Forage Food Awards Recognizes Local Leaders in Sustainability
Forage is a non-profit organization committed to growing the local food community and seeing it thrive. It hosted its first annual Local Food Awards on May 21, to honor and celebrate people in the Gainesville community who have helped Forage’s mission.
A food community is a group of people who share interests in what they’re eating and where it comes from. In Gainesville, the local food community is full of vibrant and passionate people ranging from organic farmers to small children who might just have a single potted plant.
The informative award ceremony was also a fundraiser. Supporters of Forage hailing from every corner of Gainesville came to donate funds and uphold Forage’s values.
The Local Food Awards were held at First Magnitude Brewing Company. The rustic setting of the brewery was the perfect place for local gardeners, farmers and foodies to come together to celebrate.
Fables Catering and Such catered the meal and First Magnitude supplied beer pairings with each course. Fables Catering and Such is a farm-to-table catering company that shares many of Forage’s values.
The Southern-style meal consisted of soul food with fresh veggies or fruit in every dish. Guests enjoyed the light summer squash salad, creamy shrimp and grits and vibrant blueberry crumble.
Among the excited guests were Laura and Pierce Jones. When they moved to Gainesville over 50 years ago, Laura Jones described her and her husband as “back-to-the-land hippies.” Jones and her husband are farmers that are very in favor of the local food movement. Laura Jones sees the benefits local farming has for the community and for the environment. Jones thoroughly enjoyed every part of her meal and was happy to support Forage.
Melissa DeSa and Anna Prizzia have been working together for over eight years. After years of volunteering and trying to grow the Gainesville food community little by little, they decided to take a big step and officially create Forage.
For the last five years, this organization has educated the people of Gainesville. DeSa noted that local food interest among the general public has grown since Forage’s conception. Prizzia believes that Forage has been able to bring people together to think more deeply about their food.
Forage presented Grow Gainesville with a local food award for educating the community and getting people’s hand in the dirt. Faith Carr, leader and organizer of Grow Gainesville, has created a more knowledgeable and aware food community.
“Grow Gainesville is a loose association of individuals who are working together towards community resilience,” Carr said.
Grow Gainesville started on Facebook as a niche page for most organic farmers and home gardeners. Carr has been able to grow this Facebook page to over 4,000 followers and has expanded the page’s reach into the real world.
Carr’s job is to connect people. If anyone has a question about farming, gardening or locally sourced food, Grow Gainesville can put him in contact with someone who knows the answer.
“People were hungry for this,” Carr said. Carr is proud of the fact that sustainable home gardening has grown from just a fad to a supplemental food source for a lot of members of Grow Gainesville. Every third Monday, the members of this Facebook page come together in the real world and share their tips and experiences. Grow Gainesville aims to get people’s hands in the dirt.
On the other end of the spectrum, honoree Jordan Brown is an organic farmer who believes very strongly in ethical business practices and food justice. Brown appreciates what Forage is doing in the community because he feels if people know where their food is coming from, they can make better-informed choices as consumers.
“People don’t have the same connection to food and their community,” Brown said. He believes forage is re-connecting people and their food. Brown was recognized specifically for his work with food justice. Brown said he pays his workers a living wage and keeps up with employee protection standards. He wants to give consumers the opportunity to buy food that was fairly grown and harvested.
Prizzia and DeSa said they hope to make this a yearly event. DeSa recognizes that are many people in the Gainesville community that are working towards Forage’s main goal, and she wants to make sure these people don’t go unnoticed. This year’s honorees have made will continue to change and grow Gainesville’s local food community and next year’s winners are likely to do the same.
“The work that’s being done local-food wise is being done by so many people,” DeSa said, “Every year we want to be able to highlight these people and give them public recognition.”