Marketing has become an increasingly important part of farming in recent years and the Texas Center for Local Food is helping farmers connect with customers in order to stay in business.
Sue Beckwith, who founded the statewide organization based out of Elgin, said the goal is helping farmers achieve economic success.
“Our purpose is to focus on the economics and the marketing of local food,” she said. “If we don’t buy food from our Texas farmers, just like any business, they’re not going to be here next year to provide food for us.”
One of Beckwith’s initiatives is to help farmers markets across Texas get set up to accept SNAP benefits, often called food stamps. SNAP recipients are eligible to shop at farmers markets, but Beckwith said many don’t know that. Beckwith said many farmers markets in rural areas that have high rates of poverty do not have the capacity or equipment needed to take SNAP payments.
“Our mission is about economics and helping make sure farmers can earn a living from farming. So while our values are centered on food access, that’s not our mission. We’re not a food access organization,” she said. “But in 2020, Texas gave out $6 billion in SNAP benefits across the state. The amount spent at farmer’s markets that year was $188,000 statewide. So farmers are leaving money on the table. And at the same time, we’re not necessarily feeding the most needy in our communities.”
The Texas Center for Local Food also has a website called TXFED.org which was launched in 2020 with the help of funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“It stands for Texas Food, Education and Discovery Network,” she said. “It helps farmers understand how to set up your market booth, how to create a more welcoming farmers market for SNAP shoppers. To learn ‘is selling at a farmer’s market, even right for me and my farm?’”
As they help farmers, Beckwith said the Center is also trying to grow their own brand and reach more consumers, donors and farmers across the state. The Center was launched in 2016 and is still working on connecting with people via social media, she said.
Beckwith said she sees the Center as the link between the farmer and the consumer.
“It is a heavy lift. And our intention and our strategy is really to make these connections between buyers and sellers and then get out of the way,” she said. “We do what we can to catalyze the relationship, help make sure those farmers have the marketing support that they need and the logistics support that they need to get their products to market and then let them interact with the buyers and get out of the way. Then we can go on and help another farmer.”