• Emory University forms partnership to buy local produce

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    ATLANTA (AP) - Emory University is throwing its support behind an effort to foster a new generation of farmers close to Atlanta, the university announced Wednesday.

    The school has agreed to buy produce from farms established within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of the city by the nonprofit Conservation Fund.

    The Conservation Fund is raising money to buy existing farmland, protect it from new development and lease it to farm businesses.

    Emory officials said they did not have any estimates on how much the purchases would cost. The farms have yet to be set up.

    The produce would supply the school's dining halls and help Emory achieve its goal of sourcing 75% of its food from local or sustainably grown sources by 2025, according to university officials.

    "Emory's partnership with The Conservation Fund will ensure that farmers have a reliable market for their crops, while improving healthy and sustainable food options for our students, faculty, patients and employees," Emory's director of sustainability initiatives, Ciannat Howett, said in a statement.

    When deciding whether food is sustainable, the school considers its proximity to campus, the wages of workers who harvest it and the size of the farms it comes from, among other factors.

    The school already buys produce from an 11-acre (4.5 hectare) organic farm on one of its campuses.

    The Conservation Fund plans to offer the land for sale to farmers at the end of their lease term.

    The program aims to preserve farmland and make it affordable for "next-generation farmers," officials said.

    The fund is currently evaluating several potential farm sites for the program and expects to make its first purchase in 2020, said Stacy Funderburke, co-director of The Conservation Fund's Working Farms Fund.

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