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Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 08:51 am

Breaking down what goes into your food

Compost symposium promotes growing produce


Tillman Bitz-O’Connell (bottom left),1, and Henrik Bitz-O’Connell (top left) ,5, of Springfield listen to Julie Vandermeer (top right) of Morton explain how worms are used to make compost.

As the buy local/eat local movement continues to grow, Illinois families are beginning to transform their food experience.

On Feb. 20, Lincoln Land Community College welcomed almost 100 participants to the 10th annual Composting Symposium. During the symposium, guests were invited to listen to business models and share personal composting ideas. They also learned how to make their own bins to produce compost, which is organic matter that has decomposed and can be used as a natural fertilizer.

Nicole Lufkin, 28, of Springfield, one of those attending, said her interest in compost grew after realizing it could not only be a business opportunity, but also provide a better future for her family. She said she never led a healthy lifestyle before, but her opinion changed after learning about the effects of animal byproducts and artificial ingredients in food.

“I started looking at my family’s past generations of diabetes and cancer, and I started thinking about where all this is coming from,” she said. “When you start having kids, you don’t want them to have bad health and to grow up learning these bad habits.”

Cory Blackwell, minister of outreach, and Sharon Brown, executive director of Kumler Outreach Ministries, operate a garden for the Kumler food pantry in the Enos Park neighborhood.

Blackwell said because Springfield is in central Illinois, an area known for having lots of farmland, it’s assumed that everyone has an abundant food supply. However, according to Blackwell, there are food deserts in Springfield. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as an area where a substantial number of residents have low access to a supermarket or large grocery store.

Nicole Lufkin, 28, of Springfield makes her own compost bin at the 10th annual Compost Symposium at Lincoln Land Community College.
The Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association, Springfield Art Association and Kumler are partnering together to provide a community garden. It will include personal plots and a larger community plot, making produce available to those in the neighborhood.

He said the goal of the Enos Park community garden is to increase access to high-quality food, increase knowledge of how to grow and what to do with the food, and encourage members of the community to build relationships with one another.

“What we are trying to do specifically is speak into the reality that fresh food costs more,” Blackwell said.

“We want to grow high quality, which means organic vegetables, with our neighbors, because ramen noodles are way cheaper than lettuce and in a small way this [community garden] addresses that situation,” he said.

Andy O’Connell of Springfield, a stay-at-home dad, is also using gardening to improve his family’s quality of life. He started gardening about five years ago. Initially his family wanted tomatoes and now their garden at their downtown home includes five 5-by-20-foot plots, two herb beds, an asparagus patch, a rhubarb plant, a honeybee hive and four chickens. O’Connell attended the composting symposium because he was looking for healthy and alternative methods of enriching soil. He has three small children who work in the garden and he did not want them coming in contact with chemical fertilizers.

Both Blackwell and Brown, of Kumler Outreach Ministries, said a lot of people in Springfield think the east side is the only place needing economic development.

“It just plain costs more to eat healthy,” Blackwell said. “Organics cost more than non-organics; fresh foods cost more than packaged food.”

He said there are politics involved in food. “How we eat has a lot to do with politics and it affects not just our health, but our community.”

Contact Jacqueline Muhammad at intern@illinoistimes.com.


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