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Sustainable and local food to take center stage at area libraries

Over the past few years, several community groups have sought to harness a growing public interest in local and sustainable food.

Local farmers markets banded together to build a website and enhance low-income families’ access to fresh local produce.

Fredericksburg officials and businesses worked together last summer to create the Family Table festival, offering local food activities and restaurant deals to all age groups.

This year, the Central Rappahannock Regional Library hopes to lead the community in a comprehensive, region-wide exploration of local food resources around Fredericksburg.

“Cultivating Community” is an eight-month series of events that will take place at all library branches from March through October 2012.

The centerpiece of the series is a community-wide “CRRL Big Read” of Barbara Kingsolver’s 2007 book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” The book is a first-person account of the year Kingsolver and her family spent eating only what they grew or could buy from local producers.

Barbara Davison, branch manager of CRRL’s Salem Church library in Spotsylvania, said library staff had wanted to organize a community-wide discussion on a topic that would appeal to a variety of area residents. They’d read about growing interest in farmers markets and farms, and seen more and more references to local food on the menus at area restaurants.

That led them to choose local, sustainable food as a topic.

“We perceived that it was a rising interest in the community,” Davison said. “Our goal with the whole series is to provide information.”

That starts March 29, with a panel discussion at 7 p.m. at the Salem Church Library that will include Spotsylvania farmer Emmett Snead, area farmers market managers, and a representative from the Virginia Tech Extension Service. Farm-to-table practices and highlights from “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” will guide the discussion.

In May and June, the library will host a film series at the England Run branch in Stafford County that ties in with the theme. “Fresh,” a documentary about the local food movement featuring writer Michael Pollan and Virginia farmer Joel Salatin, will be screened May 17th at 7 p.m. Other films in the weeks after that will include “Truck Farm,” “Farming Forward” and “The Egg and I.”

Throughout the eight-month event series, library staff will talk about the theme of local produce and farming in children’s story times and other library events.

Branches will host gardening workshops and the Porter branch in Stafford County will even host a demonstration garden run by volunteers. Produce from the garden will be donated to SERVE, the Stafford-based nonprofit that provides aid to low-income families.

Library staff will man booths at area farmers markets, with books on farm- and food-related themes that library members can check out on the spot.

In September, library staff are planning an outdoor garden festival at the England Run branch. Davison said they hope to bring together farmers market managers, chefs who can perform cooking demonstrations with local produce, information on canning and preserving and an expert on seeds, in addition to other activities.

In October, the series finale will be a community discussion of “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” Oct. 8 at the downtown Headquarters branch led by University of Mary Washington professor Steve Watkins.

There will be no charge for any of the events.

Many of these events are still in the works, and brochures on the series should start appearing at branches next month. For more information, and to keep up with the “Cultivating Community” events as they evolve, visit the library’s website at and stay tuned to this blog.