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How one local group is aiming to promote food, farms and community
by Seth Teter
Not long ago, Sabrina Matteson, the director of rural affairs for American Farm Bureau made a statement that got my attention:
“Every community has an opportunity to improve itself. But that is only going to happen if people in that community are interested in becoming active to make that happen. Nobody is going to come in and fix their community for them. So they have to find the initiative, and the passion, and the collaboration and the partnerships within that community to do it themselves. And they can do it.”
That sentiment inspired a few of us here at Ohio Farm Bureau to pose a question to our Community Councils, which are groups of friends and neighbors who meet to make a difference in the community by identifying and helping to solve problems.
We asked them to complete a simple statement: “Our community would be an even better place to live if:”
And that got members of the Hazel Grove Community Council in Richland County talking.
“I think there’s just a big movement right now in our county and our state and our nation for eating healthy, for supporting locally grown produce, knowing where your food comes from,” said council member Fred Cooke.
So the council took it upon themselves to launch a program that is bringing local chefs to the Shelby Farmers Market to showcase how to prepare fresh foods. The goal: connect farmers and consumers, promote the market and local businesses and encourage healthy eating.
“People are looking for some new idea or some experience to get involved with to improve the community,” Cooke said.
In fact, the volunteers, grant money and partnering organizations were lined up faster than anyone imagined. And Cooke is pleased with the broad range of individuals who will be participating.
“Everybody’s kind of branching out and expanding with new ideas. I don’t know where we’ll end up. All I know is everywhere we go, everyone we talk to is enthusiastic,” Cooke said.
Seth Teter is assistant editor of Ohio Farm Bureau’s Buckeye Farm News.