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“Field to Fork” Event Brings Local Food Producers and Buyers Together

Doug Chittum, Roanoke County's Economic Development Director, served as the moderator for panel discussion.

Roanoke Valley’s premier regional food networking event for local food producers and retail, commercial, and institutional buyers was held last Monday.  Providing a venue where local growers and buyers can meet and network, organizers helped cultivate relationships that they hope will ultimately ignite and sustain a local foods movement in the greater Roanoke Valley. The initiative is rooted in the premise that the purchase and consumption of locally grown foods contributes to the environmental and economic vitality and health of the region.

The afternoon included an opportunity for new farmers to attend a resource fair where they could access information on services and organizations available to support their efforts.

The “Field to Fork” event also included a panel and interactive discussion with the audience on best practices for successfully buying and selling locally grown food. Doug Chittum, Roanoke County’s Economic Development Director, served as the moderator for this discussion. More than 150 producers and buyers participated in the event.

Chittum summed up the day, saying “This networking event far exceeded any of our expectations, especially for someone like me who has spent my career in the economic development field, involved in more traditional business development efforts.  It demonstrated that there is a strong need and desire among buyers and producers in this region to work together to grow our local food network . . .  This was truly a regional program that has the potential to expand and pay dividends to future participants, and this type of program is gaining ground all across our Commonwealth and beyond.”

The event culminated with a dinner prepared by the Culinary Institute at Virginia Western, featuring local foods purchased from or donated by event attendees.

“Field to Fork” was organized by VT EarthWorks, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Jamisons’ Orchard,, Roanoke Natural Foods Cooperative, and economic development offices from Roanoke and Roanoke County with generous financial support from Roanoke County, Roanoke, Salem, Roanoke Regional Partnerships, VA FAIRS, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Vinton, Virginia Tech, and local businesses.

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