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Rogue Valley Food System Network Will Shine at the Jackson County Fair

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The Fair is a Veritable Smorgasbord

Photo courtesy of Rogue Valley Farm 2 School.
Photo courtesy of Rogue Valley Farm 2 School.

Bring on the elephant ears, cotton candy and hot dogs—it’s fair time! Or perhaps try the zucchini fritters? The Rogue Valley Food System Network invites everyone to check out their interactive and tasty display in the Padgham Pavilion at the Jackson County Fair July 22—26.

The Rogue Valley Food System Network is a group effort of local food conscious groups including: ACCESS, OSU Small Farms Program, Rogue Valley Farm 2 School, THRIVE, Jackson County Health, Farm Corps, The Lunch Show and 1000 Friends of Oregon. They are all coming together at the Fair to show our community where its food comes from and how it gets there. The exhibit is titled Rogue Valley Grown: Celebrating Our Community Food System at the Jackson County Fair, and they are pulling out all the stops for this one. Live plants and trees in a portable farm, a tractor and interactive activities will display how food is grown, consumed and discarded right here in the Rogue Valley. Participants will go through production, growing, harvest, handling, washing, packing, distributing, purchasing, consumption and waste management.

“We will be walking people through the food system,” says Tracy Harding, Executive Director of Rogue Valley Farm to School, and head of the subcommittee for this project within the Rogue Valley Food System Network. “It will be a literal path that demonstrates the food system. We have a big space, we have a big audience and we have a big message.”

The idea for this installation was born out of community assessments run throughout Oregon which determined that people need to see how their food systems work, along with the support of Jim Teece, owner of Project A and Ashland Home Net. Teese has been on the Fair board for 20 years and is currently the co-chair. Harding says that after Teese attended their meeting back last November, he was sold on the idea.

“He believes in county fairs,” says Harding. “It is a great venue for engaging community.”

She adds that the installation strives to be informative, not judgmental.

“It is a sensitive subject,” says Harding. “We don’t want to tell people what to eat. We understand that we all only have $3 and 10 minutes to feed our families. We want to show people what else they can do with $3 in 10 minutes.”

And while many know about our Rogue Valley Food System, Harding says that there are ways for the community to become more engaged in it.

“There are issues when you talk about how people eat,” Harding says. “We want people to know about this great place we live in that has a long growing season and great food. People do want to support their local producers, they just want it to be convenient. People want to go to the stores that they go to and get local food right off the shelves.”

The 15 council members involved in the Rogue Valley Food System Network are made up of a wide range of food conscious folk, from farmers to land use policy advocates.

“We are so immersed in this work,” adds Harding.

The display will be open whenever the Fair is open, and Saturday is the day the group will focus on education and interaction, and they will be harvesting, preparing and serving those mouth-watering zucchini fritters mentioned earlier.

The space will be shared with the OSU Extension office, where you can learn to be a master at just about everything through the OSU Extension’s programs Master Gardeners, Land Stewards, Master Recyclers, Forestry and Master Food Preservers.

Rogue Valley Grown: Celebrating Our Community Food System at the Jackson County Fair

July 22-26.

Jackson County Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point.

$5-$9. Kids 12 and under, free.

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