Northwest Arkansas Food Systems Expands Resources for Farmers and Communities
BENTONVILLE, Ark., April 26, 2022 — Northwest Arkansas Food Systems is expanding support for local farmers and access to healthy food through new partnerships with local organizations. Grants to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, Community Clinic and the University of Arkansas will offer farmers new resources to access capital and soil health programs, and improve access to healthy food in under-resourced communities. The program is supported by the Walton Family Foundation.
“Programs that offer farmers opportunities for training and growth help improve the resilience of the food economy in Northwest Arkansas,” said Liz Alsina, senior program officer of the Walton Personal Philanthropy Group. “These organizations will work together with a broader network of community partners to strengthen the region’s farming community and expand access to healthy food for all.”
The program expansion includes $730,000 in grants:
- Small Farm Grants: Support to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture will create the Arkansas Grown Grant for Northwest Arkansas Farmers pilot program. The effort offers small farms in Benton, Washington, Carroll and Madison counties grant opportunities up to $15,000 to fund operational needs that improve their access to wholesale markets. Farmers could use the funding for additional water and irrigation resources, mechanized production equipment and cold storage, among other priorities.
- Healthy Food Access: Community Clinic will expand a pilot program that improves regular and reliable access to nutritious, locally grown foods and can be paid for using SNAP benefits. The effort will allow patients to feed their families and build healthy habits to treat and prevent chronic disease. The program, implemented in partnership with the Food Conservancy, offers patients weekly access to boxes of locally grown produce. The grant will provide resources for additional staff and translators and increase the program’s footprint from distribution at a single site in Springdale to eight locations across Northwest Arkansas.
- Soil Health: The University of Arkansas will launch the Northwest Arkansas Specialty Crop Soil Health Program. The program will offer regional growers best practices to increase productivity and profitability by improving soil health. The university will conduct soil testing, surveys, on-farm recommendations and one-on-one support to measure improvements to soil health over time.
“The Arkansas Grown Grant for Northwest Arkansas Farmers pilot program will directly benefit produce farmers, enabling them to increase capacity and expand operations,” said Wes Ward, Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture. “The financial assistance we’ll be able to provide to farmers in these four counties will help get local food on Arkansas tables.”
Northwest Arkansas Food Systems focuses on strengthening the capacity of small and mid-size farmers to grow fruits and vegetables for local people. The program supports new and existing farmers by connecting them to educational opportunities, land, technical assistance, capital and new markets. Last month, the Walton Family Foundation announced plans for Market Center of the Ozarks, a new 45,000-square-foot food hub. Set to open in 2024, the downtown Springdale facility will support local farmers and food startups by providing growers with a space to process their harvests, food entrepreneurs a place to create and innovate and the community a space to gather and access fresh, local produce.
About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. To learn more, visit waltonfamilyfoundation.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.