It’s spring at The Ohio State University at Mansfield Microfarm. The high tunnels are overflowing with lettuce, spinach and swiss chard. Now, as spring turns into summer, it’s time to take the growth of the microfarm out farther into the local community. A community workshop called “Aggregating Produce, Sharing Profits” will be held in Ovalwood Hall at Ohio State Mansfield on June 9 from 10 AM to 3 PM. The public is invited along with community leaders.

“We want to build a whole food system in the region where we can divide our labors in such a way and aggregate that food,” said Ohio State Mansfield Assistant Professor of History Kip Curtis. “Then we can begin to have enough food produced locally so that we can get contracts with institutional buyers.”

Curtis spent eight years in St. Petersburg, Florida building schoolyard gardens and working toward building an urban food system. Now he wants to tackle improving Mansfield’s food system. Last year, Curtis started the process on the Ohio State Mansfield campus Ecolab by constructing a microfarm. The micro farm is supplying fresh fruits and vegetables to the campus cafeteria and nearby north end Mansfield residents. The goal is to develop a profitable growing strategy on small-plot, high-yield raised beds and high tunnel growing environments as a component of a larger urban production system.

“At this June workshop, we will be moving the urban food production conversation to the next step focusing on concrete institutional solutions – farmer-owned cooperative, food hubs, aggregation – in order to more clearly identify the existing local assets, determine the community will in terms of institutional direction, and draft a preliminary plan and next steps,” said Curtis.

Curtis and his team hope the project produces more than just fresh food and an end to food deserts.

“The system approach promises expanding opportunity in local food production and for individuals to become urban agricultural entreprenuers. This is about purposefully rethinking our food systems and creating pathways for local residents to become small business owners. A healthy food system has roles for social service agencies, educators, institutional buyers, and the faith community—these seminars are about rethinking our community holistically and providing opportunities for many.”

The workshop is funded through the Ohio State Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation Linkage and Leverage Grant program. The program works to connect Ohio State faculty, staff, students and external partners with new talents, expertise, and resources to address compelling food security challenges by building on strengths in climate, environment, technology and agroecosystems; local to global engagements; new food economies; and campus food cultures and education.

Partners in the project include: The Knowlton School of Architecture and Urban Planning, the Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center (OARDC), the College of Food and Agriculture, the Ohio State University Extension, and the School of Environmental and Natural Resources.

Follow up workshops are being planned for July and August.

RSVP to Cassie Huvler at [email protected] by Monday, June 4.

Source, Photo: The Ohio State University at Mansfield

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