By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Everybody eats, but according to the Delano Food Council, some ways to munch might be better than others.
The organization, which developed about a year ago, aims to bring clarity to the impact consumers have on local, sustainable, healthful food choices.
“We’re just citizens who are really concerned about agriculture and the health of our families,” member Nikki Nau said.
Currently, the council is making plans for a market festival Saturdays during the summer in downtown Delano.
“It would be like a farmers market, but a lot more diverse,” member Brandon Wiarda said.
A few ideas for the festival include a garden produce swap, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) pick-up, bulk dry food pick-up, family activities, and live music.
The group also hopes to collaborate with Delano’s Wednesday farmers market to sell produce and homemade goods.
“It’s a great feeling to support a local economy and local farmers,” member Diane Przymus said. “Even if it’s not certified organic, small farmers tend to use fewer pesticides because they’re eating the food themselves. There’s this accountability.”
The idea to form a food council in Delano sprouted from a discussion course Przymus and other residents participated in using a Northwest Earth Institute book called “Menu for the Future.”
“It really focused a lot on decisions individuals make on where to shop, and the impact we have,” Nau said.
Other topics in the book included the effect of modern eating habits, the shift from family farms to industrial agriculture, emerging food system alternatives, health implications of food choices and policies, the role of various entities in the food system, and practical advice for creating more sustainable food systems.
“We just got inspired to create something here,” Przymus said.
“We all wanted to continue the conversations we were having,” Wiarda added.
The food council spent its first year exploring ideas and gathering data. At the Delano Heritage Festival, members asked people to fill out surveys to see if there was interest in a Saturday market.
“There definitely was,” Nau said. “We’re hoping that as the idea continues, other organizations might be interested in getting involved.”
In the future, the council also hopes to bring Farm to School to Delano.
Farm to School is a program that helps young people connect to agriculture in various ways, such as using local products in school meals and introducing food-related curriculum and hands-on learning opportunities.
Locally grown food is about more than just eating, according to the Delano Food Council.
“I think it’s a whole lifestyle change,” Wiarda said. “You consume more in-season food, and it really binds you to the time and geography you’re in.”
“The taste is also a huge factor,” Przymus added. “Usually, the flavor is so much better. The farming practices might also be better adapted for nutrients, making it better for your health overall.”
Although members of the Delano Food Council all have a passion for fresh food, each offers a unique perspective.
For example, Przymus lived in Italy for two years, where local food was customary. She now works as a life coach and shiatsu therapist at Dancing River Wellness Center in Delano.
Member Amy Rieder also works at Dancing River, as a yoga instructor and wellness coach. Her family has owned Rieder Meat Market for many years.
The owner of the Dancing River building, Mary Reynolds, is also a food council member. Reynolds is a licensed psychologist who offers counseling sessions for individuals, couples, and families. Reynolds and her husband, Greg, own a certified organic vegetable farm in Delano called Riverbend Farm.
Wiarda, who used to intern at Riverbend Farm, is now a CSA farmer renting land near Howard Lake. He graduated a few years ago from the University of Minnesota with a degree in environmental science.
Nau ran a CSA in the metro area before having her children. She has an interest in supporting the health of families through sustainable agriculture and fresh food.
Member Cathy Rose, who owns Nature’s Nest Bed and Breakfast in Montrose, has experience in CSAs, landscaping, gardening, raising animals, and permaculture.
Several other people have contributed to the Delano Food Council, as well. To learn more about the organization, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.