UNL Great Plains panel on local food draws a large crowd

By Rebekah Sutter, NewsNetNebraska

Despite the chilly weather on Wednesday afternoon, about 120 people attended a panel about local food on the great plains hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Center for Great Plains Studies. Panel members included:

William Powers, executive director for Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society
Billene Nemec, state coordinator for Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska
Renee Cornett, owner of Prairie Plate restaurant in Waverly, Neb.
Bob Bernt, Clear Creek Farm
Ruth Chantry, Common Good Farm

Panelists talked about the relationship farmers have with their customers.

“There is something special about shaking the hand of someone who grew your food,” Bernt said. If you know your farmers, you have a better understanding about your food. Chantry was touched when a parent asked their young child to thank her for growing their food.

Powers added that local food is about the relationships established in the community. One way Cornett builds relationships with her customers is by writing her own menus at her farm-to-table restaurant. This encourages customers  to ask questions about the food she is producing.

Another way the relationships are built is through farmers markets. Twelve vendors participated in the Lincoln Haymarket farmers market when it began in 1985. Now there are more than 90 vendors.

Cornett writes her own menus at her farm-to-table restaurant in Waverly so her customers will be more inclined to ask questions about the food.

Finally, the panel talked about how important it is to bring young people back to farms. Nemec and Bernt stressed that educating the next generation is key. There are internships available to aspiring farmers though University of Nebraska programs.

Powers said land and capital are the hardest parts for young farmers. “You need someone to be a mentor and help you get started,” he said.

Nemec echoed Powers and said: “as a community, we have to pull together to help bring young farmers back to the land.”

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