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Conference community track to focus on sustainability

By: Gloria Young Gold Country News Service
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PlacerGrown’s annual Food and Farm Conference is an information-packed resource for local farmers. But it also embraces community participation. This year’s four community-strand workshops will focus on local food and sustainability. “That whole track is meant to give insight into some of the aspects of agriculture as it touches the community,” said PlacerGrown president Karen Killebrew. It includes segments on school and community gardens, Placer Sustain — building networks, Master Food “Agvocate” creating a consumer education program and CAFF Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign. Berkeley-based Allyse Heartwell, with the Community Alliance of Family Farms, will discuss the Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign. “It has been demonstrated that it isn’t just a fad, but a trend that is here to stay,” she said. “… Many consumers are willing to pay more for food that comes from a farmer whose story they can hear about. Telling that story is part of what we’re trying to do.” The Placer Sustain segment, being presented by Jeff Bordelon, is a community-driven effort looking at sustainability in food, business, energy, health and wellness and other aspects. “That group meets every month and has some working groups around these topics, seeing how the element of sustainability can be incorporated into everything we do in Placer County,” Killebrew said. “It’s an exciting project, kind of in its infancy. It’s been around a little over a year. (The organization) has a website and some forums. … Members of the group are going to Economic Development Board meetings and working with (Economic Development Director) Dave Snyder to see how sustainability can be written into (that aspect). It’s very exciting.” Community and school gardens speaker Dave Chappell has been a longtime cheerleader for the concept, Killebrew said. “We’re in the process of building the first (community garden) behind (Auburn) city hall (at the School Park Preserve),” he said. He estimates there will be room for 30 to 50 garden beds, with a typical size of 3 to 4 feet by 8 to 10 feet. The site is already plumbed for water, with the nearby demonstration garden ready for dripline installation. Chappell said he’s seeing a lot of interest in signing up for the spaces, and plans to have an informational signup sheet at the conference. He’ll also update attendees on school garden efforts, which he describes as “a great way to get students thinking about food issues, nutrition, food security and sustainability.” Chappell is coordinating a panel with Bill Maynard, Twelve Bridges science teacher Tom Toy and Laura Hawthorne, garden coordinator at H. Clarke Powers in Loomis. In the afternoon he’ll discuss working the nuts and bolts of establishing community gardens. Killebrew will present the PlacerGrown “Agvocate” program workshop. It’s an agriculture leadership program modeled after civic programs such as Leadership Auburn. The goal is to prepare community members who can then be speakers at civic organizations, start dinner groups or connect with schools, she said. “We’re really looking for input at the farm conference to get a gauge of what people want to learn about,” she said. Killebrew would like to see it launched in spring before PlacerGrown’s annual meeting in May. “The program would be over the summer when everything is in full harvest,” she said. “We’ve been wanting to find a kind of niche for our community members. They’re out volunteering at events and asking what more they can do.”