By JAHAAN JONES
Special to the Weakley County Press
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Brainstorming was the order of the night last week at the “Using Food to Build Community” Forum and Farm-to-Table Dinner at the Dresden Farmers Market. The forum was free to the community and revolved around discussion on ways to improve the local Farmers Markets and create more connections between the community and local farmers.
The forum was hosted by the Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center (NTEC) , a 501(c)(3) organization in Martin, TN, and focused on elaborating a set of focused goals that will lead to the improvement of Weakley County’s local food system, community relationships, health, and economy. The five goals were placed among the tables and participants were encouraged to interact with one another in order to come up with ideas to achieve the goals.
The five goals were as follows:
Goal 1: Make the Dresden and Martin Farmers Markets destinations for farm businesses, local arts, healthy living, family and visitors.
Goal 2: Empower and develop local people and organizational capacity to advance local food, local place-based initiatives.
Goal 3: Make downtown Dresden and Martin thriving places that support local business growth, local foods and better public health outcomes.
Goal 4: Grow farming businesses and local food entrepreneurs.
Goal 5: Provide education and increase awareness of the benefits and opportunities of a strong local food, local place making programs.
The ideas provided by participants were all ways in which the community could be strengthened. The majority of participants suggested hosting cooking classes that would inform and educate the public on how to prepare meals created from farm-raised ingredients, allowing the community to learn how to use vegetables, fruit, and meat properly and what products create finished dishes.
A shuttle to the farmers markets for people that have no transportation was a suggestion from group five. A community kitchen was encouraged to explore.
Other ideas involved creating a greenway that connects both the Martin and Dresden farmers markets to each other and incorporating gardens into schools, daycares and nursing homes, which would then supply the school cafeterias throughout the county, including Gleason.
A farm-to-table dinner was provided by local farmers and prepared by Sodexho staff at the University of Tennessee Martin. All of the food was grown locally and the menu consisted of Utopia Farm ground meat stuffed bell peppers, Jill Magness and Richard Duncan butternut squash soup, Steele Plant Company roasted roots and Dixie Chile Ranch roasted pumpkins, Richard Turnbow mixed greens with Utopia Farm Bacon, Farmers Market roasted zucchini and yellow squash, Earth’s Bounty sourdough rolls, Oma’s Country Kitchen baked pumpkin and sweet potato pies, Oma’s fudge with pecans and onsite churned vanilla ice cream from the Rainey family out of Dresden. During the event it was announced that the Delta Regional Authority has provided funding for Local Food Network events and activities.