Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 7:00 am

Frank Zufall, staff reporter, Sawyer County Reporter

Ariga Grigoryan, community, natural resources and economic development agent for University of Wisconsin (UW)-Extension, told the Sawyer County Economic Development and UW-Extension Committee on Monday, Feb. 9, that growing and selling local foods is one way to stimulate the local economy.

Grigoryan discussed the potential impact of local foods while reviewing the details of a $100,000 federal grant she is pursuing to expand the local farmers market.

“The purpose of the grant is to increase domestic consumption,” she said, “and access to locally produced regional agriculture products. This encourages local farmers to produce more and local products (to be) consumed locally.”

The federal grant, she said, targets areas called “food deserts” — lower income areas where consumers travel from one to 10 miles for food. That definition would include most of Sawyer County.

“We are hoping to expand our vendors at the farmers market or have startup farms,” she said. For locally produced foods, she said, consumers are willing to spend more, and that encourages producers to raise more. The key issue for buyers and providers to meet is “access,” or a market to sell the food.

“This is part of creative economy,” she said about selling local foods. “It can boost local food (production) by 15-20 percent.”

A key to expanding farmers markets, she said, is a community garden where potential growers can raise corps.

“Most successful communities that have this creative economy and community-oriented agriculture, they have community gardens and people just go and farm and sell their produce,” she said.

If the county receives the grants, she said, the focus would first be on the existing Hayward Farmers Market and then expanding out, exploring ways to include other communities, especially those in the south.

Addressing concerns that some vendors at farmers market are not local, she said local vendors should market their products as “grown in Sawyer County” or “grown in Hayward” to encourage buying locally.

“I think people prefer to buy from Sawyer County knowing it was grown locally in the neighborhood,” she said.

Farm to School

The Farm to School program, in which public schools buy from local food providers, is another way to bolster the local food economy, Grigoryan said.

However, she said none of the Sawyer County schools is currently in the program.

Schools in Ashland and Bayfield counties have active Farm to School programs, and Grigoryan said it is her goal is to encourage Sawyer County schools to do so, too.

Posted in on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 7:00 am.