— Connie Carlson, Executive Director

You know you are busy when you sit down to write a long overdue blog reviewing a year’s worth of work and realize that it’s March already… whew!

Last year I wrote a short piece, “What exactly IS a Food Council?” that explained who we are and what we are aiming to do in our region. I’m pleased to report that we have held tightly to that vision and have seen tremendous progress in the past year toward growing our food network and goals forward. Here are a few of our accomplishments:

The Little Boon Farm. Photo by Mary Sue Stevens.

The Little Boon Farm. Photo by Mary Sue Stevens.

Our board and individual board members visited dozens of farms, small businesses, food shelves and schools in our region to talk to people in our community who work every day to build our local food system. Our board committed to meeting every month at a different location around our region. Some locations included Irish Blessings Coffee House in Maple Lake, where owner/operator Natalie McClory shared her vision for her Thursday night dinners, and local farmer, Mark Boon from The Little Boon Farm gave a walking tour of his farm and operation. Each visit was an eye-opening experience for the board and an in-person opportunity to understand what it takes to run a small business in our region.

The Little Boon Farm. Photo by Mary Sue Stevens.

The Little Boon Farm. Photo by Mary Sue Stevens.

We expanded our Power of Produce program into Albertville and served well over 1000 children and families in our region. This program has been a tremendous success getting families to try new foods, connecting farmers with new customers and engaging communities in local food. Our council was instrumental in working with a statewide group to develop a PoP Toolkit for other Farmers Markets around the state to implement this important program. The PoP program is slated to return to Monticello and Albertville in 2017 and a few more markets in our region are gearing up to implement it in their markets. Interested in helping YOUR Farmers Market start this program? Email us and we can help you get started.

In October, the Board met for their final meeting of year to go over the work from 2016, assess what we learned and outline our goals for the upcoming year. Our top goals for 2017 are:

  1. Formalize a Farmers Market Working Group that provides support, communication, funding and opportunities for our regional farmer’s markets.
    1. Pleased to report we received a grant through the MN Food Charter to support this work! Look for more details in our newsletter.
  2. Host a Community-wide Local Food Event to build awareness for the food grown in our community.
  3. Improve our online mapping and directory to continue to be a local food resource for our region.  Send us a note if you want to be included or know of someone who should be on our list.

Next month, I’ll outline the progress of these goals and provide some easy ways for you to get involved [Now posted; read more here]. Until then, connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

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