Keynote speaker at the Sustainable Living Fair discusses agriculture and food

Thursday, September 13, 2007 | 8:21 p.m. CDT; updated 4:44 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008
Kathy Lawrence, the keynote speaker for the Sustainable Living Fair 2007, thinks Columbia residents can make better use of locally-produced foods and products.

COLUMBIA — Missouri is known for its rich agricultural history. Farms are a familiar sight for residents across the state. It is not unusual to hear someone express appreciation ­­— rather than scorn — for a rainy day, knowing that the crops need more water.

At MU, agriculture continues to be offered as a major, validating the important role of agriculture in the Midwest.

But are Columbia residents taking advantage of what their land has to offer?

Kathy Lawrence, keynote speaker for the Sustainable Living Fair 2007, sponsored by Peaceworks’ Center for Sustainable Living, will discuss agriculture and locally-grown food as part of her speech 1:45 p.m. Saturday at the fair, located in the Unity Center on 1600 West Broadway.

Lawrence, who lives in New York, works as a consultant in sustainable agriculture and food systems.

She volunteers on the board of directors for three groups: a farmer’s market, an opera company and Just Food, an organization she founded in 1995 to link New York farmers and low-income communities in New York City.

Lawrence is the former executive director of Just Food and the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture.

She said her involvement with sustainable living has led her to believe that working together as a community, by using community resources, will benefit the land and people of Missouri and beyond.

The following are her thoughts and suggestions on sustainable living.

Q: What is Sustainable Living?

A: “Ultimately, I would say sustainable living is where we would not either extract or pollute more resources than the earth is capable of regenerating or cleaning up through natural processes.”

Q: Why is this important in Missouri?

A: “I think America’s heartland has a huge role to play in reversing unsustainable living and providing models for how it can be done. Natural systems are a beautiful thing, and if, as humans, we are working in concert with nature and in concert with each other, life can be really, really good.”

Lawrence said she believes that to work with nature and lead a sustainable life, it is important to eat and buy local foods.

Q: Why locally-grown foods?

A: “First and foremost, you’re helping to keep family farmers on the land. You’re supporting an entire local economy,” she said.

“I think more important, even, is if you’re buying locally and you get to know a local farmer — or two or three — you’re reconnecting with one of the best, most positive ways humans can interact with the land.”

Lawrence also said buying food locally does not require the energy and materials needed for foods to be shipped, packaged and refrigerated.

Q: What about foods that are not in season?

A: Can foods. “If you’re canning at home, you’re making sure that you’re not only eating local at home when food is readily available,” Lawrence said.

She also recommends canning foods as a project with friends. “Whatever it is you’re doing, it’s much more fun to do it as a group.”

Q: What else can people do together to help lead a sustainable life?

A: Lawrence suggests having a potluck dinner with locally-grown foods. They tend to reinforce how “wonderful” good food in season can be, she said.

She also likes to garden with friends, which she said is positive for the environment and helps build communities.

Lawrence also gave a more obvious way to cut down a carbon footprint — carpooling.

Q: How do I start?

A: Lawrence believes that people should begin with small steps in areas of interest to them. “I think sustainable living is a very personal journey,” she said. “There are many different places to start; each of us just have to start somewhere.”

To find a nearby farmer’s market, go to

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