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Morris student involved in local foods activities

Posted by Center for Small Towns on Wednesday, May. 8, 2013

Zach Johnson, '14, Fergus Falls, is currently working with Center for Small Towns (CST) and the University of Minnesota Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership to promote local foods and agriculture in the Southwest Minnesota region. Johnson is involved in a multifaceted project that surveys vendors and producers of local foods, identifies innovative community projects to aggregate and distribute local food, explores online ordering of locally grown produce, and researches Incubator Farms programs. Incubator Farms is a program that helps to give potential farmers the knowledge, tools, and resources to begin farming and creating local foods for the community.

Johnson is currently involved in many aspects of the project and is doing research on everything from the needs of local vendors, how to teach about more sustainable farming practices, and improving collaboration and networking in the local foods community. He is partnering with the Community Owned Grocery (COG) in Willmar to better understand the needs of local individuals involved in growing, buying, selling, aggregating and distribution of local foods. His project is expansive with multiple goals to consider as he moves forward. There is a consistent focus on networking throughout his projects, as well as bringing local food producers together. Johnson is working to make a large change in the way that people grow and access local foods, learn about the benefits of local foods and how to prepare them, as well as to better understand the Incubator Farms program.

Zach has continued to work with Willmar fall and spring semesters to improve the access and availability of local foods. He is excited about the ability to involve both his skills in researching and his love for local foods in his projects.

The University of Minnesota's Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (formerly West Central Partnership) is a citizen-driven Board of Directors working with citizens in the region to create and sustain healthy ecosystems, strong local economies and vibrant, self-reliant communities. If interested in more information about the Partnership and the work they do, visit their website.

The University of Minnesota, Morris Center for Small Towns (CST) is a community outreach program that serves as a point-of-entry to the resources of the University of Minnesota. Small towns, local units of government, k-12 schools, nonprofit organizations, and other University units are able to utilize the Center's resources as they work on rural issues or make contributions to rural society. Their mission is to focus the University’s attention and marshal its resources toward assisting Minnesota’s small towns with locally identified issues by creating applied learning opportunities for faculty and students