Community leaders in Mansfield are thinking about food and where it comes from a little bit differently today. That’s after The Ohio State University at Mansfield held the 2018 Food Systems Symposium March 1 at Oasis of Love Church in Mansfield.

Over 100 people attended the event. Participants talked about how to address economic, education, diet and food security issues in the community. The goal of the meeting was to discuss how all in the community could work together to create a community-based vision to improve access to safe, affordable and nutritious food in Mansfield and Richland County.

“Mansfield is our community, and we’re really excited to be building these robust, long-term partnerships with so many groups and leaders in Mansfield,” said Interim Dean/Director Norman Jones. “Part of our mission as a public, land grant institution of higher education is to support the needs of our community. If we are successful in bringing innovative ideas forward through education, this will feel less like an Ohio State concept and more like a Mansfield and Richland County project when we are finished.”

Research representatives from several Ohio State units including the Knowlton School of Architecture and Urban Planning, the Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center (OARDC), the College of Food and Agriculture, the Ohio State University Extension, and the School of Environmental and Natural Resources participated in the event.

Attendees had the opportunity to attend two of the six break out discussions:

THE GROWERS: Who are they and what do they need to be successful?

THE COMMUNITY: How to create a successful zoning, business & economic development environment

THE EDUCATORS: How to foster consumers, growers, & processors in K-16 System

THE NETWORKS: Supports, supplies and sustain abilities

THE AGGREGATORS: What Richland County needs for management of the system

THE NEW MARKETS: Imagining and creating new opportunities

The symposium was funded through the Ohio State Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation Linkage and Leverage Grant program. The program works to connect Ohio State faculty, staff, students and external partners with new talents, expertise, and resources to address compelling food security challenges by building on strengths in climate, environment, technology and agroecosystems; local to global engagements; new food economies; and campus food cultures and education.

Ohio State Mansfield Assistant Professor of History Kip Curtis spent eight years in St. Petersburg, Florida building schoolyard gardens and working toward building an urban food system. Now he wants to tackle improving Mansfield’s food system. “We want to build a whole food system where we can divide our labors in such a way and aggregate that food,” said Curtis. “Then we can begin to have enough food produced locally so that we can get contracts with institutional buyers”

Curtis has started the process on the Ohio State Mansfield campus Ecolab by constructing a micro farm. The effort is part of the Ecolab’s social justice and ecology initiative.The micro-farm will supply fresh fruits and vegetables to the campus cafeteria and nearby north end Mansfield residents. The goal is to develop a profitable growing strategy on small-plot, high-yield raised beds and high tunnel growing environments as a component of a larger urban production system.

“We hope to begin to model the cutting edge of urban agriculture and demonstrate its promise for an evolving food system,” said Curtis.

A $100,000 grant from The Ohio State University’s President and Provost Council on Sustainability funded the campus micro-farm. “This kind of growing system throughout Mansfield, at local schools and throughout the community, will aid in local economic development and prevent dollars from leaving Mansfield,” said Curtis.

Ohio State Mansfield Alumnus and Mansfield City Deputy Law Director Chris Brown attended the symposium. He is excited about the initiative and the possibilities going forward. “As Mansfield’s Deputy Law Director, I have worked very hard to try to create a climate receptive to urban agriculture in Mansfield,” said Brown. “Attending this event helped me learn more about best practices and use them in my efforts to create a more receptive attitude and regulatory system within our local government on these topics, and it exceeded my expectations.”

Source: The Ohio State University at Mansfield

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