Local Food Week Event Raises Awareness About Area Farmers and Food Producers
Written by Natasha Bourlin
Photos courtesy of Growing NV
Now in its second year, Growing NV local food week is back to connect area folks to the foods cultivated and crafted in their backyards. With mostly virtual events happening from Sun., Aug. 9 through Sat., Aug. 15, more than 50 regional organizations, from farms and restaurants to nonprofits and food producers, are participating.
Led by event founder and local food advocate Jolene Cook, the weeklong celebration of whole, healthy foods will help teach food lovers where their non-processed nourishment really comes from. Taking place the week before school begins, events were created to reach a wide breadth of age ranges and community segments.
“My inspiration comes from being a local food enthusiast,” Cook says. “That’s my secret. I really care about eating healthy. And with local food, it’s so easy to do that.”
Her husband, Steve Cook, partner in Reno’s NEON Agency, a marketing and advertising business, had attended a local food week in Toronto and, afterward, prompted his wife to create one of her own. So she reached out to a multitude of food-industry organizations to help build this event-based spotlight on healthy eating and the many locals who make that possible for everyone.
She was an ideal candidate for such a task. Cook currently serves as board president for Reno Food Systems, a nonprofit whose mission is “cultivating community-based food systems through education, research, and civic engagement.” She’s also a former buyer for the Great Basin Community Food Co-op. She used her involvement in the food industry and knowledge of healthy eating to form a passion project that directly affects the community.
“Everyone had their own struggles and was super busy doing what they were already doing and didn’t really have bandwidth to reach out and connect with other organizations and make things easier on each other, or help each other,” Cook explains. “[I wanted to] help other people raise awareness about what they’re doing and kind of connect it all together … knowing that it’s needed and knowing that I could do that work.”
Local farmers showcased their products during Reno’s inaugural Local Food Week in 2019
She entered the event field not wanting to create more work for the participants, many of whom were already stretched thin. She simply wanted to raise awareness about their work. In Growing NV’s first year, the organization successfully achieved this mission, drawing attention nonprofits such as Soulful Seeds, who increased its volunteer base and attention to its efforts after hosting a day on its farm in 2019.
During this time of COVID-19, nonprofits constantly are having to pivot, with their programs and various events getting stymied by new rules and regulations.
“It’s important to me to make the event as accessible as possible,” Cook says.
Cook has put together a roster of events for 2020 that kick off with Sunday is for Sunflowers, Shoots & Sprouts. People of all ages who are interested in learning to grow their own sprouts from seeds can pick up supplies at select businesses in advance, then attend a live Facebook event, which will show them all the steps to get from seed to sprout.
Results from attendees will be documented on Growing NV’s social media channels throughout the week. It provides kids in particular with a tangible way to see where their food comes from.
Other happenings during the week include Workshop Wednesday, which teaches adults how to make fruits and veggies more appetizing to their little ones; Thirsty Thursday, when area mixologists will demonstrate how to concoct cocktails using fresh, local ingredients; and Apothecary Day, in which a local herbalist hosts a ticketed (free) workshop on turning plants from Reno Food System’s Park Farm into treasures.
One of the missions Cook is most excited to launch this week is Money Monday, where people pledge online to spend at least $10 in one week on local foods, creating a direct and trackable economic impact on local food producers, farmers, and retailers. Her goal is to get a minimum of $5,000 in pledges that week.
Anyone participating in the week’s events is entered into a series of drawings, and those who pledge to spend $10 on local food are entered to win a goodie-filled grand prize package.
Growing NV’s overarching goals, however, are to raise awareness about eating healthy and local, to get people away from eating heavily processed foods, and to teach people of all ages and cultures that eating more fruits and veggies is so important. With the largely virtual nature of this event, perhaps people from other areas may also be inspired to explore their own area food systems.
“Farmers know food; if we don’t support them and buy from them, we’re just so disconnected from the larger picture,” Cook says. “But we have an opportunity to slowly but surely plug in, and once you go to a farmers’ market, or buy from a certain farmer, there’s just this special relationship being built that really inspires further development … People want to be connected; it’s just really easy not to be.”
For more information on Growing NV’s local food week, visit Growingnv.com.