Harkin Institute Honors Main Street Project

Rocky Casillas news

The Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement is honoring Main Street Project as one of the top 10 wellness and nutrition programs in the country. Rocky Casillas, Director of Community Outreach and Extension Education at Main Street Project, will travel to Des Moines to accept the award and present at the Institute’s symposium on April 3rd.

Read through Rocky’s description of Main Street Project’s programs, and you’ll see why the Harkin Institute was impressed:

“In our own town of Northfield, Minnesota, countless families, particularly minority and
low-income, are unable to obtain safe, fresh, wholesome foods for balanced diets and proper nourishment. Main Street Project has devoted over a decade to creating pathways out of poverty for the growing population of rural immigrants and will continue to do so.

“With our 100-acre Central Farm operations, we are working to catalyze a regional cluster of poultry production units by 2020 that will be the first step in driving economic development, agricultural employment and improved access to food. People are central to everything we do. Changing the way food is produced at any scale and in any region requires a strong and unified community composed of producers, distributors, consumers and supporters. This is why we have implemented what we call our ‘Ladder of Engagement’ – a way to help people navigate through our system.

“The Ladder of Engagement begins with Sharing our Roots. Sharing Our Roots is our community engagement program that seeks to improve local access to affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate foods for multi-generational families in underserved populations, while renewing our connection to the land. Our farm offers a friendly, relaxing and safe environment to share food, knowledge and stories. Through our workshops, farm tours and community harvest days, we are bringing the food sovereignty movement to the hearts of our communities.

“Sharing Our Roots then funnels people into several other opportunities, depending on individual interests: Vegetable Production Training, Community LandShare, and Agripreneur Training (Basic and Advanced).

“Our Vegetable Production Training Workshops support aspiring farmers in cultivating healthy and culturally appropriate foods. Individuals participate in a full production cycle learning experience on our farm – from preparing the soil, transplanting and managing crops, to marketing of products. Come harvest time, trainees receive supplemental income through the selling of food produced, while community members gain access to affordable, locally grown food.

“Accessing land poses a great challenge to beginning farmers. Thus, graduates of our
Vegetable Production Training interested in growing food independently or as part of a
cooperative can transition into our Community Landshare Program. Through this program, members are allotted plots within our 100-acre Farm for a small association fee. Producers manage their parcels using the skills and knowledge gained from the training workshops, while Main Street Project staff provides on-going technical assistance to members.

“Along our second track, our Basic Agripreneur Training program provides introductory on-site field production training and small business management education in the classroom. Dedicated graduates of our introductory training are invited to participate in our Advanced Agripreneur Training program. This training gives immigrant farmers direct, hands-on experience developing and managing a regenerative agriculture operation at one of our poultry facilities. It provides a supported environment for trainees to build experience in poultry production, operations management, marketing and finance through actively applying all aspects of production with their own flocks.:”

The Harkin Institute honor comes with a $500 prize. In addition, Main Street Project will be featured in the Institute’s 2019 Harkin on Wellness publication. Read the publication here. We are featured on page 6!

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