Eat LocalGAMBIER, Ohio (January 26, 2012)
The national trend of eating local food and supporting local farmers has had a head start at Kenyon.
Kenyon is a national model for cultivating the local-food market and, with AVI Foodsystems, for putting that food on the table for students. On Tuesday, February 7, at 11:10 a.m., Kenyon will host a community conversation - called "From Farm to College" - on how the system works and what it means for college and county.
The panel will include local farmers Jonathan Byler and Fran Conard; John Marsh Jr., AVI sustainability director; and Meagan Worth-Cappell, AVI executive sous chef. Kenyon sophomore Becca Katzman of St. Louis will moderate the panel at the Peirce Hall Lounge.
Kenyon has made a "pioneering effort" to build a local, food-supply network for the processing, cooking and serving of about 4,000 meals a day, said Professor of Sociology Howard Sacks, director of the Kenyon Rural Life Center and a sheep farmer. About 40 percent of the food served at Kenyon is considered locally produced.
"We're trying to do this as a county system," Sacks said. "Lots of places have farmers' markets and lots of places have farm-to-school, but we're trying to develop a whole economic system that will feed our community. It's good for farmers. It's good for consumers. It's good for local business."
Kenyon spends about $640,000 each academic year on food produced in and around Knox County. "Those dollars get re-circulated into the Knox County community," he said. "In local food systems like this, the dollars circulate seven times before leaving the community. Those dollars go to local restaurants and local stores."
The larger goal is sustaining family farming and the area's rural character. "Those are things that everyone who lives here cares about," Sacks said.
Katzman has done considerable research on the local food system and served an internship with AVI that included visits to local farms and auctions. "Forming strong relationships with our producers is really important," Katzman said. "It's complicated." Many local farmers expect to be paid in cash, and AVI chefs have to adapt to preparing fresh foods and trimming waste. Kenyon students, Katzman said, appreciate the quality of the food but may not realize "the impact it's having on the community."
"From Farm to College" is one of three public forums, called Visits, that are planned in the next three months by the Rural Life Center. Each session of Visits focuses on an issue important to local culture and lifestyle and includes a panel discussion with local experts. The other programs are "Working in Wood," on March 27, and "Aging in the Country," on April 17.