FEASTs and faires to come in local food scene

If it seems like caring about food sources is just a trendy topic of conversation among people who can afford locally produced, artisan groceries, you need to attend a FEAST.

The region’s first FEAST (Food, Education, Agriculture Solutions Together) is planned for Sunday afternoon at Applegate River Ranch House. About 50 people already have signed up to spend about five hours of their weekend evaluating the local food system, prioritizing and devising strategies for its improvement.

A recent story in the newspaper’s food section explained the motivations behind FEAST. Residents of Oregon’s other counties already have picked up the effort. But the movement in Jackson and Josephine counties is expected to be the largest yet with grant funding from Meyer Memorial Trust.

The reasons behind this concept are many, with the Oregon Food Bank’s involvement perhaps a bit misleading. FEAST isn’t about continuing to dump commodity foods and cash into nutrition assistance for the poor. It’s about how we all can enjoy better-quality food at better prices that support our regional economy and reduce the environmental impact of shipping foods long distances. Expect entities, such as Farm to School, farmers markets, locally owned grocery stores and even health care organizations, to weigh in.

The sponsors, ACCESS Inc., Josephine County food Bank and THRIVE, are providing a light lunch for participants in this free event. The ranch house is preparing vegan potato-leek soup with Barking Moon vegetables and beef-vegetable soup with Salant Family Ranch meat while Rise Up! bakery in Applegate is furnishing the bread. The facility can accommodate many more; call 541-618-4019 or email hancel@accesshelps.org to let organizers know you plan to attend.

An abbreviated “community conversation” will follow from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 13, at Jacksonville Presbyterian Church, 425 Middle St., Jacksonville. Subsequent FEASTs and conversations are planned around the valley through May.

More education around local food, agriculture and animal husbandry is planned next Friday, March 16, when rock-star rancher Joel Salatin, profiled in the best-selling “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” makes his second visit to the Rogue Valley. Hosted by the Jackson County Local Action Coalition, Salatin will give a farm tour in Ashland early Saturday and then an evening lecture at the Medford Armory.

Prior to the lecture, the Armory will be the site of a “Food & Farm Faire” featuring the products of local farms, ranches, restaurants, caterers and food artisans. There are fees for Salatin’s presentations. See the full schedule and pricing at www.jclac.org, which also offers online registration.

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