LAWRENCE, Kan. — On May 31, the Douglas County Food Policy Council along with more than a dozen statewide organizations hosted the “Harvesting Opportunity in Kansas: A Symposium on Building Community Wealth Through Food and Farming” at the University of Kansas School of Business. The symposium brought together 150 leaders of food, farming, business, economic development and financial institutions to hear from national and local speakers on ways to build community wealth and social capital through local food and our food systems.
The speakers included Debra Tropp, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service; Becca Jablonski, Colorado State University; Mary Hendrickson, University of Missouri Extension; Julia Freedgood, American Farmland Trust; Dara Bloom, North Carolina State University Extension; and more.
The book that inspired the event, Harvesting Opportunity published by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the associated Economics of Local Food Systems toolkit, are available free online.
Speakers shared recent data on the market demand and power of the local food movement ($8.7 billion in sales in 2017), the economics of local food enterprises, and the importance of local ownership in the food system. “Local food systems build wealth that is rooted in place—building resilience and self-reliance in rural communities,” said University of Missouri Rural Sociologist, Mary Hendrickson.
“This event was attended by Kansans interested in building their communities through food and food-related businesses for so many different reasons. The attendance of professionals working in the areas of health, farming, economic development, finance, food access, rural development and equity demonstrated that the status of our food system in Kansas makes everyone a stakeholder. This is the sort of economic development that ought to come more naturally in a state like Kansas,” said K-State Research & Extension Director for Douglas County, Marlin Bates.
The event was made possible through the support of the following organizations: Douglas County E-Communities and Network Kansas, K-State Research and Extension Johnson County, K-State Research and Extension Douglas County, Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas Rural Center, Douglas County Farm Bureau, Growing Growers, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, Colorado State University Extension, Kansas Alliance for Wellness, Kansas Beginning Farmers Coalition, Douglas County Community Foundation, Merchants Pub & Plate, and The Merc Co-op.
The Douglas County Food Policy Council (DCFPC) is a joint city/county advisory body whose goal is to identify the benefits, challenges and opportunities for a successful, sustainable local food system in Douglas County. The DCFPC has 23 members that represent a wide variety of stakeholders in our local food system, from agricultural producers to grocery store owners to chefs. The DCFPC serves as a forum for discussion and coordination for community-wide efforts to improve the Douglas County community’s access to local food supply and provide recommendations to elected officials on food-related policy issues.
— Douglas County Food Policy Council