By Charlie Michel, National Farmers Union Education and Outreach Coordinator
When a statewide COVID-19 lockdown upended their food safety event planning, Mary Howell and Mercedes Taylor-Puckett of Kansas Farmers Union (KFU) were quick to respond with creative solutions for delivering on-farm education to Kansas growers. A primary challenge was reaching producers in cities like Wichita, Kan. where KFU planned to host a farm tour for urban growers. The KFU team turned to Maggie and Adam Pounds of Simple Abundance, an urban farm in South Hutchinson, Kan., and proposed the idea of filming a farm tour instead of an on-site group gathering. The Pounds loved the idea and KFU swung into action, studying up on filming logistics and seeking topic recommendations from food safety experts with National Farmers Union (NFU) and the Young Farmers Coalition.
Howell and Taylor-Puckett first met the Pounds at a soil health workshop and connected again at a Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Training hosted by KFU last year. For Maggie Pounds, attending KFU’s PSA Training was a turning point. “It gives you a sense of professionalism about what you’re doing,” she told the KFU team during a recent conversation. “It flows into other areas like how you carry yourself, how you run your farm, and how you talk to customers. It gives you a really good sense of, ‘I’m a professional. I’m running something important, and I want to be really on it.’”
Simple Abundance, which began as a home microgreens operation, is today a thriving diversified urban farm. The farm sits on a formerly infertile vacant lot which the Pounds revitalized by introducing locally produced compost, feather meal, and rock dust to enrich the soil. Over time, they increased their microgreens production, introduced other vegetables, installed a green house, and built a hoop house. “That added a lot of capacity for our farm,” Adam Pounds said of the additional infrastructure. “Mainly in the ability to grow year-round. That was huge.”
Another period of growth followed as the Pounds developed a commercial kitchen and on-farm storefront to facilitate value-added production and direct-to-consumer sales. These aspects of the operation featured prominently on filming day as the Pounds talked through post-harvest activities, refrigeration, and processing. They also shared their future vision for Simple Abundance, which includes offering their land and tunnels as an incubator for beginning farmers who share their commitment to producing healthy and safe food for the local market.
Footage from the tour will be presented later this fall in the second of a three-webinar series featuring farmers and food safety experts from the Local Food Safety Collaborative network and beyond. Each session will begin with a fifteen-minute virtual farm walkthrough, followed by thirty minutes of panel discussion and Q&A. The digital format will allow producers from across the country to tune in, a critical asset for those lacking access to local experts, resources, and technical assistance.
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