In 2008, the Agroecosystems Management Program of the Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center organized a local food systems infrastructure workshop at the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The workshop brought together key individuals from throughout the Ohio food system, all of whose aim was to work together on the distribution infrastructure for local food systems in the state. As a result, localfoodsystems.org, a social networking website, was launched to keep the workshop participants connected.
The site’s number of subscribers has since tripled, addressing topics like value-added processing, marketing, local procurement for food service companies and schools, and urban food access.
In addition, the project has gained funding through USDA’s Specialty Crops Research Initiative, making further expansion possible.
In the Q&A below, Casey Hoy, Professor and Kellogg Endowed Chair in Agricultural Ecosystems Management at the Ohio State University and one of the site’s founders, shares details of the project:
Q) How quickly has the site grown?
A) Quickly and steadily. The number of subscribers has increased from about 80 to more than 430 since its inception, and the number of working groups has followed a similar steady rate of increase.
Q) What kind of feedback have you gotten?
A) The content, information, and interactions on the site are very useful to people who are trying to build local food systems.
Q) Do you think something like this would work on a national level?
A) It’s already at an international level. There are subscribers from Europe and Africa and all over the United States, although many of them are tuning in for ideas that they can put into practice in their locale.
Q) What are the benefits of participating in a site like this, and who should participate?
A) We get a lot more done working together than alone, and the site helps people work together. Anyone who is interested in food, from producers to business persons to NGOs to consumers, could find an opportunity to have an impact and contribute through social networking.
Q) What is the ultimate goal of the site?
A) Local and regional economies that are stable, self-reinforcing, meet more of the needs of the people within the locality or region, starting with food, provide incentives for protecting and enhancing natural resources like soil and biodiversity, and maintain wealth and a counter balance and buffering capacity against the fluctuations in the global marketplace.