Procter speaks to great plains vegetable growers conference
by David Procter
On Jan. 12 David Procter, the director of the Center for Engagement and Community Development (CECD), presented "The Rural Grocery Store Initiative" at the 2008 Great Plains Vegetable Growers Conference in St. Joseph, Missouri. This regional conference attracted nearly 400 local food and flower growers, food distributors, sustainable farmers, and university extension staff from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and Oklahoma.
Dr. Procter outlined the rural grocery store initiative organized by CECD, the USDA Rural Development Office, the Kansas Sampler Foundation, the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development and K-State's Department of Agricultural Economics.
Procter spoke about the importance of sustaining rural grocery stores in an era of big box stores and convenient, low-cost shopping patterns. Procter emphasized how these grocery stores remain vitally important for economic development, community development and public health. He pointed out that rural areas are becoming "food deserts" — geographic areas of the state where nutritious and fresh foods are unavailable — and that the young, poor, and elderly are impacted most negatively by a lack of local grocery options.
Procter pointed out that local growers could be an important part of a community sustainability effort. Procter and conference attendees talked together about how local growers might work in partnership with rural groceries to make local foods and products available while at the same time helping sustain local grocery stores.