City: MORPC's local foods plan

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Fresh tomatoes, squash, sweet corn, red raspberries.

Central Ohioans are buzzing with excitement over farmers markets, especially at this time of year - and with good reason.

How great would it be if the thrill of fresh-from-the-farm produce didn't disappear when summer ends? And what if more people - nay, everyone in the region - had access to it?

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission hopes to eventually accomplish those tasks. The group recently released a report of survey results and recommendations that aim to boost Central Ohio's local food economy.

To do that, they say, lots of things need to happen. Most important at this early stage in the game is to get politicians and business leaders in the 12-county region on board and issuing resolutions of support so public and private funding becomes viable, said Jerry Tinianow, director of MORPC's Center for Energy and Environment.

Increasing education among consumers and processing and distribution options for growers are a top priority.

Plus, many farmers, nonprofits and others are working toward those same goals independently, and they want to connect those efforts and harness that energy, MORPC farmland policy specialist Brian Williams said.

Luna Burger is the kind of local-eating example MORPC takes cues from. Since launching a little more than a year ago, Barbie and Megan Luna have made meatless patties from locally sourced veggies.

The results, which come in three flavor varieties, are available at Whole Foods, Bexley Natural Market and other specialty grocers and farmers markets, plus on the menu at Hal & Al's, Bernard's and the Short North Tavern.

Enabling local farmers to more easily transport and flash-freeze produce in the state would make it more likely for their bounty to be used inside Ohio, Barbie Luna said.

Finding farmers who could handle Luna Burger's original volume - 500 or so burgers a week when they first began, Luna said - was easier than what they're facing now, producing 2,000 a week.

"As we grow, finding the sources to continue to utilize local ingredients will be harder," she said. "We may need multiples coordinating that will add a little challenge."