In Ohio, nearly 1 in 7 households experiences food insecurity to the extent that it cannot afford balanced meals on a regular basis, a rate higher than the national average, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture.
At the same time, many Ohio farmers face low commodity prices, decreased foreign markets for their crops and severe weather that has triggered crop losses.
With those challenges in mind, Ohio Smart Agriculture: Solutions from the Land, a statewide farmer-led initiative that includes representatives from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University, has drafted a plan for Ohio agriculture to become more sustainable.
To accomplish that, the group has come up with recommendations including expanding the available agricultural workforce, funding research on urban farming and safe ways to apply fertilizers that don’t jeopardize water quality, and streamlining the process for farmers to gain contracts to sell their crops to local school systems.
For those struggling to feed themselves or their families, Ohio Smart Agriculture wants to increase public commitment to programs including Produce Perks that help low income families get fresh produce on a regular basis. And the group wants to explore ways to assist individuals who don’t qualify for state or federal food programs and yet still struggle to pay for nutritious meals.
“Farmers often feel like people don’t listen to them, but this project offers a chance for their solutions to be heard and acted upon,” said Casey Hoy, a CFAES professor and project advisor. “The recommendations represent ideas from across the spectrum of Ohio farms and people who work with food security and the environment. It’s not about more of the same, it’s about how Ohio farmers can solve some of the biggest challenges we face statewide.”
For a full list of Ohio Smart Agriculture’s proposed recommendations, visit go.osu.edu/smartag.
For a video on Ohio Smart Agriculture, visit go.osu.edu/smartagvideo.