Organization leaders, including President Betsy Anderson, Treasurer Marlene Barkheimer and Secretary Marlene Boyer will attend the conference, hosted by USDA’s Illinois Rural Development and Food & Nutrition Service Midwest Offices. Local Roots’ Market Manager Jessica Eikleberry will participate on a panel entitled “Local Food System Fundamentals.”
“From what we’ve learned, about a thousand people have signed up for this conference,” said Anderson. “We’re just excited about our model, and about helping other people do something similar in their own communities.”
The single-day event features presentations and discussions centered on successful strategies, resources, and opportunities for supporting, cultivating and growing local and regional food systems in the Midwest. Anderson said while the “Local Food System Fundamentals” panel appears to be comprised of more urban-centric participants, the Wooster organization is enthusiastic about sharing best practices from a more rural perspective.
“The entire focus of Local Roots is the community,” said Anderson. “We help farmers sell their product and help community members find what they need. This is one positive way to help keep jobs local. Even our t-shirts bear the motto ‘Cultivate Community!’”
Participants also will learn about technical and financial resources– such as the $99,500 USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant that helped give Local Roots a leg-up through the Wayne County Commissioners – available to help cultivate a local or regional food system in their area.
“We are delighted that ‘Local Roots’ of Wooster is gaining national recognition for its groundbreaking efforts to link the local food system with Northeast Ohio growers,” said USDA Ohio Rural Development State Director Tony Logan. “We at USDA are proud of their leadership in the Local Foods movement.”
The keynote address will be delivered by USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. With more than 20 years of experience in policy, legislation and research, Dr. Merrigan is an ardent advocate of local foods and provides a critical link between farmers and consumers. She spearheads USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” effort, whose mission is to carry out President Obama’s commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems. Recognizing the history and scope of her work, Time Magazine named Merrigan to its 2010 list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
Attendees from a 12-state region include representatives from local, state and federal government, as well as visionary business and non-profit leaders who make their homes in the region widely considered the nation’s “breadbasket.”
Published: February 13, 2012