Utah food program seeks California fresh produce

Issue Date: June 24, 2020
By Kevin Hecteman

California growers of fresh fruits and vegetables looking at disrupted markets could have an opportunity to move their produce and help food banks in a part of the country where locally grown fresh produce remains out of season.

The Utah Farm Bureau Federation, through its Farmers Feeding Utah initiative, wants to partner with California fruit and vegetable growers. Farmers Feeding Utah will either take a food donation, or will use donated funds to pay a fair market price for the produce and supply it to food banks.

"If there's commodities out there that the farmer can't sell, we would love donations, but we'd also love to buy it, too," said Brett Behling, who works in agricultural business development at UFBF.

"We're willing to use that money that we've raised through donations to go out there and purchase vegetables from your farmers in California," he said. "We'd come and pick them up in California, wherever they are, and ship them back to the project in Utah.

"Food banks are just desperate for vegetables," he said. "They've got bare shelves in 38 of the food pantries that we've contacted. Any of these food banks would receive any vegetables that we could come up with."

The same is true for fruit, he said.

Behling said the effort started closer to home, when dairy farmers whose markets disappeared overnight were forced to discard milk. The idea, he said, was, "We'll buy it from the farmer, and we'll process it into cheese. We'll donate it to hungry people."

Now, Behling said, food banks are requesting fresh fruits and vegetables, which are out of season in Utah.

Behling said he would ultimately like to partner with California and Idaho on a year-round, online market selling directly to customers.

"We have a processing bottleneck in Utah," Behling said. "One of the things that COVID did is it really exposed those weaknesses in our supply chain.

"Ultimately, we're just trying to make sure that people are getting food they need, and we develop these markets for farmers," he said. "Whether it's a California farmer or a Utah farmer, at the end of the day, we're all on the same team."

For more information, and to participate, go to farmersfeedingutah.org and follow the link labeled "Join as a Producer."

(Kevin Hecteman is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. He may be contacted at khecteman@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.




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