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Sustainable Cherry Hill, Rutgers Master Gardeners team up to teach community about healthy eating

Do you know where your food comes from?

This is the question Sustainable Cherry Hill is asking the community at Local Food for Thought Fare 2.

Sustainable Cherry Hill is teaming with Rutgers Master Gardeners of Camden County to host the event on Sunday, Jan. 11 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Camden County Environmental Center in Cherry Hill.

Amy Milgrim, a member of the Sustainable Cherry Hill Garden Task Force, said the goal is to make people in the community more aware of the food they are eating.

“We feel it’s really important because people are sometimes disconnected to their food source,” she said.

The event is like a festival for farmers. Multiple farmers from around South Jersey and the Philadelphia region have tents set up where visitors can read about the foods they grow.

Guests can also sign up to participate in Community Supported Agriculture. In a CSA, a farmer offers a person shares consisting of certain food products the person can receive throughout the year for one price. The farmers have drop-off points set up in the area where people can pick up their shares throughout the year.

Milgrim said the CSAs have been the big draw for farmers, who are looking for ways to better connect with the community.

“It’s a way to make small, local farmers more sustainable,” she said. “You’re helping the farmer be there for the long-term.”

Another member of Sustainable Cherry Hill’s Garden Task Force, Nadine Downie, said reaction from the farmers was overwhelmingly positive after the first Food for Thought Fare in 2012.

“After the event, we talked to the farmers and asked them if it was good for them,” Downie said. “They said it was great.”

The interests from both the public and farmers were enough for Sustainable Cherry Hill and Rutgers Master Gardeners to hold the event again. When the organizations began to contact farmers about participating, there was a lot of interest.

“We had quite a few vendors and farmers reach out to us,” Downie said. “Last time, it was calling them trying to get them interested. We try to find farmers who have fairly local pickups.”

Milgrim said there are a number of people who came to the first event without a lot of knowledge about CSAs, farm-grown foods or healthy eating. She felt the event really made people more interested in learning about what they eat.

“You get to meet people who are actually growing your food and delivering it,” Milgrim said. “You get to meet local farmers. You get to hear about their passion.”

There is also a community aspect stretching beyond the two-hour event. People who buy shares in a CSA make connections with other people who have shares.

“It becomes a community,” she said. “We share recipes. It’s just a way for people to come together.”

Downie added a number of people showed interest in Sustainable Cherry Hill following the 2012 event.

“Every time we have an event, we find people who show interest in Sustainable Cherry Hill,” she said. “It does rev up their excitement to do something positive.”

In addition to farmers, the Master Gardeners will have a number of demonstrations and exhibits. The Betsy and Peter Fischer Food Pantry and Cherry Hill Food Pantry will also be on hand collecting non-perishable food items from visitors.

Admission to the event is free, however visitors are encouraged to pre-register prior to the event. Visit www.sustainablecherryhill.org/local-food-garden-expo to register.

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