Local Food to Local People
Hunt for Ambassadors:Demonstrations Showcase Area Foods, Farms
|A Kansas coalition trying to teach the merits of buying and eating locally produced food brings ag educators, urbanites and youths to the Lawrence, Kan., farm of Dan Nagengast and Lynn Byczynski to see how they raise vegetables sustainably. Photos by Dan Nagengast.|
With both healthful eating and farmer livelihoods in mind, nutritionist Nancy OConnor brings a compelling message to hundreds about the benefits of consuming locally produced food. Armed with a SARE Professional Development grant, OConnor forged partnerships with diverse groups, including Extension and the nonprofit Kansas Rural Center, to run cooking demonstrations that deliver an eat local credo to expand the market for Kansas foods. Her audiences include family and consumer science extension agents, support groups of mothers with limited resources, youth, and seniors living in assisted housing, among others.
Part of the Community Mercantile Education Foundation in Lawrence, Kan., OConnor teamed with others to hold workshops and events that seem to really touch people. My goal is that every person who comes to a class becomes a spokesperson for local foods, OConnor said. If I believe in it passionately, and I feed them and give them tools and information, they will go out and be different. An Extension annual meeting featured a dinner of locally grown products from appetizers to dessert and was attended by local and state political leaders.
A Local Food to Local People field day co-sponsored by the Kansas Rural Center and the Community Mercantile Co-op drew hundreds to the cooperatively owned natural food grocery store and a nearby vegetable farm. And at a two-day conference for state ag educators, complete with pumpkin cake, salsa and chips made with Kansas ingredients, OConnor received rave reviews4.1 out of 5 average from participant evaluations, with 4 being informed enough to implement the program in their counties. Before the end of the project, OConnor and Extension specialist Susan Krumm will run a week-long camp for teenagers that will include visits to farms, food preparation and nutrition lessons, culminating in a meal of local foods cooked by kids for their parents.
OConnor hopes the camp idea will take off with extension educators who might replicate it in their areas to boost both awareness and sales of locally grown foods. We want kids to be ambassadors, she said. If you can change the way a 12- to 14-year-old thinks, you have the potential to change the world.
[For more information, go to www.sare.org/projects/ and search for ENC00-047]