Photograph courtesy of Bryan Clifton.
In addition to providing fresh produce and meat for families in Arkansas, New South Produce Cooperative and Grassroots Farmer’s Cooperative supply financial and agricultural support for their member farms. Based in Little Rock and Clinton, respectively, these farmer-owned and operated co-ops connect members to distribution networks, provide technical assistance, and help small farmers raise capital as a collective.
Arkansas ranks among the least food secure states in America. Data from the Center for American Progress shows the average percentage of Arkansas households who were food insecure from 2013 to 2015 was 19.2 percent, the second highest rate in the country. Farmer-owned cooperatives help address the root problems of poverty and hunger in Arkansas, not only by making fresh produce and meat more accessible to local communities, but also by creating a significant number of jobs.
Food cooperatives, grocery stores owned and governed by their members, have been growing in popularity, particularly as a solution to food deserts in low-income and minority communities across America. But despite heightened consumer demand for locally produced food products, small farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to stay afloat. Between 1935 and 2012, the number of farms in America fell by about 4 million, and cropland has been heavily monopolized by industrial-sized farms.
New South Produce Cooperative and Grassroots Farmer’s Cooperative are providing small farmers with the tools they need to keep their small farms up and running. The farmers in these cooperatives have been able to expand their businesses and reach a wider network of consumers thanks to the cooperative business model.
New South and Grassroots were developed as a solution for farmers who had successfully started their own farming operations but were having trouble getting their products from pasture to plate. Members of the co-ops sell...