Around the country, communities are seeking creative approaches to integrating entrepreneurship, environmental management, public health, and other place-based considerations into successful economic planning. Local food development can be one strategy.
The White House Rural Council and six federal agencies have selected 26 communities to participate in Local Foods, Local Places, a federal initiative providing direct technical support and expertise to community partners integrating local food systems into regional economic action plans. Under this effort, a team of federal agricultural, transportation, environmental, public health, and regional economic experts will work directly with communities to develop specific local food projects. These efforts will make a significant impact in the communities participating in the Local Foods, Local Places initiative.
The Local Foods, Local Places efforts are as varied as the communities themselves. For instance, Wheeling, West Virginia (pop. 28,000) is planning on revitalizing a historic and underused ceremonial vineyard into a productive public asset showcasing local products. Unity, Maine (pop. 1,800) will receive technical assistance to create a more connected, walkable community; better market the community’s agricultural character; and create a local food system for the town and surrounding region. In Itta Bena, Mississippi (pop. 2,000), Local Foods, Local Places technical assistance teams will work with neighborhood partners to create a permanent grocery store and lasting local food network, while Ajo, Arizona (pop. 3,700) will receive technical assistance to develop and implement an action plan promoting local foods and entrepreneurship in order to create an economically vibrant community.
Local Foods, Local Places is a unique partnership among the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The initiative draws on the Administration’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities, USDA’s Seven Strategies for Economic Development, and other place-based strategies to address regional challenges.
The initiative, first announced in June by USDA Secretary and White House Rural Council Chairman Tom Vilsack, is a model example of how federal experts and local leaders are working together to develop appropriate and effective approaches to community economic development. We look forward to seeing the results.
Doug McKalip is the Senior Advisor for Rural Affairs at the White House Domestic Policy Council.