by Lucy Bryan Green
Nearly 40 Centre County residents gathered for a Local Food Forum on April 3, during which Transition Towns State College (TTSC) unveiled a new project: “A Guide for the First Year of Local Food.”
Bill Sharp, co-founder of TTSC, said that providing resources that will allow people to start using more local food is part of building a more sustainable and secure community.
“With gas prices going up this year, I think there’s going to be an awful lot more people looking at sustainable ways to live,” said Sharp.
Photo by Lucy Bryan Green
Local food enthusiasts attended Transition Towns State College’s Local Food Forum on April 3, where they discussed ways to improve the availability of local foods in Centre County.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, direct-to-consumer sales account for only .4 percent of total agricultural sales every year. In essence, very few Americans buy their food directly from producers through farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture (CSA) subscriptions or farm stands.
“We could get 70 percent or more of our food from local resources based on the land we’ve got,” Sharp said. “If we had [just] 10 percent of our food coming from Centre County, do you think we would have any unemployment?”
Holly D’Angelo, the nursery manager at Foxhill Gardens and a new member of TTSC, is spearheading a project to make buying local food easier and more accessible to Centre County residents.
She is in the process of creating “A Guide for the First Year of Local Food,” a resource for Centre County residents that will help them “convert from the grocery story lifestyle to [one] more focused on local foods.”
According to D’Angelo, the guide will include a catalogue of farmers markets, CSAs and local farms that sell directly to consumers. It will list the seasonality of various fruits and vegetables. It will also provide directions for storing and preserving foods—such as freezing, canning and dehydrating.
D’Angelo said the guide is inspired by her own local food journey. She said that about a year ago, she and her husband heard a talk about “peak oil” and the insecurity of petroleum-dependent food systems. Since then, she said, she’s been “trying to bring back the skills and the knowledge of how to organize my life to bring more local foods into my diet.”
D’Angelo said she wants to help Centre County residents like herself who aren’t sure how to “convert.” During the meeting, she solicited the advice of those in the audience about what to include in her Guide and how to make local food more user-friendly.
Participants—who included college students, local businesspeople, Penn State faculty and staff, representatives of State College nonprofits and a Centre County farmer—offered up several ideas.
One attendee suggested including recipes for in-season vegetables. Another proposed creating a price-comparison chart for locally grown products and their grocery store counterparts.
Several participants advocated making the Guide available online.
The conversation then moved to a more general discussion of how to improve the availability of local foods in State College.
“Every time you go to a restaurant, ask them how much local food they’re buying,” said James Eisenstein, a retired Penn State professor and “unpaid farmhand” at Jade Family Farm, which is owned and operated by his son.
Mark Maloney, owner of Greenmoore Gardens, said that this year he would offer the first CSA subscription for Penn State students.
The subscription would run from August to December (the typical CSA subscription begins in early summer, excluding most students).
Jeremy Bean of the Penn State Campus Sustainability Office talked about upcoming collaborations between Penn State Food Services and local farmers.
A number of participants expressed interest in a community center or food cooperative where local foods could be distributed on a daily basis. The group Spring Creek Homesteading is currently expl