GREEN FIELDS INITIATIVE ~ updated December 16, 2014
Background – Stronger Economies Together (SET) project
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA RD) introduced a nationwide program to promote economic collaboration between urban and rural counties to improve and enhance regional economies. This program, called the “Stronger Economies Together” (SET) Initiative has been implemented in phases across the country. The goal is for regions to develop a Strategic Economic Development Plan that can be implemented collaboratively.
In North Carolina, USDA RD partnered with North Carolina Cooperative Extension to deliver the program, and selected two proposals in the state. The Sandhills Sustainable Agriculture Working Group’s proposal brings together partners and stakeholders in Lee, Moore and Richmond Counties. The basis for the Sandhills proposal was to develop an economic development plan based on agriculture.
Over 10 months, the team held facilitated trainings with representatives of groups and institutions from the three counties, including Agricultural Advisory Board members, Community College representatives, community stakeholders, Economic Development partners and others. A core writing team has taken the information and developed a Strategic Economic Development Plan for the Sandhills based on sustainable agriculture, called the Green Fields Initiative. The Green Fields Initiative is a three-pronged plan to support the economic viability of agriculture for the benefit of the Sandhills region.
Key Points of the Green Fields Initiative
• A vibrant agricultural sector is a critical component of a sustainable and self-reliant community.
• When more locally grown and produced food is available, consumers benefit from healthier options, fresher taste and more connection with local producers, creating strong community networks.
• Supporting local agriculture encourages and supports both food and non-food businesses including entrepreneurial agribusiness.
• Community support for local agriculture improves the profitability of farming, which in turn encourages more and younger people to enter agriculture, resulting in greater viability of rural lands and lifestyles over the long term.
The 3 Goals of the Green Fields Initiative and Strategies for implementation
Preserve farm and timberland and encourage more people to start farming.
Strategy 1.1: Provide farm business planning training to beginning farmers.
Strategy 1.2: Provide marketing resources and training to farmers to improve profitability.
Strategy 1.3: Provide farmland transition planning and estate planning resources to farmers
Strategy 1.4: Provide tools to connect available farmland to new farmers
Strategy 1.5: Provide resources to ag lenders on the value of alternative crops.
Strategy 1.6: Address barriers to value-added small farm agriculture
Encourage consumers to find and use local agriculture products.
Strategy 2.1: Engage consumers on the value of local food for individual health and community well-being.
Strategy 2.2: Create a regional food hub.
Strategy 2.3: Help farmers discover new high value crops and other ways to make farming profitable and sustainable.
Celebrate agriculture and the wealth it brings to the Sandhills as an essential economic driver.
Strategy 3.1: Hold an annual summit on agribusiness for regional business and community leaders.
Strategy 3.2: Help agriculture groups promote their industries at local events, schools, etc.
Strategy 3.3: School Boards encourage implementation of “ag literacy” programs in schools.
To achieve these goals, we need your support. Please engage in the Green Fields Initiative in ways best suited to your business and/or organization. Subscribe to our e-mail list to receive periodic notices informing you of upcoming events, important public issues, and ways you can help the Green Fields Initiative. By doing so, you support local agriculture, boost our regional economy, and enhance your own quality of life.
Thank you for your support of the industry that feeds, clothes, and shelters us!