by Sasha Steinberg, MSU Office of Public Affairs
STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State University’s Extension Service is working to enhance direct sales, farmers markets, and local food development in northeast Mississippi as part of a new project “From Gravel Roads to City Streets” funded by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
Rachael Carter, Extension economist for the MSU Extension Service’s Center for Government and Community Development, is principal investigator for project, along with co-PIs Lauren Colby Nickels, Extension instructor for the Center for Technology Outreach, and Courtney Crist, assistant Extension professor of food science, nutrition and health promotion.
“Farmers in Mississippi are faced with many challenges when selling directly to consumers and have experienced a loss in direct-to-consumer sales or a decline in the number of farms that sell directly to consumers in five counties—Itawamba, Monroe, Clay, Lowndes and Noxubee—along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway,” Carter explained.
The MSU Extension Service, Mississippi Main Street Association, West Point Growth Alliance, Aberdeen Main Street, Itawamba County Farmers Market, Columbus Main Street, and Noxubee Alliance, are collaborating to create economic opportunity, foster food entrepreneurship, improve access to healthy foods, and strengthen the capacity of regional food systems in these counties.
Carter said the project’s main objectives are to improve marketing, enhance capacity and patron diversity, and recruit growers for existing farmers markets within these areas, as well as build capacity for local food development specifically in Noxubee County, where there is no market.
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