April 6, 2003
By David Burton
A sustainable agriculture award is funding the development of a web-based network that will help farmers market their organic products locally.
The project, now in its first year of development, is the brainchild of Southwest Missouri State University student Malissa Nowack.
"One of the biggest stumbling blocks for selling organic food in the mainstream market has been the lack of an organic certification program in Missouri. Now that the USDA has defined organic, and steps are being made to start the certification process, it looks like more restaurants will be willing to use locally grown organic foods," said Nowack.
That is where the organic farms web-based network comes in to play.
"I am compiling information about local markets and restaurants showing which businesses are interested in buying locally-grown organic produce, what products they would like to see available and what products they currently sell," said Nowack.
The project started with a survey of area food markets, restaurants and organic farmers. Nowack has also spent a lot of time finding the actual geographic location of the farmers who have responded to the organic survey and gathering geographic data so an online map can be created.
"My goal is to support the kind of stewardship that organic farmers embrace. This website will provide organic farmers another outlet for marketing their products. It will also help educate consumers about sustainable agriculture and the need to preserve farmland," said Nowack.
At this early stage of the project, Nowack has 12 farmers participating but she is working hard to enlist other organic farmers by attending area farmer's markets.
Ultimately, Nowack hopes to be one of the organic farmers listed on the website when she starts farming on land her family recently purchased in Stone County.
"This web-based project is not unique in its scope. There are many groups around the world doing projects like this one. This just happens to be the first example in southwest Missouri," said Nowack.
Farmers or businesses interested in participating in organic network can reach Nowack via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Missouri Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Award that Nowack won is designed to help farmers test, evaluate and adopt sustainable agricultural practices.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture administers the award with support from the Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Program of the University of Missouri.
For more information, or a grant application, contact Anastasia Becker at the Southwest Research Center, (417) 466-4225 or visit your local University Outreach and Extension center.
Questions? Comments? Please contact Joan Benjamin at: Joan.Benjamin@mda.mo.gov