Farm Credit Affiliation
Farm Credit of Northwest Florida
Red Hills Small Farm Alliance's Perspective
In 2010, three female farmers formed the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance (RHSFA) with a vision to strengthen their small farm community by expanding the local food market and providing farmer development and education.
Red Hills Online Market opened in 2011, capitalizing on technology while increasing both convenience for consumers and efficiencies for farmers. Through the Market, local farmers list their products each week so customers can order and pay online. This enables people with time constraints and homebound customers to easily shop for local, sustainably grown produce. Farmers harvest only what’s been sold, delivering it to a distribution center for customer pickup or home delivery, and receiving a better than wholesale price. At the same time, they’re freed from hours at a traditional farmers’ market.
“I hope to achieve steady growth in the farming community, whether that be fostering new farmers or helping existing farms expand,” says Katie Harris, Director of RHSFA. “I hope to do this through providing a reliable and innovative economic outlet for farmers that is convenient to both farmers and consumers alike.”
Since its launch five years ago, the Market has grown 30 percent a year to its current 400 customers, earning its 41 farms more than $85,000 in 2015. As the Market has grown, so has the appreciation for local, naturally grown foods, increasing farm production and encouraging new farms. Farmers who might be competitors work together to inspire one another, share ideas and mentor new farmers.
RHSFA brings consumers and farmers together. Shopper members are quick to participate in “Meet Your Farmer” events and fundraisers that build community and foster shared values. By listing produce from a local youth empowerment and urban agriculture program of the Tallahassee Food Network, iGrow, it connects urban youth with their rural neighbors.
RHSFA also offers educational programs, including the annual “7 Days of Local Delights” local food awareness campaign that offers more than 20 workshops to educate over 100 farmers and community members on growing and using local foods. Select restaurants also highlight locally grown foods on their menus.
“We see the work we are doing having a significant impact on both farmers and consumers by bringing them together through the Red Hills Online Market and Seven Days of Local Delights,” says Katie.
RHSFA has changed the future of small farms in North Florida and South Georgia, providing a growing market to sell their products, enhanced networking and professional development opportunities, and a voice as they address agricultural issues.
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