Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Real Food, Real Local

I'm attending the Real Food, Real Local Food Institute near Athens at the Eclipse Company Store. I went to learn more about the local food economy. The conference highlights local food systems knowledge and serves to showcase it. I was wowed by the years of collaboration that have built the food scene in this community. Though by afternoon my overcooked brain was called elsewhere, I wanted to share some of the day's interesting but random details.

Flower children of the sixties lived in Ohio (not just San Francisco), became business entrepreneurs, and created local food economies that are now being studied, replicated, and expanded. Local Roots in Wooster, Ohio, has served as a model.

The Small Business Association gave its first loan to a Worker-Owned Cooperative in the mid eighties to a restaurant in Athens (Casa Nueva Restaurant & Cantina).

There is a news emphasis on local foods that are sustainable food businesses through agencies liked HUD, USDA, historic preservation funds, and other community agencies, but all of them want a business plan, numbers, and some skin in the game.

Getting local food into communities, beyond farmers markets, includes food hubs and indoor market spaces that work like a farmers market on consignment such as Wild Ramp in Huntington, West Virginia, which is open weekdays year-round.

Jill from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream and Eat Well Distribution said that they look for local unique products made with fresh ingredients and no preservatives. Retailers want packages that stand out on shelves, demonstrations, marketing plans, and shelf life.

Alfonso Contriciani, the executive chef at Hocking College and owner of Plate Restaurant, talked about creating a heritage pork cooperative in Perry county involving fed with non-GMO corn, established pen sizes, and the value added to creating a brand of pork. This all piggybacked onto a discussion about the need for rebuilding or improving slaughter facilities that allow meat product farmers to preserve their identity by the USDA.

There were a lot of stories and the point of sharing them was to inspire and help others. Everyone wants to build infrastructure and has food business ideas.

What's yours?

Real Food Real Local