Veggies good for the body, economy

The price of food in supermarkets is on the rise.

Simultaneously, the ability for local farms to stay afloat in the economy is dwindling.

Proponents for a locally based food system say the two problems can add up to a solution.

“I hear people and the news talking about a food crisis,” said Marissa Ortega-Welch, with Olympic Community Action Programs in Port Angeles. “With gas prices it’s more difficult to distribute imported food and with people buying food from out of the area, it’s become more difficult for local farmers to make ends meet.

“But if people and organizations look to their neighboring farmers, buy their crops and keep those dollars on the North (Olympic) Peninsula, our bodies will be healthier as will our local economy.”

The subject of buying locally grown food, the economics of the current North Peninsula agricultural economy and ways to build a strong local food system are all topics to be presented at the Food for Our Future summit from 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, May 16, in Blyn.

The Washington State University Extension office in Jefferson County and OlyCAP teamed up to organize the meeting, which will engage both stakeholders and local citizens into planning for local agriculture and local food availability.

“The whole idea is to think about how we can support ourselves, support our health and support our economy,” Ortega-Welch said. “We will have guest speakers to describe how their efforts to set up a food system in other areas have gone and we will engage people to provide input on how something like that can happen here.”

Keynote speaker Ken Meter, a leading food economist, has been studying the North Peninsula’s rural agricultural economy for about a year. He will present his findings during the summit.

“We will also be providing a lunch, mostly made up of locally grown foods, by Alder Wood Bistro,” Ortega-Welch said. “Then we will cover successful programs going on in this area and those going on in other areas.”

Local programs include farmers’ markets, community gardening efforts and a community supported agricultural box, where someone can pay money up front and receive a box of veggies each week.

“Anytime you can show an investment in the local agricultural economics, it makes a difference financially and in the minds of the farmers,” Ortega-Welch said. “This area used to be agriculturally based and has the potential to grow incredible food. It isn’t a step back to buy veggies off these farms, it’s a step forward.”

She said the food system plan will involve taking local food beyond its current niche of farmers’ markets and high-end restaurants to an institutional level.

“We have a lot of parents coming to the summit because they are interested in getting locally grown, healthier foods into their schools’ cafeterias,” she said.

“Schools are the beginning. If we can have healthier food in the hospitals, senior centers and more restaurants, we will improve our local agricultural industry and economy.”

What: Food for Our Future summit

When: 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday, May 16

Where: Jamestown S’Klallam Red Cedar Hall

Cost: $10, includes lunch

Reservations: 452-4726, ext. 6266

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