Pima County Food Alliance’s #1 policy goal for 2017-18 is to expand access to fruits and vegetables at our farmers’ markets. A great way of doing this is through a program called Double Up SNAP, which allows food stamp recipients to double their dollars at the market to be used on fresh, locally grown vegetables. A win for consumers, and a win for local farms!
Believe it or not, the Arizona State Legislature is, as we type this, considering a bill called SB 1245 that would help expand Double Up SNAP across the entire state!!!
What is SB 1245?
SB 1245 appropriates $400,000 of the State general fund in fiscal year 2018-2019 to be used to upliftt local Arizona farmers and our Arizona economy by providing funding for a produce incentive program for SNAP participants so they can purchase locally-grown produce items at participating farmers markets, farm stands, community supported agriculture (CSA) sites, and grocery stores.
How can I learn more?
You can download this PDF file for a quick synopsis, or you can check out the Let’s Grow Arizona website, which is run by Pinnacle Prevention, the folks spearheading this project.
What can I do to help?
For now, you can sign up with Pinnacle Prevention to receive updates. Click here to sign up to receive updates on how to help.
Each year, we hold a planning retreat to set course. Today, we welcomed 6 new members, and then broke into various sub-groups to do some planning. Here a few highlights:
Outreach and Public Relations: This group plans to bring you several events throughout the year, such as the movie night we co-hosted last fall at Las Milpitas, perhaps some food trivia. Whatever it is, we promise it will be fun or informative…hopefully both!
Policy: This group’s most immediate, and biggest task, is to support the passage of SB1245, the state bill that allocates $400,000 for expanding Double Up SNAP across the state. It’s fresh off the presses, and will move quickly. We promise to keep you posted.
Development: This group plans to put some sweet moolah in the coffers, which will be put to good use in expanding our impact. Also, on tap: developing our own skills as a leadership council, recruiting new members, etc.
Of course, the best part of any PCFA retreat is eating the delicious food put together by a bunch of fanatical foodies. What did we we eat??? Maybe you’ll just have to have to join the leadership council next year and find out! 😉
The leadership council is the place where decisions get made for the Pima County Food Alliance, and where much of the exciting work and coordination actually gets done. We are a roughly 16-member body that meets monthly to discuss projects, share information, talk about partnership opportunities, and figure out how to accomplish our food-related goals.
This coming year, we’ll be focused on our Policy Platform, specifically our push to get Double Up SNAP funded on a statewide level! Is that something that interests you? Have other ideas you’d like to contribute?
If you think so, please consider applying. Applications are due on Dec. 15. You can find the application here.
GAP, which stands for “Good Agricultural Practices,” is a farm certification program run by USDA. Many small farmers feel GAP is not accessible to them, either from a cost perspective or because USDA built the program with much larger farms in mind. Recently, USDA rolled out something called “GroupGAP,” which is supposed to be friendlier to smaller farms by allowing them to apply for GAP as a group. But, is it any better?
Our intern, Clare Healy, spent the whole summer doing research to find out. The bulk of her research went towards just understanding the cost of each, which took months of research and phone calls to sort out. Because there are so many factors that affect the cost, we have compiled her research into one easy to read and adjust graph. (Thanks to Nick Henry and Greg Epstein for handling the math part of this creation.)
Graph of GAP versus GroupGAP (click on the image below to view)
After that, Clare tracked down a few farms that got certified with GAP and some in GroupGAP. Below are two testimonials from each.
GAP (Individual): Blue Sky Farms, Litchfield Park, Arizona.
Farm background: Blue Sky Farms has been growing fruits and vegetables on their 35 acres for twenty years.
The representative from Blue Sky Farms (BSF) reported no challenges to GAP certification. Previous certification experience includes Organic certification; the farmers for Blue Sky are currently seeking dual certification under Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). BSF was reimbursed 75% of their auditing costs through the Arizona Department of Agriculture (ADA). The BSF representative recalls the auditing cost at roughly $1,000, with around $700 being reimbursed by the ADA. She added that certification definitely felt worth it, as food safety is a big concern, and she would recommend the process to other growers.
GroupGAP: Upper Peninsula Food Exchange GroupGAP Pilot, various locations in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan.
Group background: Farmers growing fruits and vegetables on six or fewer acres; average farming or personal gardening experience is 15 years; average total gross income of $6,000-10,000.
Challenges: Of the sixteen initial farms involved in the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange GroupGAP pilot, ten completed the program and subsequently became GroupGAP certified. Some farmers expressed apprehension and concern over the costs of GroupGAP for their small group if state or partnering organizational subsidies were to be removed. Farmers also expressed feeling overwhelmed by steps to certification and the amount of paperwork needed. According to the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange:
“Record keeping (a necessary daily activity to stay in compliance) was most noted as a significant challenge of GroupGAP; farmers noted the significant amount of time and effort needed for keeping records and updating them as well as customizing log books. Most found that the actual practices were in line with what they were already doing but necessitated some minor and in some cases time-consuming changes. The group also felt pressure to not let their fellow participant farmers down. While this was a worry, the group pressure also acted as an insurance method to keep each participating farm in daily compliance, adhering to food safety manual and QMS policy.”
Successes: All group members reported feeling at the forefront of preparedness in food safety protocol. Additionally, they felt more safe and supported in the group structure, and came to depend on one another.
For More Information
There is much more information readily available online regarding GroupGAP experiences; if you would like to contact an individually GAP certified farm for more information please see the database of GAP certified growers.
For more information, including a webinar of GroupGAP testimonials, visit the National Good Food Network.