By 9:30 on a late March Saturday morning, hundreds of people had gathered in the gym at Johnson County Community College to attend the Eat Local & Organic Expo — a gathering of vendors and food-focused organizations offering everything from education to locally and sustainably produced meat, spinach and handcrafted body care items.
I greeted the editor of a local food magazine, said hello to fellow Slow Food Kansas City board members and caught up with a rural bed and breakfast owner who has a massive garden and maturing grape vines.
I also talked to Roxanne Mettenburg about Mettenberg Farm’s involvement in the Savory Network — an international initiative to restore native grasslands across the globe.
At a time when the U.S. wastes 200 pounds of food per person, per day, this is an important event. Each spring the Kansas City Food Circle offers two versions of the Expo to the public — one held at JCCC and the other at MCC Penn Valley Community College. Each Expo provides an expansive introduction to this area’s local and sustainable producers.
One vendor sold wool dryer balls and praying mantis egg pods whose mature inhabitants provide great natural pest control, alongside other wool items and meats. Wood + Salt sold small-batch spice blends, brines, rubs, infused sugars, smoked finishing salts and artisan wood chips for smoking.
Visitors could purchase half of a pig from one vendor and learn about Missouri Organic — Kansas City’s largest state-permitted organic recycling facility and a wholesale source for compost, top soil, commercial grinding and composting.
Sandia Pastured Meats sold fresh pork, beef and chicken on one side of the room while Schenker Family Farms offered grass-fed meats, eggs, sheep cheese, salsa and other items on the opposite side. Fahrmeier Farms sold starter sage and other herb plants as Be Love Too Farm offered grasses, daffodils and sunflower sprouts.
Manager of the Barstow School Organic Farmers Market, Peter Staffacher, was selling Indigenous Dream coffees whose beans are hand-harvested by residents in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Established in 1935, Borgman’s Farmstead Dairy provided luscious samples of cajeta, goat’s milk caramel, and they’re one of only two U.S. dairies producing this creamy-sweet treat.
A beautiful photo of a woman in ethnic dress decorated an information booth about New Roots for Refugees, a cooperative venture between Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas and Cultivate Kansas City, which builds on the refugees’ existing farm experience while providing them with significant training and support. Multiple vendors also offered CSA partnerships that will begin within the next 5-6 weeks.
With only an hour to spend at the JCCC Expo, I had barely scratched the surface of this impressive event. I’d also decided to allocate more time for the next Expo.
This year’s second Eat Local & Organic Expo will take place 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., on April 11 at MCC Penn Valley Community College gym, 3201 Southwest Trafficway. There is no admission charge.
Lisa Waterman Gray is a freelance writer based in Overland Park. She specializes in food and travel writing.