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UMFK to hold a "Buy Local Foods" forum

April 2, 2004


Two University of Maine at Fort Kent environmental studies students have organized a "Buy Local Foods" forum that will be held on Friday, April 16 at 3:30 p.m. in the Nadeau Hall Teleconference room on the UMFK campus.

The two hour forum will address the economic and environmental benefits of buying locally grown foods.

Julie Daigle of Fort Kent and Priyanka Pisharoti of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, both students of the bachelor of science in environmental studies program, are conducting the "Buy Local Foods" forum, under the guidance and supervision of professor Bruno Hicks. The project is part of their coursework for an environmental education directed study.

"Buying local produce has many benefits for the local economy, for both local customers and local businesses," said Daigle. "While buying food at a grocery store or eating at a restaurant, we are rarely aware of the distances that food has traveled to get to our table."

Daigle points out that large amounts of oil, gas, and packaging are required for national and global transport and preservation of food items over long distances. Government subsidies are commonly required to make such trade seem economically viable.

Daigle and Pisharoti organized the forum to bring these issues to the forefront of public concerns in the St. John Valley communities and the UMFK campus.

This project takes root in a previous effort by Daigle and UMFK alumnus Jeremy Ray to have locally grown potatoes served at the University's dining hall. Both students were unhappy to find out that campus diners were eating potatoes from Idaho in spite of the university's location in Maine's potato county.

Daigle and Ray worked towards their goal with positive responses from UMFK dining services management and local farmers. The "Buy Local Foods" project is an expanded and modified version of Daigle and Ray's venture.

"Along with the specific goal of having locally grown produce served in the campus dining hall by next fall, the project will also address the overall economic and environmental benefits of buying locally grown foods, and we will present this information during the forum," said Pisharoti.

UMFK President Richard Cost will open the forum. Speakers will include university professors, local business persons, and state representatives.

Steve Selva, UMFK professor of biology and environmental studies and lichenologist, will talk about energy efficiency and waste production involved in long-distance food transport. Dave Hobbins, professor of forestry at UMFK, will speak about bio-invasion by non-native species related to this transport.

A representative of the Maine Department of Agriculture will present a summary of the state's "Get Real Maine" initiative, essentially a buy local foods program also.

Aramark's on-campus dining services staff will describe that company's local produce program and its requirements, and a representative from either Bates or Unity College will also address the audience with a summary of their campus' successful attempts to serve local foods in those dining halls.

Also on the program are Chuck and Lisa MacLeod, who were involved in the original student mission to get the campus to serve local potatoes. The MacLeods will speak about their small local farm, its limitations and opportunities.

Matt Roy of the Riverhouse Restaurant in Fort Kent will speak about their business and their motivations for buying and serving local potatoes.

The forum will provide an excellent opportunity to learn about the importance of food purchasing choices on the health of the local economy, community and environment.

Anyone thinking about starting a similar initiative on their own will benefit from listening to the experienced presenters. Local farmers interested in supplying produce to, or in hearing about the needs of the university dining services, should bring their questions to the forum to be answered.

The forum is free to the public. The community is encouraged to attend as part of an active audience at the presentation.