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Finding Food topic of forum (03/06/2006)

"Finding Food" will be the theme of the first annual Local Foods Forum and Expo, to be held at Signature Restaurant's Events Center on March 10, 2006. The Forum and Expo will run from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. The event is organized by the Local Foods Subcommittee of the Winona County Economic Development Authority.

Cost for the event, including lunch, is $12.00. People can pay at the door, but pre-registration is required. The registration deadline 5 pm on March 7, 2006. To register, call Linda Grover at 507-459-2303 or send an email to linda.grover@semdc.com

"The Winona County Board and EDA have identified local food as a priority for economic development," said Jim Riddle, EDA President. "Our goal is to help build local food systems in the Winona area, During the Forum, we hope to identify barriers and opportunities so that farmers, processors, and buyers can work together to stimulate the production and consumption of local foods."

Riddle, who organized the Winona Farmers Market in the 1980's, said that there are many advantages to local foods, including freshness, taste, economic development, nutrition, health, and environmental protection.

"Studies show that most of the food we grow in this area is shipped out as low priced commodities, and most of the food purchased in the area is trucked in over 1,500 miles," said Riddle. "With higher fuel costs and more awareness of health, more and more people are interested in growing and buying foods locally."

Ken Meter, president of Crossroads Resource Center in Minneapolis, will be the morning keynote speaker. Ken's pioneering study of the farm and food economy of Southeast Minnesota, "Finding Food in Farm Country," illustrated the negative economic impacts of the commodity food system.

Mr. Meter, who has taught economics at the University of Minnesota and serves as an adviser to the Aldo Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, will speak on "Finding Food in Bluff Country."

Meter's keynote will be followed by a panel of local producers, including Jennifer Rupprecht, Earth Be Glad Farm; Rhys Williams, Featherstone Fruits and Vegetables; Chris Blanchard, Rock Spring Farm, and Troy DeRosier, Crystal Ball Dairy.

Rob Marqusee, Director of Rural Economic Development, Woodbury County, Iowa, will give the lunch keynote. Marqusee will describe how Woodbury County has dedicated the county's food dollars to buying local and organic foods, and created a property tax rebate for farmers who convert to organic production.

A delicious buffet lunch of locally grown foods will be served. A panel of local food processors, including Nadine Bayer, Great River Milling; Dave Ledebuhr, Ledebuhr Meat Processing; Harry Hoch, Hoch Orchards; and Darlene Gengler, Sno Pac Foods, will discuss local food processing.

Bruno Borsari, WSU professor of biology, will be the afternoon speaker. Borsari will describe his experiences building local food systems in Pennsylvania and northern Italy. He will also present plans for a WSU-initiated local foods project.

The final panel of the day will consist of food buyers, including Roger Bertsch, Peoples Food Coop; Lyn Halvorson, Winona School District 861; Liz Haywood, Bluff Country Coop; and Matt Schoeller, Signatures Restaurant.

The day will conclude with an optional roundtable discussion to provide guidance to the EDA on activities to capture the momentum and improve local food systems.

The Forum and Expo is organized with the assistance of the UMN's Experiment in Rural Cooperation; Land Stewardship Project; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services; UMN's Southwest Research and Outreach Center; and Winona State University. 


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