Green Eating and Vacationing in Minnesota: Eat and Play to Support Sustainable Agriculture
Through a multi-faceted public education campaign we have encouraged individuals to eat and vacation in ways that support sustainable agriculture and healthy rural communities. In the third year of our grant, we added a seventh Green Route and launched Journeys with First Nations–Green Routes in Indian Country. We partnered, again, with Food Alliance Midwest and Minnesota Farmers Union to put on Minnesota Cooks, an all day local foods event at the Minnesota State Fair. In conjunction with the event we co-produced and distributed 15,000 MN Cooks calendars that focus on buying locally and sustainable grown foods. We again coordinated the Healthy Local Foods exhibit as part of the Minnesota State Fair’s EcoExperience, which was visited by over 350,000 people in a 12 day period. Finally, the Minnesota Homegrown Cookbook went to press and will be released in April of 2008.
Complete Profiles for Book & Website
Implement MN Foods Festival
Further Develop, Grow and Showcase Green Routes
Garner Media Coverage
Profiles for the book, which will be entitled Minnesota Homegrown Cookbook, were completed and submitted to the publisher. Garrison Keillor wrote a wonderful foreward for the publication. We advocated for the book to be published in the Fall of 2007, but the publisher opted to move the publication date to Spring of 2008.
We partnered with MN Farmers Union and Food Alliance Midwest to implement the Minnesota Cooks event at the state fair. The day-long event included cooking demonstrations with chefs showcasing local foods and commentary by sustainable farmers and local celebrities. Fourteen chefs participated in seven, 45 minute shows. In conjunction with the event, we produced an 18 month MN Cooks calendar featuring chefs, producers, and recipes.
This year we also co-partnered with Food Alliance Midwest, Farmers Union, Minnesota Grown and the Agricultural Utilization and Research Institute to implement a Minnesota Cooks stage over a three day period at the Twin Cities Food & Wine Experience.
We again coordinated the Healthy Local Foods exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair’s EcoExperience. As part of the exhibit we sampled local, sustainably produced foods, did cooking demonstrations, gave visitors an opportunity to talk with sustainable farmers, and gave away Local Food Hero playing cards that featured food facts and pictures of local farmers. Organic Valley, the Wedge Natural Foods Co-op, HealthPartners and Northland Organics were partners in this event along with 12 non-profit organizations who each hosted a theme day related to local food and sustainable agriculture.
In 2007, we added a seventh Green Route – Tatanka Bluffs.
We received funding from a Minnesota foundation to complete a business plan for Green Routes, which we did. We received additional funding from this foundation to further develop our marketing efforts for Green Routes.
We received funding from another two Minnesota foundations to expand Green Routes into Indian communities and began this work with leaders at White Earth.
We were part of a legislatively commissioned task force to make recommendations for a Green Travel program in Minnesota. We served on this task force, and will continue to participate in follow-on efforts underway.
We featured Green Routes at over eight conferences in Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2007.
Minnesota Monthly featured an article on Green Routes. (Minnesota Monthly has a circulation of over 80,000.)
The Wedge Community Co-op featured an article on Green Routes.
A journalist, inspired by Green Routes, wrote an article on green travel for Conde Naste Traveler that features Green Routes. We have been informed that the article will be published in the Spring of 2008.
The February 2008 issue of Ode Magazine included an article on Slow Travel that mentioned Green Routes and quoted one of RTC’s staff.
A local radio station, 950 AM KTNF, approached Renewing the Countryside and asked us to implement a radio show on local foods. We launched this show, called Local Food Hero, in February 2008. It airs weekly in the Twin Cities metropolitan area and podcasts are available through the website at www.localfoodhero.com.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
As we did in 2006, we used the Minnesota State Fair venue as the background to raise awareness and increase understanding of local, sustainably grown food.
Over 1,000 people attended the Minnesota Cooks event at the State Fair and 15,000 Minnesota Cooks calendars were distributed. An editorial written by the Minneapolis Star Tribune said of the event, “In promoting the purchase and consumption of Minnesota-grown foodstuffs by Minnesota eaters and eateries, they [MN Farmers Union, Food Alliance Midwest and Renewing the Countryside] have a winner.”
The Minnesota Cooks stage at the Twin Cities Food & Wine Experience attracted an additional 500 people and we developed and distributed over 2,000 Minnesota food and wine pairing wheels, featuring Minnesota varietals.
The Healthy Local Foods exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair’s EcoExperience was visited by over 350,000 people over the 12 days of the fair. The event received over 50 million media impressions (i.e. number of people who would have seen or heard a story about the EcoExperience), and each night of the fair Channel 5 news featured a piece on what local foods were being sampled that day.
We also increased understanding of how to support sustainable, rural communities through Green Routes. In 2007 we launched the Authentic Traveler e-newsletter that goes out monthly to over 2000 people who have signed up for it through the website or at various events where we have had an exhibit.
The information above, related to the Minnesota Cooks event and the Healthy Local Foods exhibit, is also pertinent to this outcome. While we do not have quantitative data on how purchasing behavior has changed, we have heard interesting anecdotes. For example, one woman got her monthly dinner club to use the Minnesota Cooks calendar as a guide to which restaurants they would visit. A state legislator was inspired to become a CSA member after visiting the Healthy Local Foods Exhibit.
The other work funded by this grant is our sustainable travel initiative–branded Green Routes. At the end of 2006 we had over 180 destinations listed on the Green Routes website and on the six regional maps. In 2007, we developed a seventh Green Route–Tatanka Bluffs–in conjunction with two counties in Southwestern Minnesota. Of the 28,000 glovebox maps printed as part of this project, all but about 500 them have been distributed. We are in the process of updating information and reprinting maps for Spring 2008.
We also had over 350 people make a pledge to visit five Green Routes destinations by the end of 2007. We will be collecting data from these people in Spring 2008. And as mentioned above, we launched the monthly, Authentic Traveler e-newsletter.
In 2007, we received the findings from a study conducted in partnership with the University of Minnesota Tourism Center. This study gathered baseline information on interest in local foods and sustainable travel among diners at restaurants who serve local foods. A follow up study will be conducted in the fall of 2008, approximately six months after the Minnesota Homegrown Cookbook is released.
We had hoped that the farmer/restaurant profiles collected through this grant would have been published, in book form, by the end of 2007. However, the publisher decided to push the publication date to Spring 2008. Therefore, we do not yet know the influence of the profiles on restaurant and cafe owners. As noted above, we will be conducting a follow-up studies with cafe and restaurants approximately six months after the book is released.
We are developing an aggressive outreach and education plan that will be conducted alongside the roll out of the book. This will include a series of events across the state and intensive efforts to garner media coverage on these issues.
Our work funded through the SARE grant did provide additional opportunities related to this objective. In the initial research to identify cafe and restaurant owners that buy from local farmers, we repeatedly heard cafe and restaurant owners say that they would buy more local, sustainable food if they could find it.
Based on these comments, we applied for and received a North Central Risk Management Education grant. This grant funded a series of Farmer/Buyer networking workshops that were held in January 2008. Over 180 farmers and buyers attended these workshops and new business connections were formed. We are considering conducting additional workshops later in 2008 and beyond.
Our work on sustainable travel, partially funded by this SARE grant, put us in conversations with leaders in the state’s tourism industry. As a result of this, we have conducted two workshops on using local foods at the Minnesota Bed and Breakfast Association’s annual meeting and had an exhibit at the Upper Midwest Hospitality Show, where we were able to talk with numerous people in the restaurant industry.
When we began this project, there were those working on local food issues who voiced their concern whether there was enough demand/interest in local, sustainably-grown food. Today in Minnesota, no one working on these issues has any doubt that there is plenty of demand for the current supply. The pressing issue now is building capacity within the system to meet that demand.
Because efforts to increase awareness and interest in local foods have come from a number of sources, it is difficult to delineate our contribution. We do know that we have reached hundreds of thousands of people with the message to buy local foods, to support sustainable agriculture and to learn where their food comes from.