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Posts Tagged ‘Southeast Ohio food value chain’

Integration Acres' Chris Chmiel speaks to crowd

At least one hundred people, representing every node (from farmer to consumer) along our food value chain turned out for Monday night’s Local Foods Town Hall meeting at the Athens Community Center.

Organized by ACEnet‘s Leslie Schaller, and supported by partners 30 Mile Meal Project, Rural Action, Athens Food Policy Council, Athens City/County Health Department, Live Healthy AppalachiaAthens Farmers Market and Community Food Initiatives, the event was the first of many conversations to showcase the economic, environmental, and health benefits and potential of our vibrant food system.

Kurt Belser

About 40 people offered commentary on their local foods needs, struggles and successes. Many stressed the need for greater investment in shared infrastructure and individual enterprises. Kurt Belser, co-owner of Athen’s newest food processing enterprise, The Wingnuttery, described his path from student to farmer at Green Edge Gardens and a stint at CFI, before he and his partner Marie DeMange launched this new enterprise. The Wingnuttery will process an abundance of local nuts (no implied comment on the local foods community meant), including walnut, hazelnut, Shagbark hickory, chestnut and beechnut. Kurt added that he was the youngest producer in the room, but was quickly followed by a man one year younger, demonstrating that our system includes a hopeful crop of young farmers!

Matt Starline

Becky Rondy

We also heard from Matt Starline, co-owner of Starline Organics, Becky Rondy of Green Edge Gardens, and Warren Fussner, an Amish farmer who sells his crops at the Chesterhill Produce Auction where he serves as an Advisory board member.

Kip Parker

Kip Parker, manager of the Athens Farmers Market, noted that 2012 marks the 40th year of operation for this highly regarded public market and that the AFM generates significant income for its farmers and other food vendors.

Michelle Wasserman

Local food entrepreneurs also spoke about the importance of our food-producing community in keeping their enterprises growing. Michelle Wasserman, Casa Nueva‘s food coordinator, underscored Casa’s commitment to support local farmers and producers. Their website lists nearly 40 Ohio sources, most of them within 30 miles of Athens.

Jessica Kopelwitz, co-owner of Fluff Bakery, expressed her appreciation to the farmers and food producers who provide many of her menu ingredients. Just a year old, Fluff has already created seven jobs.

Christine Hughes, co-owner of Village Bakery and two other eateries that extensively use local ingredients, urged attendees to oppose hydrofracking operations in Athens and surrounding counties.  Hughes stated that farming and fracking cannot coexist without damaging our local foods economy. She cited instances in New York State where major purchasers of regional foods, concerned about groundwater supplies and crops and animals tainted by the chemical brine used in this industrial process, are terminating contracts with farmers near fracking operations.

Connie Davidson

Local foods remain a draw for visitors to the region. Connie Davidson, owner of Sand Ridge B&B, said her guests enjoy her locally sourced breakfast menus that are prepared with foods from King Family Farm, Integration Acres, Sticky Pete’s, Crumbs Bakery, several produce vendors and Bircher Retreat Farm.

Larry Payne

Representatives of county government also spoke, with Athens County Commissioners Lenny Eliason and Larry Payne acknowledging the personal and public benefits of local food production.

Several members of the Athens Food Policy Council – including Mary Nally, Bob Fedyski, and Larry Burmeister – spoke about their involvement in promoting a healthy, equitable and sustainable food system.

Warren Taylor

The last speaker of the evening was Warren Taylor, co-owner of Snowville Creamery and one of several regional farmers and producers that have launched a food distribution center in Columbus to increase local foods market opportunities. While known for his often lengthy treaties on food sovereignty, Warren was upbeat and the only person to speak for the allotted time of 90 seconds!

John Gutekanst

Local foods – of course – also made an appearance – corn chips from Shagbark Seed & Mill Co. and Frog Ranch salsa. John Gutekanst, owner of Avalanche Pizza, brought in armfuls of delicious thick pizzas for the crowd. During his turn at the podium, he said that his business will use two tons of King Family Farm sausage on their pizzas this year, a delicious example of the economic impact of choosing foods produced within our community.

For more on this event, read Brenda Evan’s Town Hall Trumpets Local Food Economy story.

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