Buyers, sellers discuss locally sourced foods

Richard Bogren  |  9/13/2018 1:01:48 PM

(09/13/18) NEW ORLEANS — Panel discussions on the interface between agriculture and the culinary community, the gender gap in food industries and the economics of letting people know the source of their foods highlighted the Farm & Table New Orleans conference on Sept. 7 in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

“We were looking to create a dialogue on the most pressing issues facing the agri-culinary community today with industry experts,” said Katie Calabrese, director of tradeshows and conferences for the convention center.

Participants included small growers, urban farmers, policymakers, chefs, grocers and industry advocates. Featured discussions included food waste, resiliency, trends, culture, challenges and solutions, Calabrese said.

Other sessions were held concurrently with the LSU AgCenter Market Ready program that brings producers together with purchasers from local markets and schools.

Among the challenges facingfruit and vegetable farmers is access to federal assistance through the farm bill, said Elisa Munoz-Miller, executive director of the New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee.

Lobbyists in Washington are working to get the various specialty crops incorporated into a single category in the farm bill so they get the same attention as commodities. “Specialty crop farmers need a seat at the table,” she said.

Land issues are at the top of the list of concerns for young farmers, said Maggie Kaiser, farmer and food safety trainer with the National Young Farmers Coalition. Access to land is difficult for urban farmers, she said.

Donald van de Werken from J&D Farms in Poplarville, Mississippi, sells his blueberries, pears, persimmons and teas through farmers markets as well as to retail outlets.

Consistency and compliance with food regulations are important for successfully growing and marketing produce. “Know your market before you put anything in the ground,” he said.

Terreca Bates-Wells, director of special projects with Capitol City Produce, told about how producers can get their crops to market through her company, emphasizing that farmers must have the capacity to deliver appropriate quantities on time.

“We can help farmers transition from farmers markets to commercial channels,” she said.

LSU AgCenter horticulture professor Carl Motsenbocker invited participants to attend the Louisiana Farm to School Conference on Oct. 9-10 in Baton Rouge.

The conference is designed to help schools incorporate local foods, school gardens and educational activities into their schools. An evening reception on Oct. 9 will provide opportunities for producers and school groups to meet informally, Motsenbocker said.

A Saturday activity day on Sept. 8 featured activities for the public to learn about the food production chain. “The festival is free and fun for everyone to attend,” Calabrese said.

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