Southern SAWG has been inspiring and empowering farmers, individuals and communities to create more sustainable food and farming systems for over 25 years. Since 1991 we have assisted over 11,000 farmers in the South, yet our work goes far beyond the farm gate. Did you know that Southern SAWG also trains farm service providers, strengthens regional food systems, and builds and supports collaborative networks? We also give Southerners a voice in policy decisions that shape public food and agriculture programs. Here are a few of our accomplishments from the past year.
The success of sustainable farmers is what Southern SAWG is all about. In the past year, nearly 950 farmers directly benefited from Southern SAWG programming; learning about production practices that increased their capacity, marketing strategies that improved their income, and management techniques that made them better stewards of their resources. At the same time, they are inspired to continue and keep up their good work. Here’s what one farmer participant in our annual conference said this year “When I'm weeding and sweating in July, SSAWG is that voice that tells me I'm part of something bigger: a movement toward more sustainable farming and local foods in the South. SSAWG is the collective voice of all fellow farmers and local food advocates in the South.” Surveys indicate farmers are sharing information and resources gained through Southern SAWG programming with at least four other farmers. Thus, at least another 3,800 farmers benefited indirectly from Southern SAWG programing this past year. It’s this kind of multiplier effect that speaks to the strength of our educational programs (and allows our training dollars to go further). Keep on sharing!
Farm Service Providers
Southern SAWG recognizes and appreciates the broad network of farm service providers who are working across the country to provide technical, financial, and other assistance to farmers. In the past year, Southern SAWG assisted 59 farm service providers to better meet the needs of organic and sustainable farmers. We provided education on a range of subjects from high tunnel production systems to regional food hub development. Here’s what one extension agent said about his experience with Southern SAWG’s Growing Farm Profits training: “My job requires budget heavy analysis so this tool will make my job easier as well as refine my data to a more exact outcome.”
We all win when these service providers are better equipped to help farmers who are working to become more sustainable. Based on follow-up with professionals who had participated in our recent organic and high tunnel vegetable production courses, we expect them to assist over 350 farmers in the South over the next three years with information and tools from the training.
Community Food Systems
From Farm-to-Institution to Food Hubs, Southern SAWG is working with our partners across the south to better understand and empower efforts to strengthen community food systems. In the past year, we developed and delivered practical educational materials to support the priority needs of over 260 community food activists and organizers. One participant in our work as the South Lead for the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) said the following: “The monthly NFSN state lead calls were extremely informative for Texas during the initial research and planning phases for the development of the Texas Farm Fresh Network (our producer database). Hearing what other states had tried and implemented, along with successes and challenges, provided in-depth insight that we would not have otherwise had.”
Food and Farm Policy
Public policies can boost efforts to build sustainable food and agriculture systems, or suppress them. That’s why Southern SAWG has always provided education for citizens in the South on key policy issues and strategies for getting grassroots input into decisions at federal, state and local levels. In the past year we initiated Southern SAWG’s PCAN (Policy Collaborative Action Network) as the primary avenue for this work, and facilitated policy workshops and discussions with a core group of people. Through these efforts over 80 people developed a better understanding of policy issues and strategies for effective policy change. We also continue to leverage our resources by multiplying the impacts of others. For example, last year Southern SAWG worked in close connection with our farm to school network in Louisiana to support legislation that reduced taxes on land used for urban farming and additional legislation to increase the minimum purchase threshold, allowing schools to work directly with farmers to buy more local food and serve it to Louisiana children.