If you are what you eat, then Hilary Brown, owner of Local Burger, knows firsthand that healthy, organic foods can make you "feel good."
Brown suffered from food allergies for a period of her life, and when she changed her diet, she "got to be Hilary," she said.
Brown was a featured panelist in a Lawrence Sustainability Network-hosted panel discussion about the benefits and challenges of sustaining a community with local food.
"It's about feeling good and having a healthy world," Brown said.
Each panelist, Bob Lominska from Rolling Prairie Farmer's Alliance; Brown from Local Burger; Rita York, Community Mercantile assistant manager; Mercedes Taylor-Puckett, Lawrence Farmers Market manager; Julie Vernon with Lawrence Sustainability Network's community gardens; and Debbie Yarnell, a farmer of Homespun Hill Farm, discussed how they are making choices to positively influence Lawrence.
Timely challenges such as rising fuel costs have made it a mission for local groups such as Lawrence Sustainability Network to create awareness about where food is bought and how much fuel is required to transport it. Panel discussions such as the one Saturday night at the Ecumenical Christian Ministries building, 1204 Oread Ave., were created to come up with solutions.
One way the Community Mercantile is helping is to track the mileage it takes local producers to deliver products to the store.
York discussed various ways the store, which buys and sells local, organic foods, has concentrated on being proactive in the community in the past year. One included an educational tool called "Miles to the Merc," which used signage to inform consumers about where their food came from.
"There's lots of signs in the store, and there are more to come," York said.
Taylor-Puckett discussed the challenges of providing convenience and cheaper prices with locally produced food at the Farmers Market.
A larger theme that tied all of the panelists together was what they called prime farm land in North Lawrence. Plans to build a business park in the area have raised concerns in the local food industry. Discussions between the city and developers of the Airport Business Park have been put on hold.
"Knowing that in North Lawrence we have some of the world's best soil, it seems ludicrous to me to pave it," Brown said.
Sandy Sanders, a retired elementary teacher who comes from a family of farmers, said the panel discussion was a much-needed forum to bring to light several topics such as losing land to industrial parks and being locally sustained communities.
"This is a huge cause for hope that this many people have dedicated their life's work to this, to making ethical and sustainable choices," Sanders said.