Nov 9, 2011
Our Local Food System News
“Manhattan Project” Demonstrates Power of Grassroots in Local Food
Manhattan, Ks.- One challenge in the local food movement is harnessing the energy bubbling up in communities, driven by consumer desire for healthier food from local, known sources. Although that energy can be a catalyst for action, it can also create a “noisy” environment in which it can be difficult to coalesce a real movement for change. Groups can inadvertently work at cross-purposes and create confusion around local food, rather than pull together for purposeful action.
Our Local Food (OLF) seeks to address this challenge by establishing several local partner committees in each chapter region. These committees will draw upon a diverse set of food system stakeholders including farmers, food business owners, farmers market managers, chefs, extension agents, food bank representatives, and nutrition profes-sionals. The idea is that regular meetings and networking among those dedicated to the development of a regional food system will inspire collaboration.
Partner committees are integral to the grassroots approach of KRC’s Our Local Food program as it allows each community to address its own challenges and opportunities. Committees receive support from the chapter staff and operate with minimal program restrictions, fostering owner-ship by local community members of their local food efforts, while providing stability and purpose from the program.
The newly launched OLF program and this approach logged its first real success over the summer with the formation of the Kaw River Valley chapter’s first major partner committee in Manhattan.
At the April meeting of the OLF Kaw River Valley steering committee, farm member Elaine Mohr met other producers, nonprofit and policy advocates, chefs, food activists, and food business managers from around the region. Energized by the positive group energy, she came away feeling that by working with Our Local Food, she could bring together a group of advocates to launch an awareness-building event in Manhattan and bring the program to the western part of the chapter in a meaningful way.
Mohr became inspired to provide an alternative to a recent $100 per plate local food event near Manhattan. Convinced that this event’s price tag delivered the message that local food is only for the elite, she wanted to present local food in an entirely different way and at a much more reasonable price point–$10 per plate.
She invited possible collaborators to a June meeting at a local coffee shop, along with Julie Mettenburg, the OLF-KRV coordinator, who acted as a facilitator. Attendees included representatives from Little Apple Brewery, University for Man, People’s Grocery, and the Manhattan Public Library, along with two local food and health activists, and Mohr, of Southside Gardens. Later other participants included included a KSU professor, an extension agent, a KSU student group and the Downtown Manhattan Farmers Market. At that first meeting, the group brainstormed possible events and agreed to continue to collaborate.
Once the Local Food Feast planning began, partner committee members pooled resources to develop what became more than a week’s worth of events running from August 28 to September 8.
The Downtown Manhattan Farmers Market hosted a kick-off event complete with a seasonal cooking demonstration. People’s Grocery sponsored an “eat local challenge” where participants submitted their recipes for a chance to win a farmers market gift basket. Following the Sunday feast, University for Man sponsored a class about how to eat local. The library screened the film Ingredient, and OLF- Kaw River Valley chapter provided a guide of Manhattan-area members to help participants find local food.
The Local Food Feast was a break-even venture and nearly sold out at 100 tickets, meeting its goals for the first year. As a bonus, it provided information and several hours of conversation opportunity about local food for a wide variety of participants. And although Mohr and her committee consider it a learning exercise, they agree that it achieved its purpose of making local food accessible to a wider variety of consumers. They will be re-convening soon to look ahead at what’s next for Our Local Food in Manhattan.
Based on the Manhattan experience, the Our Local Food – Kaw River Valley steering committee decided at its August meeting to pursue the formation of more partner com-mittees around the region, specifically in the Topeka area, the Atchison-Leavenworth area, and the Kansas City – Johnson County area. If you are interested in joining a partner committee in your community, please contact Julie Mettenburg at kaw rivervalley.olf @gmail.com or Mercedes Taylor-Puckett at mercedes.taylor puckett @gmail.com
SC Chapter Studies Economic Impact of Farmers Markets
Wichita , Ks. - The Our Local Food – South Central Chapter wrapped up a hectic first summer of tours, work-shops and events, all geared to equipping members with the new OLF tools and challenging consumers to visit farmers markets and eat local.
One focus was the economic impact of farmers markets. In partnership with
KSU Research and Extension Sedgwick County, OLF-SC conducted a Rapid Market Assessment at both the Kansas Grown! Farmers Market at 21st and Ridge and the Saturday Old Town Farmers Market, both located in Wichita.
Rapid Market Assessments are a valuable tool in determining the impact of farmers markets and local agriculture on municipal and county economies. They provide important information about consumer motivations for shopping at markets, how much consumers spend and are willing to spend at markets and surrounding businesses, total volume of market traffic, as well as a reliable estimate of market day sales.
Results from the surveys suggested that together the two markets generate an estimated $75,000 in local food dollars spent during a peak weekend in July or August. The information collected from the RMAs will be used to complete a Local Food Assessment Report, which will provide insight for local food capacity building and future OLF program planning.
As summer wrapped up, Our Local Food – South Central (OLF-SC) was 40 members strong with many members utilizing new elements in the OLF promotional toolkit. OLF-SC banners can be found at several of the the member’s market stands while OLF stickers can be seen on egg cartons, fruit packaging, and many other food items being sold by members. Bright red re-usable grocery totes with the OLF-SC logo can also be seen being filled by local food supporters at area farmers markets.
Many program developments and activities helped expand recognition and membership this summer. In June, OLF-SC débuted an e-newsletter sent to Vocal Locals, local food supporters who are interested in finding and using local food. This bi-weekly newsletter, reaching almost 200 [and counting] followers, features local food news, events, recipes, as well as a seasonal produce calendar and profiles of OLF- SC members.
OLF-SC kicked off the month of July by challenging folks to purchase food from OLF-SC members over the July 4th weekend. Participants were encouraged to share their recipes and photos of their local food meals through Facebook and e-mail. Those who participated won goodies like produce and gift cards from OLF-SC farm, business, and farmers market members.
Several activities are in motion to celebrate autumn and continue the momentum summer has brought to the program. On September 17, OLF-SC partnered with SlowFood Wichita/Flint Hills to host a farm tour and potluck picnic at Janzen Family Farms, a grass-fed beef and organic crop farm near Newton. OLF-SC partnered with the Wichita Health & Wellness Coalition and others to plan and celebrate National Food Day on October 24. The groups planned a “Set the Table with REAL Food” event that encourages people to cook a healthy meal and eat with family on Food Day.
A celebration of OLF-SC’s inaugural year will take place December 3 with the first annual Local Food Connections Workshop.
More information and updates about the events mentioned above and more can be found at ourlocalfood southcentral.blogspot.com or in the free e-newsletter. To subscribe to the newsletter visit the website and click on “Vocal Locals.”
Twin Rivers Chapter Logs Busy Summer
In mid-October, the Twin Rivers Chapter hosted a Local Soup Supper at the Emporia Downtown Wellness Kick-Off on October 12 and plans to participate in National Food Day (October 24) with information for the public and cooking demonstrations. On November 1, a “Growing Local Connections” workshop for members and persons interested in becoming OLF- Twin Rivers Chapter members will be held.
The chapter is also working with a Marketing Research class at Emporia State University in developing a research project on consumer attitudes toward buying local farmers' products. At summer’s end, the 2011 OLF-TR had 22 members (19 farms, 2 farmers markets, and 1 food business) and 47 Vocal Local members. For more information, contact Tracey Graham at firstname.lastname@example.org.