Grants Help Ag-Related Economic Development

Grants Help Ag-Related Economic Development

By considering agriculture to be part of local economic development strategies, communities can benefit by keeping more dollars circulating in the local economy and protecting more of local farmland resources.

Six projects have been awarded grants through the Farmland Protection Partnership Program sponsored to support community-based agricultural economic development planning projects in Ohio.

The program is coordinated by Ohio State University's Center for Farmland Policy Innovation, housed in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics. According to Jill Clark, director of the center, relatively few Ohio communities have ascertained community priorities and interest in the food and agricultural economic sector through a formal planning process, and integrated these priorities into plans for future development.

"Agriculture has long been a cornerstone of Ohio's economy, and it is our hope that these grants will be used to foster new and innovative approaches to agriculture that will serve as an engine for Ohio's agricultural future," Clark says. "Planning projects are important to building a roadmap for future economic vitality, and we were pleased with the many strong applicants who offered creative ideas worthy of support."

Community-based agricultural economic development involves community planning, organizing and acting to enhance the viability of local agriculture and the health of area farms. By considering agriculture to be part of local economic development strategies, communities can benefit by keeping more dollars circulating in the local economy and protecting more of local farmland resources.

The projects that received funding are:

­Local Food Production in Toledo and Lucas County, submitted by Center for Innovative Food Technology (Lucas County). The project, funded $5,600, will examine the feasibility of utilizing existing farmland within Lucas County and the city of Toledo as the foundation for a vibrant, economically sustainable production, processing, and distribution system for fresh fruits and vegetables. The planning process will inventory and catalogue existing farmland, organize planning meetings, survey policies regarding use of urban farms, develop recommendations to enhance local agriculture, and communicate work to stakeholders and the public.

Planning for Indoor Agricultural Start-Up Businesses in Urban Environments, submitted by Cleveland Neighborhood Development Coalition (Cuyahoga County). The project, funded $4,900, will involve project partner Baldwin Wallace College Sustainability Plan Clinic to study and identify potential indoor agricultural businesses that could be the seeds of a major indoor agricultural movement in Cleveland.

Pickaway County Agricultural Development Roadmap to the Future, submitted by Pickaway Progress Partnership (Pickaway County). The project, funded $7,500, will support the development of an agricultural economic development plan to guide the community in retaining and enhancing current agricultural businesses and providing a framework for new entrepreneurs.

Planning for a Regional Food Hub in Portage County (Portage County), submitted by the Portage County Regional Planning Commission. The project, funded $8,636, will use grant funding to form a stakeholder group and write a plan to establish a regional food hub in Portage County. The plan will seek to develop ways to afford opportunities for farmers to be better connected to urban markets.

Downtown Farmers' Market in Bowling Green Planning Project (Wood County), submitted by The Downtown Foundation, Inc. The project, funded $4,700, seeks to create growth and stability for the Downtown Farmers' Market in Bowling Green through a collaborative process of studying the market's operations and its economic impact. This will be accomplished by creating an action plan for maximizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses.

Countryside Initiative Association - Raising the Production and Efficiency of Farms in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (based in Summit County), submitted by Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy. The project, funded $3,664, will develop a plan for greater collaboration between the community of farmers in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to increase future viability.

The Center for Farmland Policy Innovation was established in 2006 to enable communities to achieve farmland protection policy priorities by partnering on innovative projects and providing needed programming. The center works directly with communities on innovative policy demonstrations and models, writes policy briefs, maintains a communication network, and hosts an annual statewide farmland policy meeting -- which is, according to American Farmland Trust, the largest of such meetings in the country.

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