- Grove City, Pennsylvania

April 16, 2014

Connections made for the future of local foods

By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
Allied News

SLIPPERY ROCK — Representatives of Sustainable Slippery Rock and the Northwest Pennsylvania Growers Cooperative, along with community members, came together Wednesday night to exchange ideas about area food systems and raise awareness of local sustainability.

"It's great to see so much interest in growing, buying and eating foods locally and sustainably. I hope that each person who attended was able to learn something new or connect with a person or resource to help them in their efforts," said Becky Lubold, a member of Sustainable Slippery Rock who helped plan the event, which was held at the Slippery Rock Township building.

About 80 people attended "Green '14: Building a Local Food System in the Slippery Rock Area," which was hosted by Sustainable Slippery Rock and the Northwest Pennsylvania Growers Cooperative.

The event was designed for anyone who cares about where their food comes from: community members, farmers, business people and consumers.

It was also a chance to enjoy live music, support sustainable farming practices, link local food producers with consumers, and sample food from those local producers - organic chicken, chips and salsa, eggs, jam, apple butter and more.

Various displays were set up including a "connections board" where attendees were encouraged to leave their contact information under two categories: "I have/am able to offer" or "I am in need of" in reference to resources, tools, equipment and other goods, skills or items.

Parker Maynard, owner of Black Moon Farms, Plain Grove Township, and a member of Sustainable Slippery Rock who helped plan the event, started off the presentation portion of the evening, saying there are many ways to help each other work toward creating an ideal food system, and Wednesday's meeting was a great example.

"Our goal is to plant the seed of working relationships," said Maynard, who does commercial composting on his farm.

There will be many more opportunities to channel your energy and chances to link the leaders in the food system with those who need resources and services, he said.

"Imagine the potential of this group," he said. "Be proud that you're participating."

Amy Philson, the manager for the Northwest Pennsylvania Growers Cooperative, spoke about the organization, which includes 18 farms that run community-supported agriculture programs June through November.

CSA customers purchase shares from those farms and in return receive produce, meat, dairy, cheese, soap and other local goods. The Growers Cooperative also has a web store that anyone can use, and they partner with area shops and restaurants, she said.

"Anyone can be involved with providing local food," said Philson, whose own family farm, Philson's Bushel and a Peck Farm, Jackson Township, is part of the Growers Cooperative.

Representing the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture was T.Lyle Ferderber, co-owner of Frankferd Farms, Saxonburg, who said that when you support the association, you support farmers, homesteaders and the education of consumers.

"These are the things that are pertinent," said Ferderber, whose farm includes a solar-powered flour mill and food distribution business that ships corn chips, salsa, crackers and more. "Organic, local and regional is the best way to eat."

Bob McCafferty, who with his wife Jodi owns North Country Brewing Co., a popular restaurant in downtown Slippery Rock that recently expanded with the canning of its own beer line, spoke about his sustainability efforts, including plans to eventually make his business "zero waste."

"We all believe the same thing and work hard because it's a lifestyle," said McCafferty, who bought the Harmony Inn, which he's renovating and hopes to re-open soon.

North Country continues to use as much local food as possible and McCafferty even feeds the spent grains from the beer to the cattle on his farm. He also has nine pigs that eat the prep waste from the restaurant's kitchen.

"To be zero waste has always been the goal," he said, adding that same mentality will be applied to the Harmony Inn.

Fran Bires, acting director of the Macoskey Center for Sustainable Systems Education and Research at Slippery Rock University, talked about the Macoskey Center, which is run by students and serves as a living lab and demonstration facility.

Space is available for community members to rent garden plots and programs are held to teach people about topics like building raised beds, composting and container gardens, said Bires, who is also the director of McKeever Environmental Learning Center, Sandy Lake.

Nick Shorr, representing the Pennsylvania Resources Council, spoke about composting, saying how 1 million tons of compostable materials go into landfills each year in southwestern Pennsylvania.

"Everyone should be composting," he said. "It's not rocket science."

It has to be made cheap - for businesses, restaurants and stores, as well as consumers. He'd love to train those who want to learn, and there are ways to share equipment, Shorr said.

The evening ended with everyone breaking up into small groups to discuss visions for the local food system and how they can measure the success.

Bruce and Carrie Ferguson of Boyers, who own 47 acres, said they've been attending events similar to Wednesday's presentation to learn more about local resources and to get ideas about sustainable living.

"I just got a worm composting box last week," Mrs. Ferguson said.

Future "Green '14" events will focus on renewable energy alternatives, green design and construction.

Info: e-mail or call 814-330-2550.

Published March 29, 2014, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.