Written by Calli Forsyth, UDAF’s International Trade Specialist
The Green Urban Lunch Box (GULB) is a Salt Lake City-based food justice non-profit and Utah’s Own member whose mission is “to empower people to connect to food and their community by revitalizing urban spaces and building a resilient food culture.” At their center is a 35-foot school bus converted into a mobile greenhouse, designed to showcase the possibilities in urban agriculture. In addition to their mobile greenhouse, all GULB programs aim to provide education and motivation to the community regarding food production and the importance of access to fresh, healthy foods.
We recently caught up with Katie Nelson, Executive Director of The Green Urban Lunch Box, to discuss their 2016 Specialty Crop Block Grant award focused on creating an incubator farm to provide aspiring farmers with access to land, tools, and learning opportunities to help them start their own farm businesses.
The Specialty Crop Block Grant is a competitive grant program operated by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food through which funding from the United States Department of Agriculture is awarded to eligible applicants to support Utah’s specialty crop industry. Projects may cover a variety of topics such as production, distribution, marketing, consumption, and education.
According to Katie, as our cities and counties around the state become increasingly urban, especially in Salt Lake County, farmers are having trouble gaining access to land. This is due to a variety of factors, including development and the costs associated with leasing or purchasing land in these highly coveted areas. Engaging in the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program gave GULB access to 3 acres of land in Salt Lake County through the Salt Lake County Urban Farming Program; ultimately allowing them to provide a starting point for aspiring urban farmers.
During the span of the grant, GULB trained 30 farmers, provided service opportunities for 700 community members, and provided 200 families with weekly shares of sustainably grown vegetables. This was accomplished by focusing on recruitment and training for aspiring farmers, which in time, turned a traditional incubator farm into a collective farm where trainees learned side by side with trained staff. Through this initiative, they also run a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program where trainees/students operate their own CSA farm business.
GULB reported one of the main lessons they learned was “to adapt and change the course of this program to meet the needs of our community.” Initially, they thought access to farm land was the biggest issue for would-be farmers, but through this project, they found farmers needed more support overall. After restructuring from a traditional incubator farm to operate as a collective, their graduation rates went up and their program became more successful.
For more information on the Specialty Crop Block Grant and if this grant is a good fit for your visit https://ag.utah.gov/specialty-crop-block-grant-program or contact Calli Forsyth at email@example.com.
> Return to the March 2021 Cultivating Connections newsletter here.
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