January 18, 2004 - Go Erie: Nicole Mason, director of Allegheny's Creek Connections project, said she was eager to get involved in the agricultural cooperative after spending two years in Africa as a Peace Corp volunteer

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: January 2004 Peace Corps Headlines: January 18, 2004 - Go Erie: Nicole Mason, director of Allegheny's Creek Connections project, said she was eager to get involved in the agricultural cooperative after spending two years in Africa as a Peace Corp volunteer

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Nicole Mason, director of Allegheny's Creek Connections project, said she was eager to get involved in the agricultural cooperative after spending two years in Africa as a Peace Corp volunteer

Nicole Mason, director of Allegheny's Creek Connections project, said she was eager to get involved in the agricultural cooperative after spending two years in Africa as a Peace Corp volunteer

Nicole Mason, director of Allegheny's Creek Connections project, said she was eager to get involved in the agricultural cooperative after spending two years in Africa as a Peace Corp volunteer

Project plants seeds with area farmers

By Jim Martin
jim.martin@timesnews.com

MEADVILLE Bill Yockey was still a novice farmer when the marketplace taught him an important lesson.

It was more than 15 years ago that the Pittsburgh native realized that the lambs he was selling for a dollar a pound commanded three times that much at the store meat counter.

Something wasn't right, he decided.

Today, the owner of Townline Farm Poultry Reserve in Linesville is among a group of area farmers working to tip the balance of commerce in their favor by selling their fruits, vegetables and meat directly to consumers.

There's nothing new about direct marketing, a concept that predates the Wal-Mart age by thousands of years.

What is new is an Allegheny College project that brings together area farmers in a coordinated effort to sell their products to the college, area restaurants or other outlets.

The effort is the outgrowth of a senior project completed by Deserae Pegg, a 2003 graduate who helped organize a community dinner featuring locally grown foods.

The menu was extensive from cabbage and hamburgers to cheese, salads, apples and ice cream.

That dinner not only fed 800 people it led to a meeting of local farmers interested in working together.

Nicole Mason, director of Allegheny's Creek Connections project, said she was eager to get involved in the agricultural cooperative after spending two years in Africa as a Peace Corp volunteer. "I got back and wanted to continue that same kind of work," she said. "I'm very interested in sustainable agriculture and food security."

Mason, who serves as chairwoman for the project, wasn't the only one interested.

The effort has drawn the attention and the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's rural development specialist and the Keystone Development Center.

However, it's not yet clear where the group's efforts will lead, Mason said.


Marcus Buckley, the college's vice president for finance and administration, said the school hasn't made any commitments yet.

"We are not quite to that point," he said. "We are certainly interested in having that discussion."

"We need to explore many different markets and not just focus on the college," Mason said. "We need to do a feasibility study to see what other markets are."

Darrell Frey, a Sandy Lake area farmer who markets his organic restaurants in Pittsburgh, said the cooperative can provide farmers with a range of benefits. "I think it's a great thing," he said. "Once a co-op exists it tends to be self-reinforcing. More people are encouraged to join the group and expand what they grow. Customers like it and ask for more things."

Yockey, who specializes in pasture-raised turkeys, sees the cooperative as a way to educate buyers and increase profits.

"There are different reasons to be involved in this," he said. "I think we are going to give this a try."

The group's direction will be determined in part by a steering committee scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Allegheny's Quigly Hall.

Mason said the group expects to draft bylaws, launch a market survey and take stock of what members are able to produce.

"It's really in the very early stages," she said. "But those are some big steps we can check off the list."

JIM MARTIN can be reached at (814) 724-6397 or by e-mail.


Last changed: January 18. 2004 12:57AM

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Story Source: Go Erie

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Agriculture; Cooperatives

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