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Are you interested in scaling up your farm or ranch operation and selling your Colorado-grown food to institutions? RMFU Co-op Center is creating a list of interested farmers and ranchers in order to connect them with resources and opportunities to connect with institutional buyers. With the passage of Proposition FF (Healthy School Meals for All) and other farm and food friendly legislation there are funding opportunities to purchase food directly from Colorado producers as well as funds to provide technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, and distributors.
Consumer trends across the United State point to an increasing demand in local and organic food, but significant barriers persist in Colorado that limit growth in the Ag sector of the state’s economy. These challenges exist at every link of the local food supply chain and principally include: 1) distance and geography, 2) weak, non-existent and deteriorating rural infrastructure, 3) insufficient farm and food workforce, 4) consolidation and predatory practices of broadline distributors and packers, 5) budgets and buying practices of institutions. Below are suggested approaches, practices, policies, and programs, listed under “Solutions” to address each of the above barriers.
To view a list of all current Colorado programs that support local food procurement, please visit our Procurement Programs page. To sign up for regular emails on local food procurement opportunities, please fill out the following form.
Colorado is an agricultural state with some of the finest irrigated farmland in the western United States. Despite its high-quality produce, meat and grain the vast majority of Colorado agricultural products are exported out of state. Consumer trends across the United State point to an increasing demand in local and organic food, but significant barriers persist in Colorado that are limited growth in this sector of the state’s economy. These challenges exist at every link of the local food supply chain and principally include: 1) distance and geography, 2) weak, non-existent and deteriorating rural infrastructure, 3) insufficient farm and food workforce, 4) consolidation and predatory practices of broadline distributors and packers 5) budgets and buying practices of institutions. Below are suggested approaches, practices, policies, and programs, listed under “Solutions” to address each of the above barriers.
Barrier: Colorado has five main irrigated production agricultural regions; four of them of them are hundreds of miles from the main market centers of the northern Front Range. All of them have geographic challenges–namely mountain passes—that add expense, time and safety issues to the delivery and distribution process.
Solution: Create and support cooperative, producer, and worker-controlled distribution systems, such as food hubs and trucking co-ops. Cooperative agreements between producer and worker-controlled businesses can increase rural producer market-share, improve operational efficiencies, create product trading opportunities and lead to enhanced profitability.
Barrier: Many rural communities in Colorado lack modern infrastructure to safely and efficiently handle agricultural seed and food. Other basic services such as broadband and water systems are also lacking.
Solutions: Cooperative, non-profit, county, tribal and state-owned or controlled facilities. Meat, grain, produce, seed processing plants close to centers of agricultural production. Federal-state-private investment strategies.
Set up member-owned community water and broadband cooperatives.
Barrier: Farm and food work is essential to Colorado’s economy and over-all community health, but it is increasingly difficult to attract and sustain workers and supportive services are lacking.
Solutions: Encourage, incentivize, assist and train workers to set-up worker-owned businesses such as farm labor co-ops, processing plants, restaurants, food trucks, distribution services.
Cooperative and [and state-supported] health insurance programs for all farmers, farm, and food workers.
Advocate for H2A improvements, housing, and other services to support farm and food workers.
Barrier: Downward price pressure caused by big food distributors business practices put small and medium size farms at a competitive disadvantage. The result is often small market-share for small and mid-size family farmers, price at or below the costs of production. This may be especially true for growers who practice voluntary stewardship.
Solution: Monitor, penalize and dissolve concentrated businesses.
Require that all Colorado institutions purchasing food buy a minim of 20% of annually from Colorado farms, ranches, food businesses using Colorado-grown food and food hubs.
Barrier: Many state and private institutions are extremely price conscious with food purchases and have no experience working with Colorado’s farm and food producers, distributors, and workers. Turn-over in institutional leaders and food buyers often negatively impacts producers with loss of market-share.
Solutions: Requirement that all Colorado institutions purchasing food buy a minim of 20% of annually from Colorado farms, ranches, food businesses using Colorado-grown food and food hubs. Encourage multi-year purchasing-production agreements.
Train institution directors, buyers and chefs and develop standard operating procedures and practices for working with small producers, worker-owned food business, cooperatives, and food hubs.
Hold an annual farm-food-institution meet and greet event for producers and institutional buyers to discuss issues and build relationships.
Develop Purchasing agreement standards and template for use by Colorado institutions hat purchase food and beverages.
Barrier: Food purchasing deadlines don’t align with Colorado growing and in-peak production seasons. For example, a June 30 purchase end date limits both the producer and buyer to what and how much they can purchase.
Flexible purchase deadlines, align local food purchase deadlines with growing and peak seasons, specific to region.
Forward Contracting, allow grantees to prepay up to 35% of the cost of the crop or food product to the producer. This allows the producer to plan a crop with the guarantee that it will be sold at a price set by the producer.
Barrier: Foods recipients do not know how to use foods, such as leeks, beets, and winter squash.
Solution: Recipes, nutrition benefits, and food origin information will educate consumers on the food they are preparing and consuming.
Barriers: Institutional buyers do not know how to connect, order, or purchase from producers. “How and where do I order bulk local food?”
Solution: Technical infrastructure, online local food marketplace where institutional buyers can purchase bulk food. Sourcing from individual producers is difficult. “It is easier to buy at Sam’s, Costco, or Sysco.”
Other barriers: supply, demand, costs (some urban farms already sell at capacity, so the price is higher).
Barriers: Culturally appropriate meat products are not available, for example beef tripa/tripe, lengua/tongue, pigs’ feet, and other parts of animals that are desired by the immigrant community are inaccessible.
Solution: Utilize full animal cuts and make available to communities that use and need that product.
Information gathered from this form will be used to send out updates on local food procurement opportunities as they arise.
RMFU in conjunction with Nourish Colorado and the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, has created a series of videos covering the farm to institution pipeline. If you work in schools, hospitals, or other organizations that may be interested in procuring food from local farms and ranches, please check out these videos!