The need for a more sustainable, larger local food production system was a recurring topic at the roundtable discussion that highlighted the Kansas City Food Circle's annual meeting on Sunday. The organization is dedicated to pairing local growers with local eaters; its current membership includes 68 producers and 120 eaters.
"There's a number of new groups associated with developing a community food system, so we invited them to a roundtable discussion, in an effort to coordinate their efforts," says Craig Volland - a coordinator with KC Food Circle.
And so representatives of the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture, Kansas City CSA Coalition, Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition, Food Not Lawns, and the Squash Blossom Cooperative sat down with the group's membership to try and devise a strategy for promoting local food.
"One of the main issue is how to extend the growing season in an effort to bring more local, organic, and free-range food to people year-round. We see high tunnel greenhouses as a real possibility for achieving that goal," says Volland.
In the interim, groups like the Squash Blossom Cooperative -- coordinated by Steve Mann of Food Not Lawns -- are attempting to increase what's available locally by bringing together interested buyers. Volland pointed to items like pecans, which are abundant locally. He'll buy eight pounds at a time, freezing most of that to use in his morning oatmeal year-round.
"We also want to keep the standards high for local producers. We have a farmer's pledge for members, where we ask them to use organic and free-range standards. They don't have to be certified, they just have to adhere to the standards," says Volland.
In addition, the Kansas City CSA Coalition has pledged to work on establishing a more comprehensive Web site to teach people about the risks and benefits of participating in a community supported agriculture program.
Ultimately this is about offering more, local produce options for Kansas City residents from a radius of about 120 miles (the current range for producers).
"It takes tremendous skills to grow in Kansas City. You can have problems with water, temperature fluctuations, and soil quality. It's not easy to grow vegetables in Kansas City, we just want to make it easier," says Volland.
[Image via Flickr: thebittenword]