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A Little Recap of the City – County Residents’ Breakfast

Just back from the City – County Residents’ Breakfast meeting at Rachael’s Café, organized by Julie Thomas of the Monroe County Council and Dorothy Granger of the Bloomington City Council.

LGG board member and farmer Jodee Ellett and LGG Guild Manager Megan Huchison talked about the LGG on-line distribution project. Jodee explained that we are researching and developing an on-line food hub, to facilitate sales between consumers (including restaurants and institutions like schools and the university) and those who are growing the crops. This project involves creating an on-line environment for ordering, and then coordinating distribution and pick up of local products.

There were over a dozen people in attendance, and a number of issues and questions raised. We discussed challenges, such as:

  • finding capital and collaborative support to make the project a reality
  • locating good distribution space
  • educating farmers about GAP standards to make the food market-ready, and about opportunities for organic certification
  • educating the public about local food issues in general, and encouraging people to advocate for an improved local foods economy
  • ensuring that low-income people can be involved, either as volunteers or by using SNAP benefits (or both)
  • following organic certification standards to clearly indicate which products are organic, sustainable, and conventional, and keeping them separate
  • learning more about the Farm Bill 2012, from groups like the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
  • working collaboratively with other groups, including the City of Bloomington and Monroe County
  • the value of becoming a member of the Local Growers’ Guild
  • following the lead of similar projects in other parts of the country

Here’s a comment we just received from David McFarland, who was there bright and early this morning:

Meeting at Rachael’s…

Fascinating. I have no answers but it made the food crisis we face more real. I am still hoping to find a way to volunteer some time or labor. Several hours a week schlepping stuff at a distribution point will be good when that possibility emerges.

A note about the schools. MCCSC and RBBCSC seem like natural customers in that they are local government entities with predictable needs and budgets. Richland Bean Blossom feeds a lot of elementary students breakfast and lunch each school day and sends food home with some children every weekend. A presentation to the local school boards that bought in what the school was serving that day compared with a meal that LGG could make available for similar cost could go a long way. Maybe some local farmers would be willing to do some presentations to the kids during the winter months to help them understand food better, or help with kids growing herbs and little vegetables in pots or in a school hoop house?

Anyway, keep up the good work…

Many thanks to Rachael’s Café for providing such a welcoming space for this crucial community conversation! Rachael’s Café is one of those gathering places described by Ray Oldenburg in his book The Great Good Place as a “third place”— an accessible space essential to local democracy, community vitality, and public life.

 

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