by Felicia Brower
Buying locally grown food stimulates the local economy and strengthens community health. Licking County has numerous local food advocates who strive to connect food providers with consumers and to educate people about the benefits of eating locally.
One group increasing access to local food is the Licking County Local Food Council (LCLFC). This 100 percent volunteer-run organization has members from various sectors of the local food industry and aims to connect consumers with local farmers and food processors in Licking County.
To help foster a strong local food network in the community, the LCLFC brought the 30–Mile Meal™ project to Licking County. Established in 2010 by the Real Food · Real Local Institute in Athens, the 30-Mile Meal™ project encourages people to support their local growers and retailers by purchasing food produced within a 30-mile radius of their location. The project incorporates producers, retailers and consumers who are interested in supporting the local food network.
Consumers can find farms, eateries, local food stores and more on the LCLFC website in the Licking County 30-Mile Meal™ Map. “Local, organically-grown food is becoming more and more popular and people don’t know how to find providers,” says Michelle Newman-Brady, an executive committee member of the LCLFC. “We’re trying to connect local food producers with local food retailers and restaurants and provide exposure for consumers so that they know where they can find a local product.”
The Kale Yard, a half-acre garden in Granville, is listed on that map. Owner Erin Harvey uses organic, small-scale growing practices and understands the importance of supporting sustainable local food systems. “My father is a really avid gardener so I grew up around that, and my grandfather grew up on a farm and always had a gigantic garden and sold produce. So I guess it was in my blood,” explains Harvey. “In college I got interested in it as a political issue. I started learning more about environmental issues and world hunger, and I just felt like I was called to work on a local level.”
Harvey also works at The Going Green Store, an eco-general store in Granville. To help customers easily find local food products, she created the 50-Mile Food & Friends section. The standards for the section are very strict; this ensures that all products are high-quality goods. “There’s nothing on the shelves that we wouldn’t feel good about eating ourselves,” says Harvey.
Harvey also teaches Veggie School classes at the store for those interested in learning how to successfully manage and maintain their own productive gardens. Attendees can choose from nine different classes ranging in topics that include Starting Your Own Seeds Indoors, Pest and Weed Control and Tomatoes 101.
Produce from The Kale Yard and other growers participating in the 30-Mile Meal™ project can be found at the Granville Farmers Market. This popular weekly market offers fresh, locally grown produce and prepared foods. Baked goods, plants, salsas, candies and honey can also occasionally be found at the market.
Larry Strayer, Market Master at the Granville Farmers Market, has watched the market grow over the past six years. “It has almost a thousand visitors every week and draws from all of the surrounding counties,” says Strayer. “It is a huge social event for the local area in the summer.”
Through the farmers market, Veggie School classes and the 30-Mile Meal™ project, local food advocates are working hard to make sure that the citizens of Licking County continue to have easy access to their neighborhood growers and producers.
Felicia Brower is a freelance writer based in Columbus. Connect at FeliciaBrower.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.