Local Foods Important to Region 5
In central Minnesota, locally grown, healthy foods are increasingly getting into the hands of the region’s residents, beyond the consumers who attend farmer’s markets. Through the work of a network of partners to support growers, increase markets, and improve health outcomes, the region’s local, healthy foods value chain is increasing economic opportunity and improving quality of life in multiple ways.
The region’s work in this topic began in 2011 with the receipt of a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant, which lead to the completion of the Resilient Region plan in 2012. The Resilient Region plan created a new vision for the five-county region, the only planning region in Minnesota where all the counties are classified as economically distressed. Through extensive and targeted public outreach and university assistance, the region gathered ideas and analysis to create a plan with guiding principles, vision and values, recommendations and action steps, and implementation strategies for economic development, community development, housing, and related areas such as land use and transportation. In addition, the effort resulted in a policy toolkit, model comp plan, and list of references for area municipalities in the rural region to utilize. Supporting the region’s agriculture and health as both an economic sector and quality of life outcome were priority areas identified through the planning process.
A related initiative led to the staff of Region Five Development Commission, which serves as the area’s U.S. Economic Development Administration-designated Economic Development District (EDD), and partners to work with area municipalities to analyze each community’s assets to help them identify their own paths forward.