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New Farmer Development program


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  • 2 weeks later...

At long last. Sorry this took a while, but the questions for my session were of such great quality, it took longer to respond than originally anticipated. Thanks for your patience, Liza. :biggrin:

The New American Farmer Initiative, or NAFI, was begun as an effort to build collaboratives of immigrant and non-immigrant farmers within a given farming community, then introduce the collaboratives to groups of chefs in nearby urban communities who then commit to buying from the farmers. There are 70K to 80K immigrant farmers currently farming land throughout the US that would have gone dormant if not for the efforts of Gus Schumacher, former Undersecretary of Agriculture during the Clinton Administration. Gus began a program that placed immigrants, with backgrounds in agronomy in their counties of origin, on the land in an effort to help stop the decline of small farms. These farmers have been working largely to provide the produce of their heritage to their ethnic communities. NAFI introduces these farmer's goods to more lucrative markets.

Here's how it works to date. A "mentor" organic (preferably) farmer agrees to coordinate incoming orders from upscale restaurants. This farmer also coordinates/trains the picking, handling, packaging and timing standards to the other collaborative farmers. Orders from chefs are placed Wednesday for Friday delivery. The mentor farmer collects and consolidates the orders, then calls or faxes the orders to the other farmers. On Thursday, the farmers pick, package and deliver the products to the mentor farmer. On Friday, the mentor farmer loads the truck and delivers the produce. The result for the chefs is Greenmarket fresh, picked-to-order produce delivered to their door.

Because there is a variety of farmers involved, the combined list of products available rivals the product lists of many large scale distributors. The difference is that distributors warehouse produce in order to accommodate the needs of hundreds - sometimes thousands -- of customers, while NAFI produce is picked to order. Another difference is that the full case price the chefs pay (minus a fee to the mentor farmer) goes directly to the farmers, rather than the rent, salaries and other overhead expenses incurred by large distributorships.

NAFI is a small scale grass roots initiative. In a typical NAFI Chapter, 8 to 10 farmers might supply 12 to 20 restaurant accounts. This allows the chefs and farmers to establish relationships. The benefits of these relationships are custom growing opportunities, complete product traceability and authenticity, and the chefs have an opportunity to influence the growing practices of the farmers regarding organics and sustainability.

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