For more than a decade, Main Street Project has been working to create pathways out of poverty for the growing numbers of rural Latino immigrants relegated to working in low-wage farm and food industry jobs, with no benefits and no future. We developed programs to deliver specialized agriculture training and skills that could help immigrant workers increase their incomes and leverage new job opportunities. We quickly realized that our industrial food system is actually built on a foundation of low-wage work, externalized costs and direct subsidies; unsustainable by design and beyond repair. We needed a bigger approach. We needed a new system.
In 2010, we began development and testing of a new model for producing free-range poultry as part of a sustainable regional food system that would be accessible to aspiring immigrants and other limited resource farmers. We worked with our trainees to develop prototype facilities and a specialized core curriculum including hands-on poultry production and business planning. We integrated perennial crops (hazelnuts and elderberries) to the basic production model as a way to maximize system efficiency and began production.
We currently operate prototype ½-acre production units, located on several Northfield area farms. Each unit of production has a specialized function (research and development, training, or mentorship) and each has been integral to generating the data, knowledge, and experience needed to continuously improve MSP’s poultry-centered system model.
With six years of rigorous field testing under our belt, we’re confident that our regenerative poultry model has the potential to scale up, deliver triple bottom line results and change how food is produced around the world
We’re moving beyond our current prototype facilities to develop a consolidated 40-acre demonstration farm in Northfield, Minnesota that will put our model into action. The farm will support expanded training programs for aspiring immigrant and new farmers. It will support new training programs for established farmers looking to diversify their operations. It will provide opportunities for basic and applied research in close proximity to the University of Minnesota. And it will establish the baseline economic and ecological modeling and data we need to improve the sustainability and scalability of our system over time.