Rural development center offers local, regional foods conference

University Park, Pa. -- The Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development housed at Penn State will host the national conference, "Enhancing Local and Regional Food Systems: Exploring the Research, What Works, and What We Need to Learn," May 19-20 at the Hudson Valley Resort in Kerhonkson, N.Y.

The conference is designed to bring together researchers, practitioners, extension educators, nonprofit organizations, businesses and agencies to explore the most recent research and information related to the critical questions surrounding local and regional food production in the northeastern United States.

Interest in local and regional foods has increased dramatically, as evidenced by the recent establishment of a vegetable garden at the White House, according to Stephan Goetz, director of the center and professor of agricultural and regional economics in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. Yet many questions remain, ranging from how farmers can develop sufficient scale to participate effectively in regional value chains to the potential hidden disadvantages of regional food systems.

"We are bringing together an impressive list of nationally recognized speakers from different disciplines to provide participants with a common understanding of the most recent information and research available," Goetz said. "This information and the discussions that follow will enable us to build on the work that has been done to date and set the stage for advancing both the science and practice of local and regional food system development across the Northeast."

Presenters will include:

--Kate Clancy, food systems consultant and senior fellow at the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture of the University of Minnesota, who will present "What are We Talking About When We Talk About Local and Regional Food Systems?"

--Clare Hinrichs, associate professor of rural sociology at Penn State, who will discuss "What Do We Know and What Do We Need to Know About the Community Impacts of Local and Regional Foods?"

--Dawn Thilmany, professor of agricultural and resource economics at Colorado State University, who will present "Consumers of Local Foods: Civic Minded or Seeking Assurances?"

Conference co-sponsors include the Northeast Research Association, the Northeast Extension Directors, the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Network, the West Virginia Small Farm Center at West Virginia University, the Center for Rural Partnerships at Plymouth State University, and the USDA Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service. Participants represent numerous public and private agencies interested in local and regional food production and marketing.

A registration fee of $175 includes all workshops, instructional materials, breaks and lunches for the conference. More information and registration details can be accessed online at http://nercrd.psu.edu/LocalFoods/Conference.html.

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Last Updated May 18, 2009