Economic Development Newsroom

Study Calls For Expansion of Locally Grown Foods

Thursday July 17, 2008

The Louisville region can reduce its reliance on imported food by increasing the number of neighborhood farmers’ markets and creating a network that connects Kentucky farmers with Louisville buyers, according to a report released today by Mayor Jerry Abramson.

The report, “Building Louisville’s Local Food Economy,” also envisions a new full-time downtown public market that operates seven days a week.

“With the rising cost of gas, cities across the nation are increasingly beginning to buy and eat locally-grown food,” said Mayor Jerry Abramson, who released the report at Miss C’s Kitchen, a restaurant and catering company that uses Kentucky-grown products. “Louisville is in a great position to help feed itself because of the many family farms located in Kentucky and Southern Indiana.”

The report says a variety of meats and vegetables are raised in the 23-county Louisville region but that farmers’ need a stronger support network and infrastructure, including more meat and poultry processing plants, and a better distribution network.

Buying local products can help boost the farming community while delivering fresh food, vegetables and meats to families, according to the report, prepared by Market Ventures of Portland, Maine and Karp Resources, of Southold, NY.

Abramson, who has been consulting on a regional food strategy with acclaimed Kentucky author Wendell Berry and several county judge-executives, laid out a four-pronged strategy, called the Fresh Foods Initiative, to implement parts of the study. His recommendations include:

  • Forming a joint regional Fresh Foods task force comprised of leaders in Metro Government, the business community and surrounding counties to look for ways to implement the strategies recommended in the report. Susan Hamilton, an assistant director of the City’s Economic Development Department, will oversee the task force, part of the Mayor’s Healthy Hometown Movement;
  • Looking for opportunities to expand neighborhood farmers’ markets in underserved areas of Louisville. The city has 20 farmers’ markets, many of which operate one day a week in church or business parking lots;
  • Creating a distribution network that better connects farmers with buyers.
  • Working with the private sector to build a full-time public market downtown.

A group of investors that includes Lois Mateus, Tim Peters, Gill Holland, Augusta Brown Holland and others recently announced plans for such a market. It would be built on East Jefferson Street, in the former Disney Tires property across the street from the Liberty Green redevelopment.

Hamilton said she will be meeting with the investors to share details of the food economy study and to look for ways that Metro Government can work with the investors. The $150,000 report was funded by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund and Louisville Metro Government. Other financial contributors include Oldham, Henry, Trimble, Shelby and Spencer counties; the city of Shelbyville; and the Brown-Forman Corp.

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