Local food in spotlight at summit

Montgomery County has become a destination in the local food movement, and now advocates want to bring more people to the table.

The area’s home to more than 30 farms that produce and sell everything from beef to maple syrup, according to Sustainable Initiatives of Montgomery County’s Local Food Guide. Most are family-owned.

A coalition of groups say the farm-to-table movement is a boost to the region’s economy and hope political and economic decision-makers take notice. 

Local food marketing generated $8.7 billion in revenue nationwide in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“I think people will be surprised how much food is produced here in Montgomery County,” said Heather Shirk, executive director of the Montgomery County Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Area producers will be in the spotlight at a Local Food Summit expected to draw regional elected or appointed officials and other stakeholders to the Montgomery County 4-H Fairgrounds April 24. 

The visitors and convention bureau and Sustainable Initiatives are partnering with Purdue Extension and Crawfordsville economic development to host the free event.

Representatives from six local food producers and sellers will speak during a panel discussion moderated by Ashley Adair, the extension’s agriculture and natural resources educator. Jonathan Lawler of Greenfield’s Brandywine Creek Farms will deliver keynote remarks during lunch catered by The Juniper Spoon.

Those with full-time farm operations, wineries or breweries that directly sell 50 percent or more of their fresh produce, meat, eggs, wine or beer can have a booth at the event.

Lunch participants and exhibitors must RSVP to Adair at holmes9@purdue.edu by Tuesday.

Organizers hope the event creates networking opportunities between local producers and decision-makers.

“We are certain that there will be relationship-building here and this inaugural event will turn into something else,” Sustainable Initiatives president Sue Lucas said.

Workshops will also be held on home-based vending, wholesale growing and putting more locally-grown food in schools.

Another panel discussion will ponder the next steps in the movement. Shirk envisions a community-wide farm-to-fork dinner featuring menu items from local producers.

“What we’re looking for is to help people identify ways to move the movement further,” Adair said.

Source: http://www.journalreview.com/news/article_8a88df90-3dd7-11e8-ae62-9f481ceeec9b.html