Community / News / May 3, 2012

Increasing connections with local farmers

A student-led initiative called Growing Galesburg is aiming to increase connections to local farmers throughout the Knox and Galesburg communities.

Student Senate recently approved $3,000 of funds to the previously called Knox-Galesburg Good Food Initiative to promote sustainability on campus by hiring two students to work over the summer to create relationships with local farmers as well as to increase attendance to the Galesburg Farmer’s Market, which begins at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 5.

“The Good Food Initiative was just a working name for what we hoped would be a student-led, community-based organization,” Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Nic Mink said of the name change. “It’s an inclusive name that really embodies what this initiative is all about.”

Sophomore Nora McGinn, who was one of 16 students in Mink’s Sustainable Food Systems class that created the initiative, said it is a chance for Knox students to take a hands-on approach to create a community around agriculture.

We’re in the perfect situation to learn about community building,” she said, “and I think that is a really key aspect of sustainability.”

The initiative aims to increase Knox student participation through offering “Knox Bucks,” a partnership between the Center for Midwestern Initiatives and the 16th section fund of the Galesburg Community Foundation. Beginning this Saturday, the first 25 students that attend the Farmer’s Market will receive $5 to buy food at the market. All students who arrive before 10 a.m. will receive $1 in Knox Bucks.

Additionally, McGinn and her classmates have created a welcome booth, hot food stand and are planning a professor survey to continue to draw support for the farmer’s market.

“For consumers, one of the main strategic goals of Growing Galesburg is to help educate community members to see the benefits of eating locally, of keeping money circulated locally,” Mink said.

Closer to campus, Growing Galesburg aims to provide two students with jobs over the summer to work closely with Director of Dining Services Helmut Mayer in providing a list of local farmers to buy from, something that Mayer welcomes.

“My contacts with local farmers has gone from slowly growing over the last three years to almost non-existent,” he said. “There’s nobody organizing the local farmers.”

McGinn said that the money senate approved has solely been for these summer jobs and that Mayer has done a commendable job to this day in providing Knox with local food.

“He does do a good job with what he does have, but his job isn’t solely to make connections with people in Galesburg who could produce for us,” she said.

Mayer hopes that Growing Galesburg will help improve the market for local produce at Knox and beyond.

Mink echoes his statement and hopes that this student group can help take the first step in creating a thriving, local food economy.

“[The students] will be providing a mechanism to help people and community members better understand the reasons why they should participate in a community oriented, a local oriented food system,” Mink said.

John Bird


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