Tahlequah Daily Press


June 14, 2012

Food Policy Council enjoying success

TAHLEQUAH — At its one-year anniversary, the Tahlequah Food Policy Council is counting its program a success.

Members have come together and have promoted networking among the 1,375 farmers and producers in Cherokee County.

The panel has developed a food assets county map; seen its first industrial purchase by Tahlequah City Hospital of eggs from a local producer; and hosted a regional food conference in February.

“What we’re trying to do is build a food hub and continue working toward more community awareness,” said Rita Scott, with the Oklahoma Food Policy Council. “We’re looking at how to increase communication and create a regional food system, discovering what a food hub looks like here.”

Steering committee volunteer Pam Kingfisher said that in a lot of ways, the local council is ahead of some food policy councils in larger areas.

“The food assets mapping project will be the model for all 14 counties of the Cherokee Nation. We’ve been forming and storming in the steering committee, and now it’s time to put structure to the committee, define its roles and begin to determine the structure of the organization as a whole,” Kingfisher said.

Networking is a huge aspect of the Food Policy Council’s success.

“My whole basis [of being involved] is for my family,” said Kim Fish, mother of 11.

Fish moved here from California to offer her children a healthier lifestyle.

She said she’s already been collecting local contacts to feed her family locally grown food.

She has offered to be a clearinghouse, keeping a contact list of all area growers and providers.

“I have some folks’ information, from gathering foods, to feed my kids who have food allergies,” Fish said.

Fish also raises rabbits, hogs, goats and chickens, and sells enough locally and on the internet to feed her family inexpensively. She also is selling hay and alfalfa for a friend in Missouri for $6 to $9 for small bales.

She even had a call from a person looking for a free mobile home, and since she happened to know someone who had one to give away, she put the two together.

Local producers can send contact information, and what they do or can produce, to Kim@goodgoats.net.

“With the economy the way it is nowadays – or isn’t, I should say – it’s important to be a hub,” Fish said. “And in the hard times, you can barter.”

Scott called Fish a “great resource,” noting she brought in a quart of goat milk to drink with dinner.

Karen and John White of Barefoot Farms put out a call for help, and people came to thresh their wheat, with volunteers taking some home for their efforts.

Tami Soto, with Espresso911, said they’re considering opening a small cafe serving soup, salad and sandwiches, and she asked for recipes. They plan to have a menu with all locally-grown food. (To enter a recipe contest, contact Tami@express911.com.) Pam Kingfisher asked Soto about collecting her coffee grounds for growing her mushrooms.

Northeastern State University students have established a Permaculture Club to do outreach within the college community.

Measuring and weighing food sold is in the beginning stages, and discussion of keeping records through the Farmers’ Market was considered.

“It’s the first year Tulsa farms are making a written estimate of what they’ve produced,” Scott said. “It’s also beginning nationally.”

Determining if all food produced is being sold or used is important, Kingfisher said.

“This would help us to know what’s being produced and what we can sell more of,” she said.

Food safety continues to be a critical topic locally and in the state food policy committee, Scott said.

“Julie Gahn and I attended a conference at Oklahoma State University about global food systems,” she said.

“The take-home message for me is that standards are being customer-driven. We need to establish this ... before those doing globalized food systems come to tell us what to do.”

Leaf and yard debris was another topic addressed. Sam Mueller said the city is now burning what it collects and asked to group to consider other options.

“One acre is more than enough to hold all the yard waste and limb debris of Tahlequah,” Mueller said. “Josh Hutchins offered to pick it up for nothing. But even so the city would be saving a lot of money if that was addressed.”

It takes three years for the leaf mold to make berm. Runoff was considered, and three volunteers – including Fish, with 150 acres – said they could use a portion of their property that wasn’t near the river.

Kathleen McKay said she knew of a place that had runoff 1-1/2 miles from the river. It caused a fish kill, even though they were using what they thought were safety precautions.

“The runoff was from bark,” she said.

It’s a tragedy to put natural items in a landfill, Mueller said, “instead of returning them to nature.”

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