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Photo: Chefs and Farmers Summit (2015)

By Randie Hovatter, Universities of Shady Grove

The work of the Food Council is accomplished primarily through its five Working Groups, led by Council Members and populated by local residents committed to our mission. The goal of our Food Economy working group is to develop and sustain an economically viable local food system in Montgomery County that supports producers, distributors, retailers, and consumers of local foods. The group is coordinating a year-long Eat Local Challenge, featuring four seasonal recipe challenges, in partnership with local farmers, restaurants, and markets to connect local producers with local purchasers, promote place branded marketing, and highlight the quality of county products. To kick off the challenge, in February 2015 the Food Council hosted a Chefs and Farmers Summit at the Universities at Shady Grove, hosted by Food Council member Susan Callahan, chef instructor for the Hospitality and Tourism Program at UMES and her Food Service Purchasing class. Over 50 food producers, purchasers, and local government and non-profit leaders were brought together to develop business opportunities and discuss the barriers to buying local products. ?Local farmers and food producers brought their products with them (including beets, eggs, milk rabbit, apples, and salad dressing). After a morning of networking and brainstorming potential means to better connect local purchasers and producers, the farmers and local chefs worked side by side in the kitchen to prepare a buffet lunch utilizing only seasonal, local ingredients. Dishes included a crispy rabbit tostada, kale salad with spicy beef jerky and a dark chocolate cake made with local eggs and complemented with rich chocolate milk. Lunch time included a presentation from students on a summary of the outcomes from the morning's discussions, with additional commentary was provided by Jeremy Criss, Agriculture Services Manager for the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development, and Dan Hoffman, Montgomery County Chief Innovation Officer, and Heather Bruskin, Food Council Manager. Overall the day was a perfect illustration of the Food Council's mission in action, connecting a wide variety of stakeholders, highlighting Montgomery County food products, and inspiring all attendees to collaborate and build a stronger, more sustainable local food system. Pictured: Jeremy Criss, Montgomery County Agricultural Services Division; Mary Fendrick, Woodbourne Creamery; Jeff Eng, Clyde’s Tower Oaks; Mark Mills, Chocolates & Tomatoes Farm. By downloading this image, you agree to use the photo within the context that it was taken. You also agree to never use it for commercial purposes. The image always belongs to the original photographer and should be attributed to the photographer and Center for a Livable Future Food Policy Networks Photo Contest. Image credit: Randie Hovatter, Universities of Shady Grove; CLF Food Policy Networks Photo Contest, 2015