local food sourcing
This piece is part of a series exploring the top 10 states in the Strolling of the Heifers 2015 Locavore Index.
Wisconsin was a forward-thinking sustainable agriculture state before the local food movement was “on trend.” Seedstock had the opportunity to interview three people who are at the head of the state’s local food movement. Each person told us a unique story about how deeply Wisconsin’s sustainable roots have grown.
Wisconsin: At the Forefront of Sustainable Agriculture Education
Valerie Dantoin, a faculty member of the Sustainable Food and Agriculture Associate Degree Program at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, in Green Bay, Wis., has a master’s degree in agronomy. While she was working on her Ph.D., she met Rick Adamski, a farmer. Upon meeting Adamski, Dantoin “switched gears” and ended up moving to Podanski’s 100-year-old family dairy farm and embraced the farming lifestyle.
Since its start in 2005, Brattleboro, Vermont-based Post Oil Solutions has focused on the issues surrounding climate change. Along the way, the community development group incubated two companies: Food Connects and Windham Farm and Food. In February of 2015, the two startups merged.
“Food justice and food systems are naturally related issues, so we began doing some programming around community food security,” says Helen Rortvedt, communications director of Food Connects. “A local food hub was created and housed under Post Oil Solutions for a couple of years then set free to become its own limited liability corporation. That organization is Windham Farm and Food, LLC.”
What makes a local food system?
That’s what the Ozarks Regional Food Policy Council set out to discover through their food system assessment for the 20 counties surrounding Springfield, Missouri.
Their findings show the strengths and weaknesses of the local food economy. The process also, brought together stakeholders from across the state to move the local food system forward. They determined a need to build more food hub facilities, while giving small growers the business resources to move their company forward.
Nick Carter, Adam Moody and Chris Baggott came together a couple of years ago to invest in a processing facility in Greenfield, Indiana. Their goal: to launch a value-added sustainable company to place local foods in grocery stores.
Husk grows market share in the local frozen food market through a combination of entrepreneurial know-how and the power of social media. At the close of their second growing season, the company has established market share for local farmers in a grocery store world dominated by multinational wholesalers.
Nick Carter, president of Husk, has a family background in farming and discovered a niche market for meat rabbits in his native Indiana. His company Meat the Rabbit allowed him to use his farming background while learning the ins-and-out of the wholesale sustainable agriculture market. Co-founders Moody and Baggott, with successful technology startup and food processing backgrounds, were ideal bedfellows when Carter decided to branch out from game meats into the world of locally grown, flash-frozen foods.
Following reports of substandard foods served in prison cafeterias and resulting objections from prison inmates this year, awareness about the quality of foods served to our nation’s inmates has increased.
A number of non-profit organizations and innovative correctional facilities have taken to improving their food service operations in recent years by working to source more local foods for inmates, with an emphasis on increasing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as other healthy foods.
Robert Egger is the Founder and President of L.A. Kitchen, a culinary arts job training program for people coming out of foster care and incarceration. He also launched D.C. Central Kitchen, a similar effort, in 1989. L.A. Kitchen is currently in pilot phase and will launch in a new space in 2015. Read more about L.A. Kitchen in Seedstock here.
At the Seedstock Reintegrating Agriculture conference in November, Egger delivered a keynote in which he talked about waste, both in terms of food and human potential, and opportunity, in existing community resources and in the impending wave of older people who will be hungry in coming years.
The Riverside Food Co-op is not only increasing access to locally-produced foods in Riverside, California, but the organization is also bringing other entities together toward this cause.
Riverside was hit hard by the Great Recession, and according to Nick Melquiades, a member of the Co-op’s CORE (Community of Outstanding and Resourceful Entrepreneurs) Team, the Riverside Food Co-op was borne from those difficult times.
“The Co-op formed in response to the recession in Riverside, including real estate foreclosures and a bad economic climate,” Melquiades says. “We needed something more independent.”
The City of Lexington, Kentucky has initiated a new local foods program as part of its economic development efforts.
Tapped to manage this new initiative is Lexington native Ashton Potter Wright, who has served as local food coordinator for Mayor Jim Gray’s office since the first week of June.
Wright previously served as operations manager of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Child Care campaign, where she was able to network with people from around the country. She holds a doctorate in public health from the University of Kentucky and worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She also serves as president of the board for Lexington-based Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition.
“The position was in the works for three years or so,” says Wright. “It’s modeled after a similar position in Louisville, Kentucky.” Her territory includes not only Lexington, but also Lexington’s county, Fayette County.