By: Melissa A. Vatterott, Food and Farm Coordinator
By: Melissa A. Vatterott, Food and Farm Coordinator
On August 3rd, Food and Farm Coordinator Melissa Vatterott and summer 2015 intern Divya Babbula visited Sunfarm Food Service Inc. to learn about their launch of the new Farmplicity, a website where institutional buyers, such as restaurants, can search for and then order available farm products. According to the website, “restaurants can quickly and easily browse listings for ingredients just like they would browse eBay, and farmers can instantly reach an ever-growing number of restaurants to increase sales.”
A group of students at Washington University started Farmplicity and Sunfarm later purchased the website. Sunfarm has expanded the website’s capabilities. Melissa and Divya sat in on a slideshow presentation of how the website works, had a chance to see which local farms are working with Farmplicity, and toured their refrigerators to view their inventory of local and industrial farm products. Enjoy pictures from our visit below!
Written by Claire Mai, Summer 2015 Food and Farm Intern. Originally published in July 2015.
On June 17th, 2015, a panel discussion called The Real Cost of Food was held at The Stage at KDHX and moderated by Joe Bonwich. Food and Farm Coordinator Melissa Vatterott was invited to be part of the panel, along with farmers from Missouri and Illinois. We’re grateful to Maddie Earnest of Local Harvest Grocery, who was instrumental in organizing this event as part of the St. Louis Local Foods Challenge!
Panelists responded to questions from moderator Joe Boewich and audience members about their work and urban agriculture in general .
It was great to learn more about the real costs of growing food locally and sustainably and to meet some of the amazing farmers behind our local food supply. We had the opportunity to get insight from:
- Eric and Crystal Stephens of La Vista CSA Farm
- Bobbi Sandwisch of Live Springs Farm
- Todd Geisert of Geisert Farms
- Gibran Burchett of HOSCO Farms
The panel discussed difficulties that come up for small local farmers – for example, the need for education to mend the disconnect between buyers and their food, as many consumers don’t know what to do with the vegetables from their CSA or don’t realize the true cost of production. They also discussed “green-washing,” such as experiences with restaurants that publicly list their farms as sources, despite not regularly purchasing their produce. Melissa shared information from the St. Louis Regional Food Study and discussed policy barriers to urban agriculture.
In addition, panelists offered insight into the process of obtaining USDA Organic certification. Many people are unaware of the costs that are involved in getting certified. As Crystal Stephens (La Vista CSA Farm) explained, once a farm is USDA Organic certified, the farmer may continually need to spend more (on farm equipment and other investments) to keep up with changing standards. She also pointed out that “organic” does not always mean “sustainable,” since a farm could be a huge operation across the country with intense water consumption and still be certified organic. While La Vista CSA Farm is dedicated to organic practices, they explained that they feel they don’t need a label. Similarly, Bobbi Sandwisch (Live Springs Farm) noted that some beneficial practices (such as certain composting types) are left out or blocked by organic certification.
Thank you to our farmers and organizers for this informative, interesting event!… Read the rest
Written by Claire Mai, originally published in August 2015.
June was an exciting month for local food in St. Louis! We are grateful for Maddie Earnest and Patrick Horine, who worked together to put on the St. Louis Local Foods Challenge over the entire month. Maddie is the co-owner of Local Harvest Grocery, and Patrick works at the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market. Working together on this challenge, they encouraged St. Louis to eat as locally as possible in June. They provided resources including a list of participating local foods restaurants, markets and stores with local food, as well as a map of these locations and special discounts for those participating in the challenge! In addition, the challenge hosted many events for St. Louis to learn about and celebrate local food, including farm tours and a DIY cheese making class. MCE would especially like to thank Maddie Earnest for coordinating a St. Louis Local Foods Challenge event called The Real Cost of Food, a panel discussion with farmers from five local farms as well as MCE’s own Food and Farm Coordinator, Melissa Vatterott.
Written by Melissa Vatterott, Food and Farm Coordinator
Background on St. Louis Earth Day
St. Louis Earth Day is best known for its annual Earth Day Festival in May, which attracts 30-40,000 attendees annually to learn about the environment and enjoy food and activities. However, St. Louis Earth Day works year-round in a variety of other projects and events. For example, St. Louis Earth Day provides “Take Action” grants to organizations around St. Louis, including funding projects pertaining to sustainable agriculture, community gardening, local food access at food pantries and local churches. You can see a list of the 2015 recipients of the “Take Action” grants here.
St. Louis Earth Day’s 2015 Symposium: Livable Communities
On June 3rd, St. Louis Earth Day hosted one of its annual events, the St. Louis Earth Day Symposium, with this year’s focus on Livable Communities. St. Louis Earth Day’s explains a “livable community” as one with a balance between elements including a healthy human and natural environment, a sustainable economy, an actively engaged populace, and an equitable society. This all-day event had speakers discussing local food, food access, sustainable agriculture, and water conservation, among other topics.
This year, MCE had the opportunity to present a poster at the Earth Day Symposium. Melissa Vatterott, MCE’s Food and Farm Coordinator, presented about the interactions between limited food production, limited access, and poor health outcomes around St. Louis. Her poster also explained MCE efforts to build a Local Food Policy Coalition, whose four goals are:
1. Increase presence of local food in larger markets (i.e. grocery stores, schools, etc.) by connecting small farmers with new markets.
2. Increase healthy, local food access, particularly in underserved communities.
3. Increase farmer education and support for best agricultural practices, especially those to facilitate environmental stewardship.
4. Educate individuals, especially youth, about food identification, gardening, nutrition, and cooking.
MCE is honored to have had this opportunity to present at St. Louis Earth Day Symposium. Several Local Food Heroes were also at the event – here are two we would like to highlight:
Afternoon Keynote Speaker: Amelia Pape
Amelia Pape is the founder of My Street Grocery, a mobile grocer that operates community markets year-round out of a mobile grocery trolley in the greater Portland area. Its mission is to improve fresh food access and build community by introducing customers to choices, resources, and relationships that celebrate the joy of food.… Read the rest