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‘Seeds of Prosperity’ views local food as economic development

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Greater Springfield Farmers Market is a popular weekend destination for people who want their food locally grown.

Greater Springfield Farmers Market is a popular weekend destination for people who want their food locally grown.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The “Seeds of Prosperity: Local Food as Economic Development” program is planned for 8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., on Friday Feb. 5 at the University Plaza Hotel and Conference Center in Springfield.

The program is a special day-long session at the three-day Missouri Organic Association’s annual conference according to Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“We know that demand for local food is strong. We are now facing challenges in Southwest Missouri to provide locally grown food to institutions and large organizations like hospitals, schools, grocers and restaurants,” said Duitsman. “Connecting farmers to these market opportunities will impact their livelihood and also the health of our communities by increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Dr. Pam Duitsman

Dr. Pam Duitsman

Enrollment information is available online at http://extension.missouri.edu/greene.

The cost to attend this one day “Seeds of Prosperity” session is $75 and includes an optional evening event and meal.

Scholarships are available for farmers and producers and for more information, contact Clarissa Hatley at the Greene County Extension Center, 881-8909.

However, the cost of this session is included in the enrollment fee of those attending all three days of the Missouri Organic Associations annual conference. Enrollment information for the full conference is available at http://www.moaconference.org/moa-conference-registration.

The program should be of interest to farmers, producers, food buyers, processors and food retailers. However, it could also be helpful to food distributors, people in food service management, food system financiers, public health advocates, planners, government officials, supporting organizations and community leaders.

“Basically, any and all stakeholders interested in building economic development through expanded marketing opportunities for local food should attend,” says Duitsman.

The “Seeds of Prosperity” program will provide a forum for discussion between key stakeholders, and will connect large markets with locally grown food and local farmers.

Food Hub experts will give presentations and serve on a panel discussion to engage with those attending the program. In addition, many supporting organizations will be present and to offer resources and assistance.

Organizers say one of the objectives of the workshop is to develop cohesive relationships between key food system partners and build a shared understanding of the local food landscape

Another objective is to create a cohesive effort to seize Southwest Missouri’s economic development opportunities that link food business with the community and food producers. The end-goal is the creation of a food hub in Springfield area.

Research shows food hubs can expand the reach of small, local farmers and drive economic growth in the process. The United States Department of Agriculture has significant evidence showing food hubs build a stronger infrastructure for small and mid-size producers, and help create strong community food systems.

For more information, contact Dr. Pam Duitsman at the Greene County Extension Center or by email at duitsmanp@missouri.edu.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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