Virginia Cooperative Extension is hosting a Cultivating Sustainability Conference on Wednesday, Sept. 30, to offer strategic directions for scaling up regional food systems, discuss the critical role institutions can play in the development of these systems, and explore practical tracks for food-service personnel to source more food locally from Virginia farms for their institutions.

The conference will be held from 9:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Washington and Lee University campus in Lexington, Va. It will focus on the successes and challenges of getting locally sourced food into K-12 schools, hospitals, and universities.

“This conference will be ideal for school-nutrition and food-service personnel, school and university officials, local legislators, administrators, farmers and producers, and individuals involved in food-system development,” said Eric Bendfeldt, a community viability area specialist for Extension’s Northwest District.

Featured speakers include

  • Larry Yee, co-founder of the Association of Family Farms and Agriculture of the Middle Task Force;
  • Ron Doetch, executive director of the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute;
  • Doug Davis, director of food service for the Burlington School District in Vermont;
  • Barbara Harman of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center;
  • Frank Holland, local foods and sustainability coordinator for U.S. Food Service;
  • Mike Martin, food service director at Ferrum College;
  • Christopher Carpenter, special projects coordinator at Washington and Lee University Dining Services;
  • Andrea Early, school nutrition director for Harrisonburg City Public Schools Nutrition Program;
  • Katrine Rose, school nutrition director for Prince William County Schools;
  • Lynda Fanning, dietician with the Virginia Dietetic Association;
  • Louise Mitchell, sustainable foods coordinator for Maryland Hospitals for a Healthy Environment;
  • Don Kendall, marketplace manager for Washington and Lee University;
  • Bryan Kelly, executive chef at the University of Virginia; and
  • Scott Wood of Cavalier Produce.

Washington and Lee University, Virginia Foundation for Agriculture Innovation and Rural Sustainability (FAIRS), Shenandoah Resource Conservation and Development Council, Virginia Farm Bureau, Virginia Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), Standard Produce Company, and Whole Foods Market are sponsoring the conference along with Extension.

To register, call Virginia Cooperative Extension at (540) 432-6029. The registration cost, which includes a locally grown lunch, is $20 before Sept. 28 and $30 after that date.

Directions to Washington and Lee University: If you are traveling from the north, south, or east, follow I-81 to exit 191 (which puts you onto I-64). Next, take exit 55 off I-64. Turn left onto Route 11 south at the stop sign. If you are traveling from the west, take I-64 to exit 55. Turn right on Route 11 south at the stop sign. Once you are on Route 11 south, you will drive through three stoplights. After the third stoplight, you will cross the Maury River, and bear right onto Route 11 Business. You will pass Virginia Military Institute and see Washington and Lee University on your right. Parking is available in the Lee Chapel lot on Jefferson Street. Remain in the right lane and look for the brick entrance to the parking lot.

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