Executive Director, The Good Acre
Combine people, produce, purpose, and passion and what do you get? The Good Acre—a nonprofit food hub that operates programs to support local agriculture efforts in and around the Twin Cities. The food hub’s main goal is to expand the market for immigrant and underserved farmers by building a strong local food infrastructure.
Rhys Williams, Executive Director of The Good Acre, says a strong food infrastructure is the foundation that the food system rests upon. “It touches all aspects of the food system from planting, through maintenance and harvest, to processing and distribution,” Rhys explained. “It also includes the marketing and sales of food products. Everything within the system is dependent on a solid infrastructure.”
Rhys understands what it takes to grow and distribute local food because he has worked in almost every aspect of the food system—as a farmer, wholesale buyer, consultant, and advocate.
“I have been fortunate to have been involved in many aspects of the food system,” Rhys told us. “Soon after I finished my time in the Peace Corps, I started farming with some friends. I later continued on different farms throughout the country where I had the opportunity to grow a wide array of crops. My farming experience helped me when I entered the distribution world. I was a buyer for an organic wholesaler where I got to learn another side of the food system. Now, I’m with The Good Acre and see how each piece of the system is connected and couldn’t exist without the other.”
The Real Cost of Food
Rhys’ comprehensive background in food systems and unique vision shines through in The Good Acre’s holistic food infrastructure work. The food hub’s three main programs touch on all aspects of growing, processing and consuming food—from providing facilities and warehouse space to farmers to operating a multi-farm CSA.
Rhys is also passionate about selling food at a fair price, and advocates for voluntary price agreements between farmers and buyers. Rhys encourages all of the organizations that he works with at The Good Acre to adopt a pricing strategy that reflects the true cost of growing food. He would like to see more local restaurants, grocers, and agencies like schools and prisons make a commitment to source food from local farmers at a fair price, too.
“I think voluntary price agreements between farmers and buyers would help to stabilize the market. It hurts everyone when we race to the lowest price. This approach is not sustainable, and farmers will not survive if we continue to operate this way. Fair pricing is the key to sustainability,” Rhys said.
Spend Time on the Farm
It’s no surprise that Rhys tells anyone who asks about working in food access to start on the farm. He’s passionate about his time spent farming and feels that the best way to see the system as a whole is to start at the beginning.
“Learn the issues and challenges that the farmer faces, and then follow the farmer’s food as it travels through the system,” Rhys urged. “If you are unable to physically work on a farm, then find another way to contribute such as volunteering at a community garden or a food shelf. These kinds of experiences will open your eyes to how big the system is and how many local lives it touches.”
He hopes that if more people gain a clear understanding of food infrastructure, then we can begin to see real change in our food system.