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Local food producers, supporters converge for education, tastings

By Tasha Kates | DailyProgress.com

Gary Oliver knows his coleslaw.

The Albemarle County resident has his own recipe that he uses to make it at home. So when he saw the large bowl of locally made coleslaw at the Double H Farm table, Oliver couldn’t resist.

“You can taste how fresh it is,” Oliver said between bites.

The carrots, celery and green and red cabbage in the coleslaw all came from the Nelson County farm. The food and the farm both were part of this year’s Farm Food Voices Virginia event, held Sunday at Monticello High School. The event, which is in its fifth year, focuses on educating people about the local food movement and how to support it.

The event was co-hosted by the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association. Laura Russell, who is the secretary of the organization, said the free food tasting and seminar event was a way to inform people about the food grown in their hometowns.

“We’re trying to raise awareness of local food, the availability of local food and how much work has to be done to keep it available,” Russell said.

About 250 people piled into the high school auditorium to hear from area politicians and others about how the local food movement is faring in Virginia and nationally. U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello said the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association is a presence amid loud voices from the commercial agriculture lobby.

“Keep speaking up,” the congressman, D-Ivy, told the crowd. “You’re starting to be heard.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh Deeds also spoke to the crowd about farming and his candidacy before heading to a campaign rally on the Downtown Mall.

Richard Morris, a Woodbridge man who wrote a book about losing weight with unprocessed foods, told the crowd during his keynote address Sunday about what it can take to get local food. Morris told a story of how he and two other men ended up surrounded by bees after installing beekeeping hives.

The five minutes of beekeeping training that one of the men had received did not prevent thousands of bees from swarming Morris and the others as they tried to get away.

“Good food, real food, local food requires some effort and it comes at a price,” Morris said. “I’m willing to pay that price.”

Before moving into an apartment, Oliver used to have a garden and fruit trees on his property. Jane Conroy used to have a garden. Now the two of them grow herbs on the balcony.

“We do as much as possible,” Conroy said. “We’d join a [community supported agriculture] if we could afford it.”

Jean Rinaldi of the Double H Farm said she only eats local food, much of which is generated on the farm. For those who can’t keep cows or grow vegetables, Rinaldi recommended visiting farmers’ markets and indulging a green thumb at home.

“You can start small with a container approach,” Rinaldi said. “Eventually, your food can go from your garden to your plate.”

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