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Feb. 20 summit to feature workshops, networking promoting Kentucky’s local food systems

The University of Kentucky hosted its first Kentucky Local Food Systems Summit in 2019. (Photo by Sarah Caton).

By Danielle Donham
University of Kentucky

The Food Connection at the University of Kentucky, in collaboration with Bluegrass Farm to Table and Kentucky Proud, is holding its second annual Kentucky Local Food Systems Summit beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, in the Gatton Student Center.

This action-packed event is designed to bring together food systems experts and professionals for workshops, networking opportunities and important conversation surrounding the local farm and food systems landscape. Participants will learn about community nutrition, market development, agricultural research and practices, as well as the public policy behind local food systems.

“By supporting a vibrant local food system, Kentuckians support the farmers, chefs and food entrepreneurs that help make Kentucky the place we’re proud to call home,” said Lilian Brislen, executive director of The Food Connection. “By choosing foods raised by Kentucky farmers, we do our part to ensure Kentucky continues to enjoy the benefits of a robust small farm economy. Healthy rural economies run on agriculture, and access to fresh, flavorful foods helps us all enjoy healthful meals and celebrate our regional cuisine.”

(Photo by Sarah Caton)

The existence of The Food Connection at the University of Kentucky, in partnership with Aramark through UK Dining, is an important facet of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. The Food Connection is an applied food systems center that serves farmers, food producers, students, and community members by supporting the development of vibrant and sustainable food systems on campus and across Kentucky.

“The Food Connection reflects the university and foodservice partners’ commitment to locally sourced food,” said College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Dean Nancy Cox. “Through this we have seen an expansion of the farms and producers in this space, thus growing Kentucky’s agricultural economy in an effective way.”

Organizer Lilian Brislen hopes the event with be successful in bridging the gap between an abstract understanding and one that is more defined.

“Learning about local food systems helps us to see how we are all connected through our economy, our food culture and our land,” Brislen said. “Engaging the world through local food systems is a great way for students to make the link between big, sometimes abstract issues like sustainability or food security with work happening every day in our community.”

(Photo by Sarah Caton)

This year, in addition to featuring UK faculty, staff and students in the organized session portion, there will be a poster activity for participants. It will provide attendees with an opportunity to gain a sneak peak at the wide array of research and activities related to local food happening on campus as well as spark ideas for future projects and collaborations.

A limited number of tickets are available; please contact Lilian Brislen at lilian.brislen@uky.edu to inquire. The registration fee of $75 includes attendance, parking, coffee, a locally-sourced lunch and attendance to the networking reception.

Participants at the summit will be broken up into numbered sessions. Session topics include food consumption and waste, food security, farmers market innovations, culinary outreach, Kentucky distilling and winemaking, and the promotion of local purchasing and restaurants, among many others. The session descriptions can be found here.

The day-long event is sponsored by American Farmland Trust, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, UK Dining, Fayette Alliance, Student Sustainability Council, Fayette County Farm Bureau, Good Foods Co-Op, Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, Kentucky Proud and Marksbury Farm.

Danielle Donham writes for UK Now

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