Ground Level

For several decades, Minnesotans have nursed a growing interest in eating locally.

Farmers markets have blossomed, food cooperatives have emphasized produce and meat from local growers, restaurants have started to tout the nearby farms they obtain squash or beef or apples from. Schools are doing likewise, partly in response to concerns about eating healthier.

But this is a movement running into the challenge of scale. Can it become bigger and more efficient by creating sophisticated supply and distribution systems, serving farmers and consumers well but without wrecking the value that many people place on using local food?

Because this is playing out differently in many communities and because it touches people in a variety of ways -- health, money, connection to land -- Ground Level is focusing on how those questions and conversations are playing out in Minnesota.

Winter Harvest in Milan

Carol Ford and Chuck Waibel operate Garden Goddess Greenhouse and sell fresh produce to 20 families all winter. Now they want to expand operations, growing more and acting as a middleman for neighboring farms to reach the growing local food market.

Play with food — on a map

Local food source map

Take your meal and map the ingredients to see how local your food really is.

A closer look at local food

IN THE SCHOOLS

Schools work to get local in the cafeteria

Food service directors say local food programs will improve students' health and might lead to better success at school.

INGREDIENTS

Play with food — on a map

Local food source map

Take your meal and map the ingredients to see how local your food really is.

WHITE PAPER

Growing pains: Scaling up local food

For all the enthusiasm around local food, it is a movement challenged by uncertainties and questions. Success varies from one place to another for geographic, population and economic reasons.

UP CLOSE

Local takes on local food

See how cities from Apple Valley to Willmar are working to incorporate local products into their food supply.

What innovative idea have you seen in your community involving local food?

Q & A

Local foods: Why now?

Ground Level's director, Dave Peters, talks with All Things Considered host Tom Crann about why the local food movement is interesting now.

Forum: Would you pay more for a local chicken?

How do you define locally-grown food? Would you pay more to support food grown locally?

We identify topics that are significant and complex and that play out uniquely at the local level. We want to explore those issues in which people taking action in their communities make a difference and can serve as guides for others.

Ground Level launched in early 2010 and shines a light on a variety of topics, from the growing complexity of Minnesota's local food system to cities preparing for new fiscal realities, from exurban growth in Baldwin Township to the quest to expand broadband access across the state.

We experiment with coverage on a variety of platforms. This includes text, audio and video online, of course - the Ground Level blog, a series of topics pages and social networking, for example. It also includes on-air coverage, public forums both virtual and real-world and collaboration with community-based media.

Our audience consists of Minnesotans interested in community life, particularly those who are taking an active part in it or helping others do the same.

Ground Level is very much an experiment -- in finding ways to learn about and tell stories, in working with other organizations, in walking up to the line between providing insight and advocating specific actions. Our goal is to inform and give people the ability and incentive to engage with their community. We invite your feedback and your ideas, via the blog, twitter at @MPRGroundLevel, phone calls, emails, whatever. Join us.

About the team:

Dave Peters

Dave Peters directs MPR's project on community journalism, looking for ways Minnesota residents are making their towns, cities and neighborhoods better places to live. He joined MPR News in 2009 after more than 30 years as a newspaper and online reporter and editor. Contact Dave