Saturday, April 20, 2013

Giving Credit & the National Strawberry

Yesterday, I posted on the Strawberry Sustainability project underway at the University of Arkansas, Regrowing a Regional Food System.  My post included a particularly well done video that tells the story.  I wanted to emphasize the importance of agricultural research directed toward sustainable production and local farming efforts.

Today, I offer a follow-up post. Additional information about the project reveals that the Walmart Foundation donated $3 million to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture for the project. The goal of the donation is "fresher strawberries for consumers and an economic boost for local farmers throughout the country."  A related goal could be more local strawberries sold at Walmart.  That seems like a win-win to me.

The donation went to the Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability, (CARS). The center will create and manage a national competitive grants program, awarding money to other public universities with agricultural research and outreach programs with projects to "expand where strawberries can be grown, enabling shorter trips for the berries between farm and consumer."

CARS involves interdisciplinary efforts across campus, beyond the horticulture experts mentioned in the video, and the strawberry project is similarly collaborative. "The ongoing collaboration between land grant universities, agricultural producers, food companies, and retailers is critical to improving quality, safety and efficiency, and reducing negative impacts across the agricultural supply chain," said professor Marty Matlock, engineering program director for CARS.  Marty is also the Executive Director of the Office of Sustainability at the University of Arkansas; his commitment to sustainability runs deep.

CARS will seek project proposals through its strawberry sustainbility initiative and will award grants in May to coincide with National Strawberry Month.


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