A group of Miami University’s graduate students have been working with Hamilton’s department of economic development. Their main role is to research the features necessary for a farm-to-restaurant system to work in Hamilton, Ohio. They are also working to communicate with farmers and restaurants and keep them in communication with each other. This has required the team to develop various strategies.
“We are doing research. I am focused on marketing; understanding how to promote local food and the local food movement,” said Jamie Brocker, a Miami grad student. Brocker is working on this year’s project as a student in the Master of Environmental Science degree program.
Brocker and her teammates started communications by attending Hamilton’s Historic Farmer’s Market and interviewing attendees individually. The team decided to hold focus groups in February in order to better grasp the overall opinions of the stakeholders (farmers and restaurants) in the local foods movement.
“They do this for a living, so they know what it’ll take better than we do,” said Brocker.
For Brocker, the focus groups have been the most rewarding experience with the project so far. She said that this was the first time it felt like they were really making a difference. The groups were able to share the research they had up to that point with the restaurants and farmers’ association.
According to Brocker, Miami’s graduate students working on this project are enthusiastic about service agriculture and local foods and bring those practices to Hamilton.
The team will turn in their research to Jacob Stone and Stacy Dietrich, their clients.
“It is a lot of work, but it’s exciting for us. We are excited to see what happens in Hamilton after we turn in our research,” Brocker said.
The graduate students have had to tackle a large amount of subject matter: benefits of a local foods system, barriers, zoning laws, the relationships and economics between restaurants and farmers. This has been an ongoing process throughout the 2014-2015 academic year.
The team’s project faculty advisor, Suzane Zazycki, has acted as a liaison for the team and their clients.