Last August, Governor Ernie Fletcher announced an innovative program in which state resort park chefs would buy fresh produce directly from local farmers.
With the approach of this year's growing season, Bob Perry, the department's director of food services for the 17 resort parks, three Frankfort cafeterias, and the Artisan Center Cafe, is spreading the word to farmers about the produce program. He and Matt Ernst of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service have appeared in a number of informational sessions sponsored by the service.
In early March, Perry will appear at a University of Kentucky symposium on humanities and agriculture. The annual symposium, which honors the state’s first poet laureate, Joy Bale Boone, is cosponsored by Partners for Family Farms.
Perry said he can already see momentum building for greater participation by farmers in 2005. As more farmers find out about the program, they can plant with the park system’s needs in mind.
“We’ve even had farmers come up to us at these sessions with seed catalogues and ask what variety of potatoes we would like for them to plant,” he said.
Additionally, using techniques explained during the sessions, farmers can extend their growing seasons from March through November, Perry said. The parks welcome fresh produce any time they can get it.
Through the program, a farmer deals directly with a resort park’s chef. The farmer benefits from being able to sell locally at typical market prices without having to go through a middleman, Perry notes. (The price of an item is determined by periodic surveys).
Meanwhile, the parks are supporting the local farm economy, while paying about the same as they pay to wholesale distributors. Even better, park chefs love to be able to use locally grown fruits and vegetables to build unique menus, Perry said.
“We’re making a major commitment to improving our dining rooms,” Perry said. “The local produce program is am important step in offering dishes that are unique to an area.”
More information on the program may be obtained by contacting Bob Perry, Ky. Department of Parks,10th floor, Capital Plaza Tower, 500 Mero St., Frankfort, KY 40601, phone 1-502-564-2172, e-mail BobR.Perry@ky.gov