local food sourcing
“The reality is that there is just less water available for agriculture than there’s ever been. As you look to the future, the amount of food production that’s needed and the amount of water we’ll have to do it, is going to require that we grow the food with less water than we do today.”–Matt Liotta, PodPonics
Selling their tubs of mixed greens wholesale to major retailers such as Krogers, Whole Foods and The Fresh Market, PodPonics has become a name to know in the world of commercial-scale hydroponic produce.
The ‘grow local buy local’ movement has finally arrived in Wyoming, but informing Wyomingites about food justice, food deserts and the importance of locally produced organic food sources can be a challenge. Luckily, Jamie Purcell, Executive Director of the startup Wyoming Food for Thought Project, a 501 (c)3 founded in 2012, is facing the challenge head on and so far, it’s working.
After discovering a lifelong dream of becoming an architect didn’t live up to the reality, Purcell spent time in several nonprofits beginning with a year in the AmeriCorps program, living in poverty while assisting in summer programs for low income children.
“When you don’t work in poverty programs, it’s easy to assume everyone lives like you do,” says Purcell. “But the truth is, for a lot of people in our community, they live in poverty.”
Increasingly, food service directors and purchasing officers in schools, hospitals, and other institutions are being tasked with the mission of finding local producers of the food items they buy on a regular basis. They are doing this to support regional food systems, local economies, and the health of their constituents.
California’s San Luis Obispo County has a plethora of microclimates that enable farmers to produce a great variety of crops. Promoting a local food culture that takes advantage of that diversity and abundance is the mission of Central Coast Grown, a San Luis Obispo-based non-profit organization that strives to build awareness, production and consumption of locally grown food by conserving farmland and supporting young farmers and urban farming.
According to the organization’s executive director Jenna Smith, Central Coast Grown works to conserve land currently in agricultural production, as well as to educate the public about food and its origins.
“We want the sustainable agriculture movement to grow in San Luis Obispo County,” Smith says. “Agriculture is the top industry in the county. We want to promote local food literacy among the community.”
Across the country, small-scale local and sustainable food enterprises are emerging: urban farms, food hubs, community gardens, and more. All of these operations, however small, help create a new, more localized agricultural paradigm. But in order to overhaul our entire food system, President and Co-founder of The Food Commons Larry Yee says we need to think much bigger.
“Our overall objective is to demonstrate a whole new food system for local and regional food,” said Yee. “I don’t know of anyone else who is actually trying to create a whole system with all the necessary infrastructure for a highly effective, efficient local food system. There are people who are working on pieces of it, but we were crazy enough to try to tackle the whole thing.”
At Urban Rural Nexus, Food Distributor in Colorado Makes Connections that Grow the Local Food MarketplaceSeptember 24, 2013 | Melonie Magruder
Back when she was running the Lyric Cinema Café, she made a conscious choice to make sure her café was stocked with the same kinds of foods she would pack for her children’s lunches – something fresh, healthful and, most importantly, local.
“We were sort of a glorified concession stand,” Mozer said. “But we believe in supporting our local farmers. And where we’re located, somewhere between urban and rural, you can find a lot of farms.”
The recently established DROPP, Distributors of Regional & Organic Produce and Products, is a side project for the Great Basin Community Food Cooperative in Reno, Nevada. The food cooperative came into existence in 2005 under a buyer’s club model. Although the food coop is still going strong, DROPP is an effort to improve the infrastructure between the informed consumer and the sustainable grower and is best described as a food hub where farmer and fork collide.
“As we were building new relationships with local farmers we started sending out local availability lists to restaurants and members of our coop just saying ‘this farm has this and this farm has that.’
A lot of farmers will tell you that the food grown through sustainable agriculture is only part of the equation. Creating infrastructure for small growers through food hubs, incorporating marketing and educational materials for customers and overhauling the perception of organic food in the United States are all essential parts of a successful food evolution. Indeed, there’s more to food hubs than just food. Just ask Kristen Suokko of Local Food Hub in Charlottesville, VA.
“We see Local Food Hubs nationally having impacts on a range of interrelated issues: food security, food safety (knowing where the food comes from), local economic vitality, land stewardship, and public health,” shares Suokko.