Human resources

NWA Food Systems expands agricultural resources

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Northwest Arkansas Food Systems announced that it is expanding support for local farmers and access to healthy food through new partnerships with local organizations.

Grants to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, Community Clinic and University of Arkansas will provide farmers with new resources to access soil capital and health programs, according to a press release. as well as improving access to healthy food in underresourced communities.

“Programs that provide farmers with training and growth opportunities help improve the resilience of the food economy in northwest Arkansas,” said Liz Alsina., senior program officer of the Walton Personal Philanthropy Group. “These organizations will work with a wider network of community partners to strengthen the region’s farming community and expand access to healthy food for all.

The expansion will include $730,000 distributed to the following people:

  • Subsidies for small farms: Support for the Arkansas Department of Agriculture will create the pilot Arkansas Grown Grant for Northwest Arkansas Farmers program. The effort offers small farms in Benton, Washington, Carroll and Madison counties grant opportunities of up to $15,000 to fund operational needs that improve their access to wholesale markets. Farmers could use the funding for additional water and irrigation resources, mechanized production equipment and cold rooms, among other priorities.
  • Access to healthy food: A grant to the community clinic will expand a SNAP pilot program that improves regular and reliable access to locally grown, nutritious food. This effort will allow patients to feed their families and develop healthy habits to treat and prevent chronic diseases. The program, implemented in partnership with the Food Conservancy, provides patients with weekly access to boxes of locally grown produce. The grant will provide resources for additional staff and translators and expand the program’s footprint from a single location in Springdale to eight locations in northwest Arkansas.
  • Soil health: The University of Arkansas will launch the Soil Health Program for Northwest Arkansas Specialty Crops. The program will provide regional growers with best practices to increase productivity and profitability by improving soil health. The university will conduct soil testing, surveys, on-farm recommendations and one-on-one support to measure improvements in soil health over time.

“The Arkansas Grown Grant Pilot Program for Northwest Arkansas Farmers will directly benefit farmers, allowing them to increase capacity and expand operations,” said Wes Ward, Secretary of Agriculture for the ‘Arkansas. “The financial assistance we can provide to farmers in these four counties will help put local food on tables in Arkansas.”