Panel on Local Food

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JUST WHEN THE WINTER BLUES and economy woes had me
in a headlock, I attended a panel on local foods on February
24 hosted by Champaign County Net and grew a
new attitude: hope!
I gave an audible affirmation when Erin Harper, a
member of Engineers Without Borders at Illinois, spoke of
efforts to create a community garden at Washington
School in Urbana. I learned that the school board has
approved a community garden curriculum at Washington
and that each class will grow food and take it home and
perhaps one day sell it at a local food stand.
I was blown away when I learned from Zachary
Grant, Student Farm Coordinator at the Department of
Crop Sciences at Illinois, that they are in their second
year of production that 100% of their produce goes to
campus dining services, and they have a dream of
becoming a teaching farm.
When Dawn Aubrey, senior assistant director of university
housing, told us that she is able to use vegetables from
the student farm in the 24,000 meals housing provides to
students daily, I thought, “That’s incredible!” But there’s
more: one of their future goals is to compost food waste to
be used on the student farm.
The city has ongoing efforts too. Lisa Bralts, director of
Market at the Square, the Urbana-based Farmer’s Market,
said the market has been on-going for 30 years and the city
has managed it since the 1990s. The city is currrently crafting
a strategic plan for the market and would like your input.
I was also reminded of my personal connections to
Local food. Diann Moore of Moore Family Farm in Watseka
told the audience that for $400 a season you can get pesticide-
free vegetables, recipes to cook ‘em and instructions
to store ‘em. Participants pick up their vegetables once a
week at a drop-off location in Urbana or Champaign.
I am currently a member of the Common Ground Food
Coop in Urbana, one of 2,400 people, according to Jacqueline
Hannah, general manager. The Co-op is now open to the public
and 80% of their revenue comes from owners. They sell
locally grown foods produced within 150 miles of Urbana.
And then there was Wes Jarrell who started Prairie
Fruits Farm in 2003. They produce milk and cheese, grow
organic fruits and berries and do a lot of public education
around local foods. He told us of a “100 yard dinner” they
had at the farm in which everything that was eaten was
grown within 100 yards of the table.
I left the panel discussion feeling good about the local
foods movement in the region. And tonight I am going to
call in during WILL’s Illinois Gardner to ask experts there
how I might start a vegetable garden on my roof!
Hope and inspiration. They feed me, too.

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