Go Green festival founder Jenny Underwood told Thayer aldermen on Tuesday, June 14, that 500 people attended the second festival in April at the city park. The first Go Green festival in 2009 drew 200 people.
Underwood anticipates 1,000 may attend the October event.
"In this economy, just about the only market that is growing is in green products," Underwood told the board.
Go Green seeks space
Underwood was at the meeting to ask the city if Go Green, which has applied for nonprofit status, could lease the concrete slab in the Industrial Park and put up a Quonset hut on the site. The building would be used during the festival as a place for demonstrations of such things as alternative energy and fuels, food preservation and gardening.
Throughout the year, the building could be used for classes and locally based job counseling in green jobs, Underwood said.
The board has not yet decided on the request.
Meanwhile, another local effort, headed by Couch resident Rachel Luster, is working to apply for a $800,000 federal grant to build a food producers' and artisan cooperative market in Oregon County.
Luster's group met for the first time on a rainy Saturday before Easter at Juggbutt's Coffee House in Alton, attracting about 20 residents. When the group met for the second time, on the Saturday before Memorial Day, more than 30 attended.
The group's online social networking Facebook page has 51 members. Another dozen or so people have expressed interest in the group, Luster said.
"The interest is really there," Luster said in a telephone interview Saturday, June 18.
Those who attended the May meeting offered suggestions for ways the county could use the grant money, if approved, including a community center, county garden, community kitchen and mobile food unit.
"We had a chalkboard and were writing up all the ideas," Luster said.
Luster then used the list to draft the grant, which would be funded through the Department of Health and Human Services as President Obama's Healthy Food Financing Initiative, created in part to help low-income people have access to whole foods.
Food Desert grant
Luster said the entire county (except for a small strip in Thayer along Highway 63) qualifies as a "food desert," meaning most residents do not live near a grocery store.
Luster said food deserts are often a problem in inner cities, where residents live nearest to fast food restaurants or convenience stores and more than a mile away from grocery stores.
To qualify for funding, applicants must demonstrate a need for local access for low-income people to healthy food, create jobs and reduce dependency on the federal government for low-income food programs.
The $800,000 would be disbursed over three years and could be used for salaries, a building, land, construction, materials and equipment. The grant requires no financial or in-kind match.
"In a lot of places, $800,000 doesn't go far, but in Oregon County, that amount of money can have a tremendous impact, especially if it is traded locally," Luster said.
Luster said the group was able to "dream big" to use the funds.
Luster will include in the application a large community kitchen, where up to 16 people at a time will have space to can their produce. As the kitchen will be certified with the health department, the food could legally be sold.
The plans include a greenhouse, classroom space, meat-smoking area and community center. A mobile unit would do twice-weekly deliveries to the remote areas of the county, such as Thomasville, Myrtle, Couch and Jeff, to sell locally grown produce.
All produce and homemade items, such as soap and fiber, could be paid for in cash or traded for goods or labor.
Any money made by the cooperative would go back into the project, Luster said.
The cooperative would create one full-time and three part-time jobs, plus a host of contract jobs for construction, accounting, legal and drafting work.
"The core of the project is access to healthy food," Luster said.
Luster said she is keeping an open dialogue between the community and those putting together the project. Jerry Hackworth, owner of Juggbutt's Coffee House, drafted a budget for the proposed kitchen, including every detail "right down to the hose clamps."
The group will meet at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 25, at Juggbutt's to hear an update on the grant application, which must be accepted by a pass-through agency, such as the Oregon County Commission, before it can be submitted.
A third local effort to promote self-sufficiency is headed by Duane Dawson and Deb Slack, who established the Ozarks Sustainable Living University to teach homestead skills such as canning, gardening, soap-making, cheese-making and how to preserve a garden harvest.
During the gardening class on June 18, Slack explained how to foil squash bugs by inter-planting marigolds, nasturtium, radishes, onions and garlic around the squash plants.
"The bugs are so confused, they don't know where the squash plant is," Slack said.
Class participants also learned the technique of square-foot gardening by using flour paste to attach tiny garden seeds to paper towels. Once dry, the towels are placed upside-down in the garden, loosely covered with soil and watered.
The free classes are held from 1-3 p.m. the first Saturday of each month at First Assembly of God Church in Thayer and on the third Sunday at Next Step Seventh Day Adventist Church in West Plains.