Feast DownEast 2nd Annual Regional Conference to Help Farmers and Chefs Bring Local Food to the Table

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wilmington, N.C. - Feast DownEast and its partners will continue their commitment to growing the local food economy in Southeastern North Carolina with their 2nd Annual Regional Conference, 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3 in the Burney Center at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The theme of the conference, designed to address issues related to building a successful local food economy, is "Bridging the Gap - Bringing Local Farmers to Market."

Feast DownEast, headed by Leslie Hossfeld of UNC Wilmington, works to build a sustainable local economy by supporting and marketing local farms in partnership with area grassroots organizations and leaders. The goal of Feast DownEast is to bring more local, fresh choices to area restaurants, grocers, schools, college campuses, hospitals and other institutions. This goal supports both the continuing livelihood of Southeastern N.C. farmers and the health and wellness of the area's citizens.

The conference will focus on empowering small farmers and fishermen with the knowledge and skills needed to grow and sustain their businesses, supporting local farmers and fishermen through the development of relationships with potential buyers, and creating enough local supply to meet the demand for fresh food.

"We are trying to build and support systems that will make it easier for those who purchase food to buy from local farmers and fishermen, whether it is for an individual, a restaurant or for an entire school district," said Jane Steigerwald, Feast DownEast director and conference organizer.

Randall Gore, state director for USDA-Rural Development in North Carolina, will kick off the conference.  Workshop topics include organic farming practices, composting, aquaculture, hydroponics, farm business planning and marketing, farm-to-school buying, seasonal menu planning and more.

"The conference and our processing and distribution center in Burgaw are major Feast DownEast initiatives centered on helping our small farmers build capacity and strengthening our local food system," said Hossfeld, Feast DownEast executive director and co-founder. 

The conference is free and open to the public but is limited to 250 participants. Farmers, fishermen and local food buyers will have priority in registration, which is available online at www.feastdowneast.org. Contact Jane Steigerwald at steigerwaldj@uncw.edu for more information.

Feast DownEast, also known as the Southeastern North Carolina Food Systems Program (SENCFS), was established in early 2007 to join public and private agencies together to create a local and regional food system that supports local farmers; increases the sales of local farm products; educates consumers and the public on the importance of "buying local"; and sustains and expands farm employment, profit and ownership, particularly among limited resource farmers. UNCW is the lead agent for SENCFS.

For more information on how to get involved, visit www.feastdowneast.org.          

Media Contact:
Joy Davis, UNCW marketing and communications, 910.916.8603 or davisjc@uncw.edu
Jane Steigerwald, program director for marketing and institutional buying, 910.383.1916 or steigerwaldj@uncw.edu