COVID-19 impacts to the agricultural community have been covered and discussed in multiple articles. Different programs and new offerings from small to large scale were created – at times hastily – to try and mitigate severe economic losses to farmers, workers, and the public. One of the lesser known of these was the COVID-19 Relief: Farm to Inmate Pilot Program developed in partnership with Dade County Farm Bureau, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), Florida Department of Corrections (FDC), and the office of Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes.
The goal was, “To provide relief for massive supply chain disruptions, Dade County producers distributed food to approximately 87,000 inmates across Florida.”
Local farms participating within the designated Region 4 were 5 Brothers Farm (Florida City), Accursio & Sons Farm (Homestead), and TKM (Belle Glade).
The pilot team was able to supply products at a profit for the farmers and under the costs requested by the FDC. As the program continued into the season more than 380,000 pounds of Florida-grown produce was purchased directly from producers; food that might otherwise not have been salvaged.
Tyra Phillips, Executive Director of Dade County Farm Bureau, is working to continue the conversation about how Florida's Agricultural industry can remain resilient during turbulent times: "Our team is actively connecting its members with business leaders and policy makers in efforts to create partnerships that can strengthen our industry for the go-forward," she said. "From hosting an online speaker series to attending the AFBF Annual Convention, I expect that we will be able to uncover more opportunities for producers in the times ahead."
As also noted in the press release, “Across the state, many producers expressed interest in continuing public-private partnerships. In addition to providing support for Florida's farmers, it is estimated that the Farm to Inmate Pilot Program saved taxpayers approximately $23,733 in less than three months. These cost savings could prove essential as the state works towards its economic recovery.”
The rapid creation, execution, and excellent results of the Farm to Inmate Pilot Program are what led to Dade County Farm Bureau being selected for the American Farm Bureau Federation's (AFBF) County Activities of Excellence (CAE) Program. While other bureaus from California, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky and Ohio were recognized for their efforts, too, Dade County Farm Bureau was the only recipient from the state of Florida.
For more information about the Dade County Farm Bureau visit the new: www.dadecountyfarmbureau.org.