Tour puts local face on food industryOctober 31, 2017
By LEANN BURKE
The Dubois County Purdue Extension dedicated Monday to education about local foods and the creation of a few more locavores — people who prefer locally-grown groceries.
Merriam-Webster added “locavore” to the dictionary in 2005 to reflect the growing movement of people seeking transparency in their food production and food grown, processed and distributed within 100 miles. The Purdue Extension hosted a daylong bus trip through the county Monday focused on the locavore value of learning about where food comes from.
The idea for the bus trip first came up after the bird flu outbreak in 2015. After the flu broke out among the county’s turkey farms, Purdue Extension Director Jan Dougan said, the extension staff realized a lot of Dubois Countians didn’t realize how large a role agriculture played in the community. The extension’s agriculture advisory committee agreed and suggested the extension set up programs to show residents what happens at local farms. The idea is to reconnect people to the farms that produce our food in an age when not everyone has access to a farm.
“When you see this (grain or animal truck) going down the road, this is where it came from,” said Ken Eck, agriculture and natural resources educator for the extension. “People have never been on a farm, so they don’t connect with the animal or grain trucks on the road.”
The tour group included people from a variety of backgrounds including farmers, local politicians and tourism leaders. The group visited the Lindauer Family Dairy Farm, which supplies milk to Prairie Farms, and visited Sander Processing where the butcher explained his process and beef farmer Dave Fischer talked about his secrets to success.
The day ended with a tour of the Southern Indiana Purdue Agriculture Center to learn how the research farm runs. At the research farm, Farm Manager Jason Tower raises cows like many other local farmers, but he also raises goats, aquaculture fish and hair sheep, which don’t require shearing. Local farmers haven’t gotten into goats, sheep or fish much, but Tower has found a market for them within the region. The goats, for example, he sells to a butcher in North Vernon that serves the ethnic population.
“It’s another potential market for our county,” Eck said.
The final presentation of the day focused on the county’s food system as a whole. Jodee Ellett, a local food specialist with the Purdue Agriculture Center’s statewide system, explained that a food system involves every step that takes food from the farms to your plates, as well as who has access to food and the kinds of food people consume. People who study food systems, she said, also look at poverty rates in an area, food deserts — which are areas where people don’t have easy access to fresh food — and how much money people spend on food.
In Dubois County, Ellett’s research shows households spend an average of $7,000 a year on food.
“Food is agricultural, but it’s also social,” Ellett said.
Dougan and Eck said they received positive feedback after the tour and would like to plan another bus tour next year to take participants to other types of farms in the county. The tour stops may change, but the goal of the event will remain the same: putting a local face on the food industry.
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