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From Pasture to Plate

New program may help
expand farmers’ business

Grant designed to help get home grown produce,
meats to Louisville area restaurants

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

October 2009 Kentucky Edition Cover

October 2009
Kentucky Edition Cover

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (October 2009) – Chad Heveline has always wanted a career in farming. When he graduated from Berea College in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and the intent of becoming an Agricultural Extension Agent, the fact that it was too hard to get a position without his master’s degree didn’t stop him. He is determined to make a living by farming, not necessarily based on traditional methods, but by employing new tactics and services available to area farmers through Louisville farmers markets.
Heveline and his father, Greg, are partners in Diamond H Farms in Milton, Ky. Being part of a family of six, the Hevelines have always raised a large garden to feed their brood. Along with mother, Tracie, they recently began to expand and sell their produce through farmers markets in Louisville and Madison, Ind.
“We began with two acres of vegetables and now have five acres,” said Chad Heveline, 24. The family raises many crops, which include spinach, radishes, lettuce, salad mixes, green onions, summer squashes, sweet corn, green beans, broccoli, zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers and more than one acre of potatoes, making them one of – if not the – biggest, potato growers in the state.
All of their hard work pays off by selling their produce through the Norton Commons farmers market in Prospect. This market gives the residents of the Norton Commons subdivision a chance to purchase fresh, home-grown produce, meat, bread, jams and flower arrangements all in one spot close to home. The market is not exclusive to Norton Commons residents.
Providing local farm produce to Louisville farmers markets is a concept that is beginning to spread into the Louisville food economy through the efforts of Sarah Fritschner, former Food Editor for the Louisville Courier-Journal. It was Fritschner who worked in conjunction with the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government Economic Development Department to apply for a $90,000 grant. The Kentucky Agricultural Development Board has invested money in agricultural diversification projects such as this across the state in an effort to increase the number of neighborhood farmers markets and create a network that would connect Kentucky farmers with Louisville buyers.
Metro Louisville used the money to create a two-year, full-time position in its economic development department. Fritschner has been selected to hold this position of Public Interest Broker.

Heveline Famiily

Photo by Don Ward

Greg Heveline (far
right) of Milton, Ky.,
sells beef, lamb and
pork along with
produce from his farm
at the Louisville, Ky.,
and Madison, Ind.,
farmers market.

She is a liaison between farmers who seek a variety of marketing opportunities in the Metro Louisville area and other entities wanting to purchase local food products from Kentucky producers. Her position is funded by the Governor’s Office of Ag Policy Phase I Tobacco Settlement Cost-Share Funds.
The grant money was given to Metro Louisville with the purpose of “taking down the barriers” between rural Kentucky farmers and Louisville consumers, said Fritschner. The way the money will be used is based on metrics, she said. “It has to do with the increased money farmers can earn from their products and the number of farmers who successfully transition away from tobacco.”
Fritschner’s job includes identifying sales opportunities for local farmers and working with wholesale buyers. She has done just this for the Hevelines, who have recently begun selling pork, lamb, beef and produce to downtown Louisville restaurants. Chad Heveline said that Fritschner has “helped set us up with a wholesaler and meetings with a restaurant.”
For example, Proof restaurant, based at 21C Hotel, just bought three whole hogs. They also are interested in grain-fed beef, said Greg Heveline. “I see a great potential for farmers in the area if this program takes off.”
The Hevelines also sell beef, pork and lamb products at the Norton Commons and Madison, Ind., farmers markets. Chad Heveline said they provide ash-free products – products that are antibiotic, steroid and hormone-free.
Among local farmers markets, “the demand is growing for meat,” he said. “People will pay a little more for it at the farmers market because they know where it’s coming from, that it’s local, and organic or ash-free.”
Heveline said he would like to see local extension offices or other entities provide a refrigerated truck for farmers to rent or use to supply fresh meat to restaurants. “There is a huge interest in a lot of restaurants to have fresh, rather than frozen meat,” said Heveline.
The only hitch is that it would have to be USDA inspected. Currently, the Hevelines take their meat products to Boone’s Butcher Shop in Bardstown, Ky., to have it processed because there it is USDA approved.
The Hevelines must freeze the meat in order to store it until it is sold to their customers. But high-end restaurant chefs want fresh meat that has not been frozen, Greg Heveline said. It would require a refrigerated truck to transport the meat from the locker directly to the restaurant, and buying such a truck is too costly.

Louisville Farmers Market at Norton Commons

Photo provided

The Louisville Farmers Market
at Norton Commons has become a
popular and growing scene for customers
seeking fresh produce and meat.

One possible option being studied is to establish a meat processing plant in the Louisville region, where farmers can deliver their animals to be butchered and USDA inspected, then meat could be picked up or delivered directly to restaurants throughout the city.
Chad Heveline sees a barrier to vegetable sales as well. Due to vegetables having to be washed and packaged a certain way, it’s hard to compete with the large producers from California. If several local farmers could use the same washer and packager, this would make selling vegetables a lot easier, he said.
Fritschner has introduced the concept of local farmers selling their wares to farmers markets in Louisville by speaking about the project through local extension offices. A Market Opportunities Meeting was held on Sept. 10 in Oldham County to introduce Fritschner “to local producers so that they could discuss available products and potential markets,” said Traci Missun, Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent for the Oldham County Cooperative Extension Service.
“Oldham County’s Ag Development Council supported the Public Interest Broker position by endorsing it as a high priority project to the Kentucky Ag Development Board,” Missun said. Oldham County pitched in $250 in addition to the state funding that was received. Henry, Jefferson, Spencer and Trimble counties contributed $500 each.
“A couple of years ago, a group formed to try to think about satisfying the demand for local products in Louisville while helping farmers in the rest of the state,” said Fritschner. This advisory body, known as the Local Food Economy Work Group, was comprised of several county judge-executives, extension agents, private industry people and Metro Louisville officials. The group applied for a grant to study the feasibly of increasing sales of locally grown and produced foods in Louisville, while expanding the local food economy of surrounding counties and communities as well.
Market Ventures of Portland, Maine and Karp Resources of Southold, N.Y., completed the $150,000 Regional Farmers Market Feasibility Study titled, “Building Louisville’s Local Food Economy.” The Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund awarded a $75,000 grant to the Economic Development Department, with the $75,000 balance met by city government and private partners.

Fritchsner

Fritchsner

The report concluded that even though a variety of meats and vegetables are raised in the 23-county Louisville region, farmer’s need a stronger support network and infrastructure, more meat and poultry processing plants and a better distribution networking system. These are ideas Fritschner is working on.
Many things slow down the process of getting fresh produce into the Louisville economy, said Fritschner. Her goal is to “listen to farmers, and hear what they want,” she said. “I want to make the agricultural sector more stable and secure for the future.”
Fritschner is targeting non-traditional, public selling markets that “aren’t usually on the radar.” She would like to establish CSA farmer’s groups at two or three businesses in town where there is a demand for fresh produce.
“We know the consumers want local products,” Fritschner said. “But we don’t know why the products are not making it into the city.”
Included in this project is the idea of a public market at a highly visible downtown Louisville site that would attract new customers from untapped consumer groups. A possible site for the proposed Jefferson Public Market is on East Jefferson Street on the former Disney Tires property.
Susan Hamilton, assistant director of Metro Louisville’s Economic Development Department, said this public market would be run by private investors and be a sort of “destination market.” It would be open year round, contain vendor booths and even have seasonal activities.
“Several counties, like Oldham, already have their own farmers markets,” said Hamilton. “The more we work together, the more we’ll grow. No one group can implement it all.”
The feasibility study has been used in numerous ways, Hamilton said. “It gave our region a snapshot of the initiatives happening out there, and an idea of who’s doing what. It informed all of us and encouraged us to look at regional and local food economies.”
There is also a health component to the program. It ties into Metro Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson’s Healthy Hometown movement, said Hamilton, which seeks to encourage recreation and healthy eating habits.
If the push into Louisville’s farmers markets and other locations is successful for local farmers, “it will help all markets, while providing healthy, fresh foods,” she said.
Today’s farmers markets provide diverse offerings, said Heveline. They produce an “easy go-to, one-stop shop.”

• To read the entire “Building Louisville’s Local Food Economy” study, please visit: www.LouisvilleKy.gov/EconomicDevelopment/
PlanningStudies/RegionalFarmersMarketFeasibilityStudy.htm
. To learn more about the program, contact Sarah Fritschner at (502) 396-5457.

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