The FEAST Local Foods Network, a collaborative network across Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin of local foods advocates and organizer of the annualFeast! Local Foods Marketplace, was selected as a finalist for an Environmental Initiative Award. FEAST was one of three finalists in the Food Stewardship category. The winners for the six Environmental Initiative Award categories will be announced on Thursday, May 26.
The Environmental Initiative Awards, established in 1994, annually honor innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary environmental results by harnessing the power of partnership. From large statewide efforts to small-scale locally based projects, many of Minnesota's most innovative environmental efforts have succeeded as a result of collaboration.
FEAST Local Foods Network is a group of local foods stakeholders who work to develop a coordinated and sustainable food system in southern Minnesota. The network is made up of representatives from many organizations and businesses, with leadership and facilitation Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), Renewing the Countryside, and the University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnership. The FEAST Network aims to provide resources, forge partnerships, and leverage expertise to increase awareness of the local food entrepreneurs and creativity driving the local foods economy in southern Minnesota and surrounding region.
The first major undertaking of the FEAST Local Foods Network was to plan and implement the Feast! Local Foods Marketplace. The inaugural event took place in November 2014 and its success led to a second event that was held in December 2015. The two-day event fosters connections among farmers, food makers, consumers, and retail, institutional, and wholesale buyers in a three-state region (MN, IA, WI). Both years attendance was over 1,300 people. The third annual Feast! Local Foods Marketplace & Tradeshow is scheduled for December 2-3, 2016. This year, registration opens April 15th and we'll be offering an early bird special. Keep an eye on FEAST's Facebook page for updates.
One offshoot of the Feast! Local Foods Marketplace event was a Peer Network launched by SMIF specifically for local foods businesses. Through the Peer Network, 15 food business owners meet once a month to discuss shared issues and concerns and learn from each other. SMIF also has a Local Foods Loan Fund to support the startup or expansion of businesses engaged in regionally produced food products.
The FEAST Local Foods Network also partners with groups like Slow Money, whose Minnesota network is organized by FEAST partner Renewing the Countryside. Slow Money is a national organization that aims to catalyze the flow of capital to local food systems "bring money back down to earth." Slow Money Minnesota will be hosting Slow Money author Woody Tasch at its next gathering on May 3 at the Como Dockside. "There is a broad range of necessary support for our local food system, including how interested investors can get money to local food entrepreneurs," said Jan Joannides, Executive Director of Renewing the Countryside.
"We're honored to be recognized by the Environmental Initiative for this collaborative food stewardship award nomination," said SMIF's Vice President of Economic Development, Pam Bishop. "The FEAST Network truly is a diverse cross-sector of people, and that's what makes the work so exciting. We see a thriving local food economy as a great asset to our region's longer-term sustainability, both economically, environmentally and socially."
The FEAST Local Foods Network was nominated by Lisa Kivirist, a local foods author and advocate who is currently serving as an Endowed Chair in Agricultural Systems at the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture.
To learn more about the awards and upcoming award announcements on May 26, visit the Environmental Initiative's website.
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