Challenge

America’s food system has been showing significant signs of stress for some time. School kids don’t always have access to healthy foods and our small farms are disappearing—and now with a pandemic, store shelves are often empty. As we take stock of the need for fresh, nutritious, accessible and affordable food, the question becomes, how do we build a better food system?

ACTION

We are piloting the Working Farms Fund, a first-of-its kind program in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia that is addressing that question. We are connecting next generation farmers who are interested in owning their own farms with farmland, and we are securing commitments from sustainable food buyers in the area to complete this critical supply chain. Through conservation easements and lease-to-own options, farmers will come out of our program owning their own farms with developed markets for their local products.

Emory University, metro Atlanta’s largest employer, has robust goals for sourcing its food locally and sustainably and has been an early partner in the program. Emory has committed to working directly with farmers in our program on purchase agreements to buy food from farmers for its university and hospitals, establishing a steady, direct-to-market pipeline that will improve profit margins for farmers. 

Sowing Seeds of Hope for Farmers and Food Systems 800 x 600
Photo by Stacy Funderburke.

Why It Matters

Together with our farmers and partners, we are creating a vibrant economy that increases the supply of local and healthy food, connects urban and rural communities, and supports economic viability for small to mid-size farm businesses. While we are currently working with farmers in and around Atlanta, our goal is to raise additional funding to replicate the Georgia model across the country, transforming local food production and financially empowering coming generations of American farmers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has really woken people up about the benefits of healthy living and knowing where their food comes from. I hope it is becoming clear how vitally important it is to create a web of small farms around major cities to ensure food security for residents. If people have farms close by, where they can actually go feel and taste and see it for themselves, they may be more willing to take the extra steps to buy local and organic and spend money for the value they are getting. This kind of farming is quality farming.”

– Nicolas Donck, Owner, Crystal Organic Farm, Atlanta, GA

Learn more