I was recently asked to moderate a Local Food Panel Discussion for an Earth Day event. Supposedly, this was targeted for a group of people that weren't already knowledgeable about local food. It didn't exactly work out, but the preperatory work was already done, so.... here it is, in case you ever need to throw together such an event.
I'm known for being extremely prepared, so this includes the introductory text as well as questions for the panel experts. I recommend reading whatever speech you write out loud once or twice, as grammatically correct text doesn't necessarily sound right when spoken aloud. There are also some decent tips here on moderating panel discussions.
Welcome to the XXX Earth Day Local Food Panel Discussion! Thank you for coming, and please take a moment now to turn your cell phones off. Kathy will be available throughout the panel discussion to take your written questions, so feel free to give your index cards to her and we will take several questions from the audience at the end of the panel.
We have a trio of knowledgeable, experienced and passionate local food advocates here today to discuss the meaning and importance of local food, the latest developments in the local food movement, and how you can find and use local food for the health of your family and the environment.
Before we begin, let’s take a quick survey of the audience: Who here feels very familiar with what the local food is all about? Who is here to learn more about HOW to buy and use local food? Who is here to learn more about WHY to buy local food?
To start this discussion, what is local food and where did this movement come from? In the last decade, the popularity of books such as Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle, and films such as Super Size Me and Food, Inc., began inspiring citizens to question the dominance of the anonymous corporate food chain and to re-discover the value of fresh, humane, beyond-organic food grown and raised by local farmers and ranchers. Growth of local food since then has been phenomenal - the number of Farmer’s Markets has tripled nationwide since 1994, while our own Oklahoma Food Coop has increased from 36 members in 2003 to almost 4,000 today.
Local food has now taken a place as a key pillar of the sustainability movement, but the appeal is not limited to environmentalists. Fresh and healthy food appeals to mothers and fathers, physicians and ministers, and social justice advocates. Whether you lean left or right, whether you consider yourself liberal or conservative, we all have to eat. And to be healthy, we need to eat healthy food.
Our panelists today are Ryan Parrott, Stephanie Jordan and Chelsey Simpson. Ryan Parrott’s cooking career began at age 15, and he is now the head chef at the Iguana Mexican Grill, where he features local ingredients in many of his signature dishes. Ryan is also the founder and head chef at Table One, where all meals are designed around ingredients that are local and in-season.
Stephanie Jordan has a wide range of local food experience. She serves on the board of Buy Fresh Buy Local and as a local food advocate on the Sierra Club’s Executive and Conservation Committees. In her career as personal chef, she cooks primarily local food dishes sourced from the Farmer's Market and the ingredients available from Rose Ranch Jones. And most recently, she and her husband Doug began operating a transitional farm and ranch in Jones, OK.
Chelsey Simpson is the President of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. The OK Food Coop, started in 2003, delivers over $1 million per year of fresh local fruits, vegetables, grains, eggs and meat – straight from the farms to the consumers. For her day job, Chelsey works at the national Farm to School network, which connects schools with local farms in order to serve healthy meals and improve student nutrition. She recently returned from a trip to Vermont, where she explored their latest farm to school innovations.
Welcome to our panelists!
This first question is for all the panelists. What does local food mean to you and why do you support eating and using local food?
This next question is for Chelsey. What ideas or inspiration have you drawn from the local food movements of other cities and states? What are the missing links that we need here in Oklahoma City to grow and strengthen our local food system?
This question is for Stephanie. The average age of an American farmer is fifty-seven, and we need a new generation of farmers to replace the ones we are losing to retirement. What are some difficulties or obstacles you encountered as you began farming and how have you overcome them?
This question is again for all of the panelists. What do you see as the difficulties or downsides in using local food? This could be difficulties for farmers and ranchers, individuals, restaurants, businesses, etc.
This question is for any and all panelists. How does supporting local agriculture benefit our economy in Oklahoma City?
This question is for Ryan. You mentioned earlier that you use % local food in your restaurant. What changes would you have to see in our local food system infrastructure or supply in order to be able to double or triple that percentage?
For Stephanie and then anyone else. All the recent food movements - organic, vegetarian, school nutrition, and local food - have been accused of being elitist at some point. Is local food elitist? Why or why not?
What are the most important steps that our Oklahoma City or Oklahoma State governments could take to support the local food economy?
And finally, again for all the panelists, how would you recommend that someone new to local food begin? What one or two steps could they take?
And now we will take a few written questions from the audience.
Thank you again to both our audience and our panelists for your attention and participation, and thank you to our sponsor, XXX for organizing this panel. If you are interested in more information on local foods feel free to talk to the panelists after the session, take a Buy Fresh Buy Local guide, or visit the Sierra Club booth here at the Earthday celebration.
And now, if each panelist could share where they can be found online for further information. To start, I’m Christine Patton, co-chair of Transition OKC and facilitator of the Going Locavore local food networking and strategy group. We invite everyone to join us at Sustainable OKC's EVOLVE Local Food Challenge on April 23rd, which will feature creative in-season local food offerings from six local chefs. Transition OKC can be found at our website http://www.goinglocalokc.org/ and our Transition OKC Facebook page.
Ryan? ...Stephanie? ...Chelsey?