Food System Development
The regional food system, which is the network of farmers, aggregators, distributors, and consumers in the 16-county area, is vital to the livelihood and economy of regional Georgians. RVRC supports this system by aiding food system development organizations in their missions to fight food insecurity and build sustainable food networks. RVRC staff provide technical assistance to food system non-profits UGrow, Inc. and Columbus Food Oasis, which is a branch of the state organization Georgia Organics.
Agriculture in Georgia
Georgia is an agriculturally rich state, and as the fifth largest fruit and vegetable producer in the U.S. we have a tremendous capacity to feed our communities according to USDA. Yet for most of Georgia’s communities, residents lack adequate access to the local food regional farms produce, as we see evidenced in Georgia’s higher rates of 30 percent adult obesity and 18 percent who have food insecurity. Simultaneously, Georgia’s small to mid-sized farmers financially struggle to stay in operation, most often because they lack timely and cost-efficient methods for getting their products to market.
Whether it’s direct-to-consumer, retail, or institutional markets Georgia lacks some of the most basic of services—packing, aggregation, cold storage, and distribution channels that help small and midsized farms reach and compete for new market opportunities.
At one time the Columbus region produced nearly a third of Georgia’s agricultural products/exports. Today the 100-county region is host to 5 million acres of farmland comprised of over 17,596 farms, and is home to major commercial growers who are supported by some of the country’s largest food processing companies like Coca-Cola, Koch, Kellogg’s, and Claxton Farms. These large producers overshadow the predominance of the region’s small to mid-sized farms which make up an estimated 68 percent of all farms in the region.
The total funding level is approximately $43 million with approximately $36 million available for the annual competition. The maximum amount available per applicant is $750,000 for single-activity during regular competition and $1,000,000 for multi-activity during regular competition.