If I asked you what the mission statement of Seacoast Eat Local is, do you think you could get pretty close?
Take a minute to think of a one sentence mission statement for our work if you don’t already know. You know about the work and programs we offer, but the mission brings a focus and purpose to that work. Are you ready? Here it is:
Seacoast Eat Local cultivates a thriving food economy by building bridges between regional food producers and consumers.
I bet if you didn’t get it exactly you were pretty close. To say it another way, we connect local food producers to local eaters.
So much of the work we’ve always done is to help farmers and food producers attract and retain more customers: farmers’ markets, the SNAP program, and the Seacoast Harvest local food guide. Each of those programs has gone on for at least the past 10 years. What you might not know is we have some relatively new efforts to help farmers and food producers connect with local eaters on a deeper level.
In the spring of 2021 we had an idea for a new recurring series for our blog.
We have had hundreds (if not thousands) of conversations with our local food producers. Each one of them is so unique. The ups and downs they’ve had with their businesses are often more surprising than you’d think. Being able to understand what it is they do and where the passion comes from has always made us feel a closer connection with our producers.
For those reasons, the Our Food has a Story blog series was born. So far we’ve written 10 stories in this series. Each one tells the story of one farmer or food producer in our region, including aspects like:
- ~ How they got started
- ~ Their challenges and successes
- ~ What keeps them going
- ~ How you can find their products
Our goal in telling these stories is to create more awareness and appreciation for the hard work that goes into our food. Is there a farmer or food producer you’d like to see highlighted? Let us know!
Another way we’ve been creating stronger relationships between producers and eaters is through educational workshops.
Partnering with local farms and food producers, we bring people on-site where food is grown, produced, and harvested. These hands-on workshops provide an opportunity to learn how your favorite local foods are made by participating in the process.
These events are one step beyond the blog stories as they enable you (the eater) to ask questions and learn directly from food producers. While we’ve done a small number of these events for many years, this year we’ve focused on getting many more events on the calendar. We’re hoping to have 8-10 educational workshops over the next year with potentially even more in future years.
Visit our workshop page here to get an idea of some examples. If you have any suggestions feel free to reach out!
In addition to workshops and blogs that give people an in depth look at what goes on in the heart of the food system, we are also working to raise the next generation eaters to be informed and passionate about local food.
One new project you may have heard us talking about is the crEATe program. This pilot program was launched in December of 2021 in partnership with Red’s Good Vibes and the Mary C. Dondero School in Portsmouth. The program supports families to crEATe nutritious meals together while supporting local farmers and food producers in the process.
Each week during the program students receive a tote bag that includes two recipes and corresponding ingredients for a family of four––eight meals in total. Students take the bag home on the weekend to cook with their family. They then discuss their experience with classmates the following week. The program’s goals are to:
- Inspire families to cook together
- Increase awareness of healthy local food options
- Build a sense of community and togetherness among children
- Attract a wider and more consistent customer base for local farms
By introducing kids to food and cooking in this unique way, we hope to create more connections to farmers and agriculture at a young age. Learn more about the pilot session of the crEATe program here.
As you go about your weekly shopping, whether at a farmers’ market, farm stand, or elsewhere, think about the story behind each item you pick. Believe me when I say EVERYTHING has a story. Take some time to engage with farmers’ and food producers when you can.
Most of all, when you learn something new or unexpected—or find a new product or market that you love—share it with those around you. Our mission is to cultivate a thriving food economy, and we invite you to make it yours, too!
Yours in food and community,
Have comments or questions for Shawn? Email him at sha[email protected] — he would love to hear from you!