SHEPARD: Church hosts dinner to encourage members to buy, eat locally

Sunday, October 9, 2011 | 3:26 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — An electric knife buzzes as it slices through a juicy ham. Vegetables are simmering in two large slow-cookers. The aroma of freshly-made pies fills the air.

All were being made with ingredients grown in and around mid-Missouri.

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, 2615 Shepard Blvd., held its annual Local Harvest Supper on Saturday evening to encourage people to eat locally grown food and let them know where to find it.

The supper celebrates the harvest and also supports the congregation's interest in environmental awareness and sustainable agriculture, said Corinne Mann, volunteer coordinator for the supper.

This year’s supper brought more than 70 people from the church together to enjoy an array of locally produced food made by church volunteers, Mann said.

The menu included black bean and sweet potato hash, rice pilaf with chicken, baked ham, green salad, cornbread and apple pie.

Workers began preparing for the dinner early Saturday by going to the Columbia Farmers Market for fruits and vegetables.

The church used meat and dairy from farmer-owned operations that do not use non-therapeutic antibiotics or hormones. This year's ham was purchased from Patchwork Family Farms, and the chickens were raised by one of the church members.

Ellen Thomas, a church member for 12 years, was among the members who originally developed the local supper. She said she tries to eat locally grown food every day.

“We really did this originally as an educational kind of thing but also as fellowship,” said Thomas, as she stirred a slow-cooker full of vegetables. “We wanted to show people what great food is available locally.”

Surprisingly, it is getting easier every year to buy locally grown food for the supper, Thomas said. She believes the abundance of foods produced in mid-Missouri plays a big role in that, as well as the increased interest people have in wanting to know where their food comes from.

Scott Denson, a church member for 20 years, said this is his third time he's attended the harvest supper. He recognizes the importance of mid-Missouri as a sustainable center of agriculture.

“Mid-Missouri will support humans if we treat it right,” Denson said. “If we grow our vegetables and our foods well and we don’t use a lot of money for transportation, then that is sustainable over a long period of time.

"If mid-Missouri is sustainable, then human beings are sustainable here.”

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