• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Connecting farmers to consumers wanting to buy local

Woodford Countians who want to buy locally-grown foods and many other products are now able to connect with local farmers on Woodford FoodNet, an online resource launched in mid-May. Anyone visiting the website (woodfordfoodnet.org) will likely be surprised by the array of vegetables, other foods as well as value-added products being sold by Woodford County farms. As Woodford County’s University of Kentucky Extension agent for horticulture, Faye Kuosman said she works directly with local farmers on the production side, but when possible also helps them market products directly to consumers. “I learned about several farms that I wasn’t even aware of as we were making calls and putting (this) together,” she said. Anyone interested in joining the other farms on Woodford FoodNet may contact the Woodford County Extension office at 873-4601 or email Kuosman. “We’ve added a few (farms) since we launched (the website),” she said, “… and we’re hoping that continues so that we can continually update and add to the website.” Kuosman said she worked with local Master Gardeners on a list of produce growers in Woodford County a few years ago. That idea grew into a food guide for consumers who wanted to buy local. It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic hit and more people started coming to the Woodford County Farmers Market that those early ideas were transformed into an online Woodford FoodNet, Kuosman said. She estimated the foot traffic at the local farmers market has doubled – “They’ve definitely seen an up-tick in custumers” – since opening in May. Now, besides shopping the market Wednesdays (3 to 6 p.m.) and Saturdays (8:30 a.m. to noon) at the Lexington Road Plaza, consumers can contact local farmers directly to make a purchase by visiting Woodford FoodNet, she said. People have already reached out to Abbie Rogers and Kevin Archer at Dandelion Ridge Farm through the website, she said. In the midst of the pandemic, Rogers said “there’s been an increased interest (in locally-produced foods), which is great to see.” She and Archer grow culinary herbs and specialty produce on one-half acre. This is only their second season selling products at the local farmers market so they were pleasantly surprised when consumers started reaching out to them using the website, she said. “One positive from the pandemic is consumers being more aware of locally grown and how they can purchase directly from farms – and hopefully … they (farmers) can make a higher profit in direct sales,” said Kuosman. She said many of the local farms participating in Woodford FoodNet are specialty crop growers of less than five acres, which is large for a vegetable producer that sells directly to consumers. Many are operated by younger people who are getting into agriculture because they want to grow vegetables and “that’s really exciting to me – supporting that younger generation,” said Kuosman. Woodford FoodNet, which also lists restaurants that use locally-grown and value-added products for meals on their menus, wouldn’t have happened without the support and work of community volunteers, according to Kuosman. She said they were instrumental in helping to bring all of the information together to create the FoodNet website designed by Tristan Ferrell of Spark Community Café. “I love the fact that (the website) also has other resources for people,” said Rogers. She said she and Archer are passionate about educating people on how they can cook using fresh herbs – including those grown on Dandelion Ridge Farm near Nonesuch.

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