Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nearly 70 local citizens attend Fresh Network community meeting

Last night's introductory meeting of the Clinton County Fresh Network was very well attended, and we were pleased with the number of farmers and citizens who showed up to learn about this new initiative and network with the local distributors who came to present.

If you weren't able to attend, below is a recap story about the meeting that ran in today's Wilmington News Journal. Here is a link to the story, but it's also copied below.


2/24/2010 11:55:00 PM
Keeping Hope Fresh
Wilmington News Journal


The state of the local food economy in Clinton County was the topic of discussion last night at a formal introduction of a new food collaborative, the Clinton County Fresh Network, at Wilmington College.

Farmers, restaurant owners, food distributors and local residents—nearly 70 in all— filled a dining room in Pyle Center to listen to the presentation, organized by the WC food project Grow Food, Grow Hope Garden Initiative.

Clinton County Commissioner Randy Riley and WC director of community relations Chris Burns-DiBiasio opened the meeting with an introduction and history of the local food efforts in Clinton County.

“Two years ago, when unemployment here was around two percent, no one was worried about food,” Riley said. “But when DHL announced they were leaving, that changed everything. Now we have the second highest unemployment rate in the state. When you get to those situations, you have to change the way you live.”
 
One new initiative that was born of that economic climate, Riley said, was the idea of creating a local network of farmers, distributors and consumers that could help bridge the gaps between them all.
“It’s about creating a strong, local food system where everyone has access to the local food that we produce here in Clinton County,” DiBiasio said.
 
Aileen Ash, the Grow Food, Grow Hope Grower’s Co-Op Coordinator and organizer of the Fresh Network, addressed the crowd of mostly farmers with the results of an extensive survey sent out to food producers and consumers.
 
The survey found that a majority of consumers would pay more for food at grocery stores if it was grown locally, she said. Likewise, the majority of respondents said they would pay more at restaurants if they knew where the food came from.
 
“This network will directly benefit our farmers, which will in turn directly benefit our local economy,” Ash said.
Representatives from Sodexo, the regional food supplier to WC, Produce One, a Dayton area produce distributor, and Kroger spoke to the crowd about ways in which Clinton County farmers can sell products to their companies.
 
“We’re listening to our customers, and our customers are telling us that they want to support local products,” said Rob Saffron, a regional representative for Kroger. “Clearly there are some gaps in the way of connecting with local growers, and that’s why we’re here.”
 
All of the speakers highlighted similar concerns with dealing with local farmers: food safety, the amount and quality of food grown, and the traceability of the food back to the individual farms.
“Our main concern is that the food we buy is safe, and that it be a quality that satisfies our customers,” said Dean McBurney, a representative of Produce One.
 
All of the farmers present received information on how to begin selling their products to area distributors.
When the presentation was finished, several farmers spoke individually with the distributors and exchanged information.
 
“That’s what this network is all about,” said Riley. “It’s about making connections and knowing who can grow what.”
 
For more information on the Clinton County Fresh Network, visit www.growfoodgrowhope.com, or call Aileen Ash at 382-6661 ext. 488.

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