Community Farm Alliance (CFA) was founded in 1985 with the goal of supporting Kentucky’s farmers and rural communities. CFA was initially formed in response to the rising pressures of the farm credit crisis. This agricultural recession was the result of record production highs, and led to a severe dip in the price of crops. Farmers had no choice but to struggle through ineffectivepolicy and unreliable credit systems in order to avoid total bankruptcy. In many cases, the weight of these situations became so overbearing that several farmers took their own lives. The founding members of CFA united to create a suicide hotline for those in need. CFA was originally created to provide Kentucky farmers with a supportive sense of community amidst the unjust tides of the current legislation. In many ways, they have stayed true to their original purpose to this day, as they bring justice and equity to the food and farming systems of Kentucky.
CFA approaches their work by creating a long-term, grassroots dialogue with the populations they’re involved with. After all, their goal is not just to build healthy food systems, but also, unifiedcommunities. CFA has made a major impact on the Kentucky landscape through their Farmers Market Support Program (FMSP). Through this initiative, CFA has been able to serve 59 (and counting) farmers markets across the state. The FMSP provides technical assistance, market manager cost-share opportunities, and education through webinars and blogs, all of which has proven crucial to the development of thriving farmers markets.
As a part of their Healthy Communities Initiative, CFA launched Kentucky Double Dollars, a statewide incentive program that doubles SNAP, WIC, and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition vouchers when used to purchase Kentucky grown products. With the help of the USDA, Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy/Kentucky Ag Development Fund, WellCare, Passport, and other private organizations, CFA is able to bring local food access to low-income demographics, while putting more dollars into the pockets of Kentucky farmers.
In recent months, CFA has been focused on their Community Ambassador Program, a project that will allow them to expand their organizing and communication capabilities. The Community Ambassador Program will train five dynamic individuals to engage with communities across Appalachian Kentucky and learn about inspirational stories. Telling stories from the grassroots is an essential component of the work at CFA and speaks to their progressive outreachas a large organization.
For over 35 years, CFA has actively worked to improve the lives of food systems practitioners through passing legislation and providing constructive resources. CFA plants the seed that sparks progressive growth in a community, yet the organization remains “the best kept secret”in the public eye, according to Communications Director, Maggie Smith. Often times, CFA may not harvest the crop in all its glory, but there is no denying their role in bringing about positive change. The team at CFA recognizes that in order to remediate the inequities that our food system is built upon, they must involve people from a variety of backgrounds. CFA’s mission to bridge the gap between farmers rights and legislation is helping transform Kentucky food systems.