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Thursday's Panel at Drury Will Explore Benefits of Local and Community Agriculture

This year’s convocation theme at Drury University is The Changing Planet: Our Role in Nature’s Economy. On Thursday (April 19), three expert panelists will discuss the role that local agriculture plays in changing our planet. KSMU’s Samuel Crowe spoke with panelists Jonny Dubowski of the rock group Jonny Lives!, as well as Adam and Melissa Millsap, co-owners of the Urban Roots Farm in Springfield.

The panel will focus on how school gardens and community based farming help protect the environment and educate its stewards. The Urban Roots Farm is part of a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. CSA is a system where patrons pay the farmer up front for a certain time period. This money is used to cover various costs around the farm. In return, each patron receives a box of vegetables every week, and as Adam Millsap says, hopefully, a lesson on sustainable agriculture as well.

“It’s a beautiful relationship where hopefully they spend some time on the farm as well and understand what it takes to produce food on a commercial scale that is providing their dinner,” Millsap said.

This relationship is also fueled by social media, a tool Millsap says has helped his farm grow.

“Facebook and Twitter are awesome tools for getting people out to market. It’s really easy to forget to go to farmer’s market. So, the night before, we’re posting that we’re going to be there, where we’re going to be, and what we’ll be bringing, because it’s all in the truck at that point. And that’s a great tool for them to because they can see, ‘Hey, this is exactly what they’re going to have at market today,” Millsap said.

Dr. Sean Terry is the convocation director at Drury. He says the current food system in the United States is trending toward those in Asia, Europe and South America, which have systems that promote the local farmer.

“They’ve maintained a tradition of markets that rotate around the city to where a local fresh market is going to come to your neighborhood a couple times a week and to where you will get that fresh food. So whether it’s the chef from the restaurant, or even a local store owner, or a family, then they know where to go, to these really vibrant and active markets that have a variety of things to eat. The burden isn’t all on the farmer to go find every individual that might buy that thing,” Terry said.

Jonny Dubowski is the executive director of the Rock ‘N Renew Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that works to educate students on the environment and local agriculture through art and musical performances. He says competition amongst urban farms is a good thing. More farms means more food for the community and, as Dubowski says, that means more profits for each farm.

“There’s a mechanic, economic structure by which small farms can get together, and all of a sudden they can afford the big processing equipment that costs fifty grand that a small farm couldn’t afford. If twenty of them or ten of them get together, all of a sudden they can make a new product that makes them money together,” Dubowski said.

Melissa Millsap also serves as the Executive Director for the Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition. The coalition is helping to educate students about urban farming in Springfield classrooms. Together, they’ve planted gardens at the schools, which Millsap says teach the kids valuable lessons about responsibility.

“This is important. This needs to happen. We need to start while they’re young. While some of those organizations look at it as a health issue, with the whole obesity epidemic, but then you also have people that see above and beyond, and it’s definetly moving fast in our community and we’re very excited about it,” Millsap said.

For more information regarding Theme Day at Drury, visit our website, For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.

The panel will be held Thursday (April 19) in Drury’s Clara Thompson Hall at 11 a.m. It’s free and open to the public.