as part of our work to increase economic vitality and create jobs. We provide accessible, inclusive, and affordable kitchen space for local food-based businesses along with business coaching and promotional assistance. Now, through a partnership with the Root Cellar and the Greenbelt Land Trust of Mid-Missouri, we’re turning our attention to farmers and small-batch producers to help create locally made products.
Greenbelt Land Trust of Mid-Missouri works to conserve the streams, forests, grasslands, and farmlands that represent our distinctive landscape for present and future generations. Our Working Lands Initiative focuses on the farmland component of our mission. Working lands are actively managed to provide for land-based livelihoods - food, flower and fiber farms, family forests, ranches, vineyards, and more. With thoughtful and sustainable management, these lands can support conservation values while contributing to a thriving rural economy and robust local food system.