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By Mary Hightower U of A System Division of Agriculture
AUSTIN, Texas – Students in some Arkansas school districts are getting fresh produce
at lunchtime, plates laden with fruits and vegetables from the farms of their neighbors.
"Making connections -- encouraging farmers to work with their local schools to provide
locally grown and fresh produce for their neighbors -- has really paid off for both
the farmers and the schools," said Ron Rainey, professor-economics for the University
of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. "This is the essence of what Arkansas
MarketMaker does: matching farmers with customers.”
The award recognized Arkansas for its ability to create effective, change-making partnerships,
earning Rainey and Beverly Dunaway, program associate, the Arkansas MarketMaker the
2015 Farm Credit MarketMaker Innovation Award at the annual National Value Added Agriculture
Conference at Austin, Texas, in May.
"We're proud to have national recognition for this effort," he said.
Chuck McCool, who grows watermelons and other produce in Yell County, said that “what
began with my registration in MarketMaker two years ago evolved to an 80 percent increase
in sales the first year” and helped him expand his operation to accommodate school
year produce needs.
That Farm to School work also led to him “collaborating with non-profits to establish
new farm to pre-school and summer feeding programs in my community,” he said.
“The farm-to-school connection is such a natural fit,” Rainey said.
Arkansas’ “Building Partnerships to Assist Grower Marketing Efforts across the Food
Value Chain,” received $7,000 from Farm Credit as part of the award. Rainey said the
prize money would go for program enhancements.
Other initiative outcomes included increased clientele, profits, and on-farm business
for state farmers and www.localandgrown.org, a consumer engagement mobile application platform created by the Arkansas Farm Bureau,
Arkansas MarketMaker, and the Arkansas Agriculture Department.
Gary Matteson, vice president of Young, Beginning, Small Farmer Programs and Outreach,
Farm Credit; and Stan Ray, chief administrative officer, Farm Credit Bank of Texas;
praised the positive partnership between Farm Credit, the state partner programs,
and national MarketMaker.
“Helping consumers find fresh, safe, healthy, local foods while providing producers
with access to more and better markets is what MarketMaker does best. We are proud
to be in our fifth year of supporting the Innovation Awards,” said Matteson.
“Farm Credit continues to support MarketMaker and recognize Innovation Award winners
as examples of how good ideas can be used by others in the community,” Ray said.
Farm Credit also presented cash awards to Kathleen Liang of the University of Vermont
and the Virginia MarketMaker program – second and third places, respectively.
MarketMaker is a national network of states that connect farmers and fishermen with
food retailers, grocery stores, processors, caterers, chefs, and consumers. MarketMaker
is hosted and maintained by Riverside Research and is guided by an advisory board
made up of representatives from participating partner states.
To learn more about Arkansas MaketMaker, visit http://www.uaex.uada.edu/farm-ranch/economics-marketing/market-maker/.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons
regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin,
religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any
other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) firstname.lastname@example.org