March 23, 2021
SHENANDOAH VALLEY – Virginia’s agricultural producers and small farmers have experienced distribution and supply chain challenges since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some producers have been able to adjust by diversifying their customer base and expanding their geographic footprint to access new markets. For others, logistical challenges have resulted in unsold products and revenue loss.
In response, a GO Virginia Region 8 Economic Recovery and Resilience grant is funding The Local Ordering, Communication, and Agriculture Logistics Initiative (LOCAL-I), which, if successful, will eventually help thousands of producers to identify and leverage in-network logistics resources. LOCAL-I will create a user-friendly, online interface tailored to small-scale agricultural producers that will enable participants to lower their delivery costs and expand their market reach. Once established, the interface will be a meaningful addition to the digital and physical infrastructure necessary for sustainable, long-term growth in Virginia’s agricultural sector.
Common Grain Alliance (CGA) launched the one-year program on February 1, 2021. CGA, a network of Mid-Atlantic farmers, millers, and bakers will work with technology partner Local Food Network (LFN) to survey hundreds of Virginia producers to better understand the logistics landscape for small agricultural businesses and apply that research to develop and test a cooperative approach to logistics management. LOCAL-I will enable LFN, a software development company, to integrate logistics components into LFN’s existing platform for local food ordering and delivery.
A shared-logistics model enables producers to both lower delivery costs and reach new markets. Orange County business owner Tom Weaver of Papa Weaver’s Pork explains: “My truck is running at 50-60% capacity and with Local Food Network I plan to help out other farmers get their products on my truck while lowering my own distribution costs.”
One such farmer in need of a truck is Bruce Johnson of Dragonfly Farms in Louisa County. “I can’t offer delivery in markets that are far away from me. However, with the help of Local Food Network, I plan to expand my market reach while not having to spend as much time on the road.”
GO Virginia is an initiative by Virginia’s senior business leaders to foster private-sector growth and job creation through state incentives for regional collaboration by business, education, and government. Region 8 consists of the cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton, Waynesboro, Winchester; and the counties of Augusta, Bath, Clarke, Frederick, Highland, Page, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Warren. Support from these cities and counties, in the form of business knowledge and insight and monetary and in-kind contributions, is critical to the project’s success.
Contact: Barrett Hightower, Common Grain Alliance, 202-460-5573, firstname.lastname@example.org; Ashley Shickle, Program Coordinator, GO Virginia Region 8, 540-209-2107, email@example.com