September 7, 2021 | By: Jordan Strickler
Lexington, Ky.

This week, The Food Connection of the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, kicks off a new iteration of a popular community event series. Previously called First Friday Breakfast, the new programHarvest Hour, picks up where the former event left off. The series encourages the Lexington community to discuss local food systems. 

“Our goal is to build a community of people interested in exploring local food systems in Kentucky and beyond,” said Lilian Brislen, director of The Food Connection. “We want to learn from each other’s experience and expertise, and we really see it as part of the rich, ongoing conversation that is our local food system.” 

The discussion will include a casual conversation with food system leaders across our food community and will allow attendees and presenters to learn about everyone’s thoughts of the area’s vibrant food ecosystem. Occurring the second Wednesday of each month during the academic year, each session runs from 3-5 p.m. ET at the new Cornerstone Exchange Building on UK’s campus. The Food Connection will provide locally sourced snacks and participants may enjoy beverages from on-site vendors Ethereal Brewing and Cup of Commonwealth.  

The first session, on Sept. 8, is titled “Hard Times, Hard Tomatoes: A Land-Grant Redux.” It will feature past and present leaders from The Food Connection to discuss the university’s role in the area’s food system. Highlighted speakers include former CAFE dean Scott Smith, former chair of the Department of Agricultural Economics, Leigh Maynard, along with The Food Connection’s faculty chair Krista Jacobsen from the UK Department of Horticulture.  

The Oct. 13 event titled “Restaurants After COVID with The LEE Initiative,” will focus on that organization’s impact on local restaurants and local foods. The LEE Initiative (Let’s Empower Employment) began in Louisville in 2018 after organizers Lindsey Ofcacek and Chef Edward Lee saw a need for more diversity, more training and more equality in their restaurants. 

Since then, the group has addressed diversity and equality among in the restaurant industry through programs such as Women Chefs of Kentucky, which offers mentorship opportunities for female chefs. During the pandemic, the group also turned kitchens across 19 cities into relief centers that provided more than 200,000 meals and essential supplies to unemployed hospitality workers. 

In the session, LEE Initiative representatives will discuss ways they helped initiate emergency relief and recovery during COVID-19 and how businesses are surviving the pandemic. 

The final meeting is Nov. 8 and is titled Cooperative Communities for Uncertain Times: Louisville Community Grocery.” Attendees will hear from Google leaders who are working on a community-owned grocery store. They will discuss the role of cooperative economics and community grocery stores’ role in community health and food security. 

“Our hope is to really inform our community of how some parts of our community food systems work,” Brislen said. “We want to find out what sort of questions we should be asking and how we can do that together.” 

Contact: 

Lilian Brislen, lilian.brislen@uky.edu