MONTROSE, CO – VFP (Valley Food Partnership) in conjunction with ENGAGE (ENtrepreneurial Growth in Agriculture, Energy) of Delta County were recently awarded a 2 year, $135K, USDA planning and design grant for Regional Food System Partnerships.
Grant partners include the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Farm Runners, Jack Rabbit Hill Farm, LiveWell Colorado, Mountain Roots, Natural Grocers, Region 10, Roan Creek Ranch, Startup Colorado, Telluride Foundation, CSU Dept of Ag & Resource Economics, Triple M Orchards, and Valley Organic Growers Association. The grant is provided to strengthen the viability and resilience of regional food economies through collaboration and coordination. VFP, ENGAGE and the grant partners will use the planning grant to form a Western Slope Food System Partnership and design a digital logistics platform to increase the resiliency, production, profitability, and consumption of local food. “Agriculture is the largest industry in Region 10. In order to sustain this industry, we have to find ways to make it more profitable” Sandy Head, Executive Director of MEDC (Montrose Economic Development Corporation).
The Partnership welcomes stakeholders from across the regional food value chain. A Western Slope Food & Ag discussion group and resource sharing platform has been created at startupcolorado.org to recruit and engage partners. The group site will be the place to register any interested partner and a place to go for all information, discussion, news, resources, and event listings. "Critical mass is the key to ensuring sustainability for all industries, but even more so for agriculture. Coordinating our diverse agriculture as we all connect with consumers will provide that necessary tool for long term growth in Delta and Montrose counties" Robbie LeValley, Delta County Administrator.
Over the next 18 months partners will analyze regional food value chain workflows and business processes. This analysis will be used to design a digital communications and trading platform where producers, distributors, mid-tier value chain businesses, and buyers can share accurate, reliable, and timely data. The goals of the platform are to increase the ability to match regional production with regional demand and optimize efficiencies in inventory management, transportation, processing, and warehousing. Alan Lewis, VP of Natural Grocers, points out that "even locally owned and operated grocery stores like ours have a difficult time sourcing locally produced food and food products. We expect this initiative will help us close the gap on efficient logistics between producers and retailers."
Partners will also coordinate and collaborate on writing a partnership agreement expressing their shared operational values and social mission goals. The agreement is aimed at empowering small and mid-scale local food producers to share their production data and engage in omni-channel marketing.
This partnership agreement and platform design will culminate in a plan to be rolled into an USDA implementation grant in March 2022. Success will be measured in stakeholder data sharing engagement, supply chain operational cost reductions, supply chain efficiency improvements, growth of market channels to producers, and year two investment commitments.
About Valley Food Partnership - Valley Food Partnership strengthens the regional food system and community well-being through education, access to quality local foods, and promotion of sustainable agricultural practices.
For more information or to join the Western Slope Food System Partnership visit www.westslopefood.org.