Panel Drives Home the Point of Homegrown

Eating is, perhaps, your most important daily activity. And, it’s about more than sustenance. Our food choices contribute to the health of our bodies, the health of our local economy, and the health of the environment. And, yet, something so impactful is usually taken for granted.

On Wednesday, June 5, the Warrensville Area Chamber of Commerce invited its members and the community to pause and think about the source of their food and its meaning to their lives and economy. As part of “Homegrown in Ohio: The Local Food Movement,” the chamber hosted a panel of five local food authorities who shared insight:

Brian Rosander, Executive Chef, Great Lakes Brewing Company
John Bonner, Co-Owner, Great Lakes Growers
Mario Grazia, Produce Buyer, Heinen’s
Abbe Turner,  Owner, Lucky Penny Creamery
Mary Holmes, Chapter Leader, Slow Food Cleveland

Noelle Celeste, Founder of Edible Cleveland, moderated the event.

Panelists discussed the dimensions of “local,” delving deeper than merely geographic distance. The concept of “local” also encompasses the way in which food is produced. Food is farmed, not manufactured. “Local” focuses on growing sustainably in a way that respects soil and water resources. Local is about ownership that puts money back into the community. Supporting local food also is a responsibility, perhaps even an obligation. “Every time you fill your plate, you vote on what’s important to you,” Celeste said.

Choosing locally grown food like his hydroponic lettuce, for example, said Bonner, is a vote for the local economy. It keeps money from leaving the area, the state, and the country. Choosing local is also a vote for health. Food that’s been grown sustainably and that has not traveled long distances is more nutritious, Holmes said. Nutrition is important, as Americans often choose processed food with little health benefits.

The panel agreed the nation’s overall health would improve if consumers prioritized buying and eating locally grown food. “More hospitals and health professionals are prescribing food,” Celeste said. “When we have to be prescribed food, that really says something about what we’re choosing to eat.”

To those who say eating local can cost too much, Celeste notes that Americans spend less on food than any other developed nation.

If busy lifestyles cause bad food choices, Rosander said Americans should look deeper and perhaps reconsider lifestyle choices, as in finding ways to slow down. (As an aside, he admits that dining “right” isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. While he believes in sourcing local for Great Lakes Brewing Company, he’s been known to frequent a chain restaurant on occasion. It happens.)

“It’s all about making choices,” Rosander said.

—Paris Wolfe