Working purposefully to connect the various parts of our local food system is important for a number or reasons according to Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
“Local food efforts improve access to local food, and helps us all learn where, how and by whom our food is grown,” said Duitsman. “It also helps to forge new paths for farmers and producers of all types to stay on the farm, make a go of their food businesses, and be successful. It connects schools and children to fresh local food, and brings grocers and restaurants the quality fresh food they desire.”
Missourians have continued to ask for better access to local food. As a result, MU Extension and community partners have been working in southwest Missouri to simplify, support, educate, connect, and strengthen our local food system.
“Healthy local food systems work for us all. They create opportunities for producers and food markets that ultimately benefit all of Missourians,” said Duitsman. “Over the last few years, we have seen a shift. Rural towns in Missouri who have lacked access to fresh fruits and vegetables are getting more.”
According to Duitsman, local food businesses are starting up, and farmers, ranchers, and food producers of all kinds are using innovate approaches to sell their products locally.
“The transformation has not just produced more healthy food, but also improved economies in Missouri communities,” said Duitsman.
Over the past several years, there has been an explosion in the number of high tunnels, greenhouses, food hub projects, and innovative food businesses. These further support the growth of our already strong Farmer’s Markets, CSAs, and existing local food related businesses.
“One of the best ways to keep our food system growing is to get folks from all across the food system together, and talking. There are always going to be challenges in food system infrastructure and as our food system continues to grow, challenges change. But so do our opportunities,” said Duitsman.
In an effort to capture opportunities, and connect with key food system players, the University of Missouri Extension partners with communities to convene forums to build clarity for Farm to Table, to hammer out solutions, and help to map a path to take next steps together.
To find out about MU Extension events near you, visit extension.missouri.edu, and check the calendar for your local county. Pam Duitsman can be reached in the Greene County Extension office by phone at (417) 881-8909 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.