Workshop kicks off ‘Local Food’ discourse

Dozens of local stakeholders participated in a virtual Local Foods, Local Places Workshop on Nov. 5 and 6, generating action plans based around improving Cottage Grove’s food system.

“I was really pleased with the turnout and the enthusiasm of the local participants,” said City Plan-ner Amanda Ferguson, who serves on the program’s steering committee. “We came up with some very tangible, positive actions to implement community goals.”

Participants represented a wide range of stakeholders including local farmers, food producers, growers, tourism experts, nonprofits, garden managers, county, state, and federal agencies, and others interested in helping build Cottage Grove’s food-based economy.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) selected Cottage Grove to participate in the Local Foods, Local Places Program, marking the city as the first in Oregon to receive the opportunity.

Sponsored by the EPA, the program has been used in several communities since its inception in 2015. Efforts have included protecting air and water quality, preserving open space and farmland, boosting opportunities for local farmers and businesses, improving access to healthy local food, promoting childhood wellness and engineering stronger local food economies.

Work with these communities has seen projects such as opening year-round downtown markets, helping schoolchildren grow their own food, planning cooperative grocery stories and developing community gardens.

During Cottage Grove’s two-day workshop last week, participants worked together to contextualize the city’s local food system and establish strategies.

With the overarching theme of building a resilient local/regional food system, participants dis-cussed ideas for achieving four main goals: (1) identify strategies to support and enhance existing commercial kitchen and food incubator spaces; (2) improve food security and public health in Cottage Grove; (3) increase the involvement of Cottage Grove’s underrepresented/immigrant populations (e.g. youth, BIPOC representatives) in local food and place-making initiatives; and (4) build stronger supply chain connections for farmers and food producers with both local and regional markets.

Action plan ideas included making use of a kitchen in the Cottage Grove Armory, engaging high school youth for food entrepreneurship, launching “shop local” marketing campaigns and creating a community garden at Bohemia Elementary School.

Success of the program may spell future greater financial opportunities for the city as well.

“We will have access to more grants … because of this program,” said Ferguson.

Next, three follow-up calls will be held with members of the local steering committee and workshop participants to develop an action plan for the community’s food system. The plan will ideally be complete by the end of 2020.

Calls dates and topics are scheduled as follows: 

• Nov. 19, 9:30 a.m. — Community updates, action plan tables review

• Dec. 4, 10 a.m. – Updates, community action plan (full report)

• Dec. 16, 9 a.m. – Final call, final review of the full report, review of the post-workshop guide, implementation discussion

“I look forward to seeing the plan completed over the next few months,” Ferguson said.

For more information about the workshop or to get involved in local food system planning, contact City Planner Amanda Ferguson by email at [email protected] or by phone at 541-942-3340.

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