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Conference offers venue for convergence of local farmers, businesses

As pleasant summer weather promises Athenian farmers a great opportunity to plant their favorite seeds, a conference in The Plains will look to highlight the Appalachian area’s advanced local food network.

The second annual Real Food Real Local Conference will take place Wednesday through Friday at The Eclipse Town Company Stoke in The Plains.

“Last year’s edition exceeded our expectations with 45 presenters coming from the university, local farmers, and not-for-profits,” said Natalie Woodroofe, director of Real Food Real Local. “It was a very positive response and we’ll look to keep it going.”

This year’s conference will feature new guest speakers, including Philip Ackerman-Leist, author of Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable and Secure Food Systems.

Local restaurants and businesses that have been known to support local food suppliers, such as Casa Nueva and Kiser’s Barbeque Express, will sponsor the conference.

Having helped develop the 30 Mile Meal movement in Athens, which aimed to educate people on the importance of local food sourcing and provided information on where consumers could buy locally, Woodroofe has previously worked firsthand with the businesses that have pushed the “locavore” initiative.

Casa opened in 1985 as a joint business venture between the restaurant’s founders and local farms. It now buys many of its ingredients from local businesses such as Shagbark Seed & Mill and King Family Farms.

Thom Kirbe, food operations coordinator at Casa, said that while the restaurant won’t be offering more than a “living room” for the evening networking portion of the conference, he believes its business experience will provide a less tangible service.

“One of the original founders helps put on the conference, so I think we’re contributing over 27 years worth of experience in doing this,” Kirbe said. “I think the intellectual property is beyond value.”


If You Go:

What: Real Food Real Local Conference

When: 9 a.m. Wednesday

Where: Eclipse Town Company Store, 11309 Jackson Drive, The Plains

Admission: $200 for the full conference

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