North Carolina is a national leader in agriculture production, but even still small- to medium-sized farms often have a hard time getting into certain markets. One solution to the issue could be something as simple as cooler access.
In February 2018, Reinvestment Partners, a community development nonprofit in Durham, N.C., was awarded $40,000 by the Golden LEAF Foundation Board of Directors to provide a second cooler at Bull City Cool, a multi-tenant storage and handling facility. The purpose of the second cooler was to help grow the number of farmers in surrounding rural and economically distressed communities in the program, increase local food revenue, and provide technical assistance to local food businesses. Reinvestment Partners offers key connections in the local and regional food system for small farms, small businesses, and nonprofits.
“When Golden LEAF funds were awarded, we had 10 tenants within a 3,800-square-foot building, supporting 48 farmers,” said Neal Curran, Director of Food Programs at Reinvestment Partners. “Farmer Foodshare was the main tenant at the time.”
As Farmer Foodshare grew, they eventually became the only tenant in the space. Farmer Foodshare is a food aggregator and distributor helping to connect farmers to new and bigger markets such as school systems, local restaurants, and other businesses.
“This project supports small- to middle-producers break into established markets” said Curran. “The food system is set up for larger producers. A robust local economy has room for the small- and middle-sized farmers.”
The second cooler was needed to help grow Farmer Foodshare’s capacity. Reinvestment Partners thinks of Bull City Cool as an incubator space.
“We went from a hands-on approach to a hands-off approach to Farmer Foodshare ready to outgrow the space,” said Curran. “That’s a good thing in our opinion. We are already thinking about what’s the next tenant that can be here to support and grow in their journey like Farmer Foodshare.”
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