Shift to local, shift to success

The Dayton Food Summit at University of Dayton River campus

 By Joyell Nevins

Photo: Locally grown vegetable harvests from farm and city gardens maintained by Olive, and urban dive; photo: Olive restaurant

The Montgomery County Food Policy Coalition wants the people of Dayton and beyond to make a shift. They are pushing for “safe, healthy and affordable food accessible for all.” Through a special food summit on Friday, Nov. 8, and an outreach campaign, the group’s goal is to encourage residents to buy 10 percent of their food from growers and producers in the Dayton area.

The coalition promises regular emails with resources for those who want to buy local, a community support group and a local foods directory developed by the B-W (Beavercreek-Wenrick) Greenway Community Land Trust. They are kicking off their year-long campaign with a summit called “The Positive Impact of Local Food in Our Community.” Twelve different speakers will share with attendees their expertise on farmer’s markets, regional food hubs, nutrition education and gardening. As Sherry Chen of the B-W Greenway called it, the goal is to “create change!” Along with bolstering your personal health (did you know locally grown food and honey can help combat allergies?), the coalition wants to show how buying local foods affects the economy.

“It’s all about the local economy sales tax revenues,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge.

Plus, restaurant owner and summit speaker Kimberly Collett pointed out, “If you buy at a big store, only what the employees get paid, after a lot of federal taxes, stays in Dayton and some stays in our state, but very rarely do any profits stay local. But if you hand a farmer or local independent that supports those farmers cash, it instead goes like wildfire straight into the local economy, nearly all of it.”

For example, Collett’s restaurant Olive, located in downtown Dayton, spent more than $78,000 on local farmers and bakers in 2012. A strong local supply also means there have to be people producing that supply.

“If we produce, prepare and sell food in Montgomery County, we’re going to be employing people who live in Montgomery County,” farmer George Mertz said.

Mertz is the brain behind Patchwork Gardens, a 24-acre farm less than seven miles from downtown Dayton. He grew up on a homestead in northern Cincinnati, but came to this area when he went to the University of Dayton for school, finally graduating with a master’s in mechanical engineering. But his greatest joy was interning at a local farm in the summer.

“I just love plants; that’s my passion,” Mertz gushed.

So, in 2007, he purchased a 12-acre plot. In 2009, they began selling their produce. With no pesticides or chemical fertilizers, Mertz and his band of three full-time employees – plus seven to nine interns in the summer – grow up to almost 30 different kinds of garden vegetables and fruits in the spring, summer and fall. In the winter, the Patchwork crew uses greenhouses to grow cold hardy greens.

Mertz became involved with the coalition and the food summit due to Patchwork’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Dodge said that the food shift campaign will help create a demand, and farms like Patchwork provide the supply.

“It would be a perfect world if every grocery store carried only local food,” she said.

For 20 weeks from about May to October, participants get a box delivered weekly with whatever is in season and Patchwork is growing at the time.

“I take my bag, get it washed, dried and put in the freezer, and start looking up recipes on the computer,” said Cathy Startzman, assistant to Commisioner Dodge. “I found myself really engaging with my food.”

Patchwork Gardens also produces a newsletter to offer recipes to go with uncommon vegetables like chard or raab. Mertz said even your kids might start to like their greens.

“There’s no reason children shouldn’t like vegetables,” Mertz said. “Growing healthy plants affects the taste and nutrition.”

Patchwork Gardens also delivers their produce to local restaurants, like Rue Dumaine, Meadowlark, Wheat Penny and Olive, which is owned by Collett.

The 2-year-old Olive is certified green and blue – for water conservation – by the county: employees hand wash their dishes, recycle and compost 92 percent of their waste. More than 70 local farmers, bakers and independent purveyors supply the food for the 28-seat diner. Olive’s food consists of grass-fed, free range, locally grown meats and dairy, organically grown and consuming locally produced food is a way to accomplish that.


The Montgomery County Food Policy Coalition Food Summit takes place Friday, Nov. 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the University of Dayton River Campus, Meyer Room, 1700 S. Patterson Blvd. The event is free and lunch is provided. Register through Emily Bradford at or call 937.225.6470. For more information, please visit



 Tony Logan, United States Department of Agriculture

Bethany Ramsey, Five Rivers MetroParks

Kimberly Collett, Olive restaurant

Charity Krueger, Aullwood Audubon Center

Joshua Jennings, Global Impact STEM Academy

Kevin Phillips and Michele Hodson, Valley View Schools

Anthony Staubach, Wilmington College

Tonia Fish, Synergy Incubators

Sherry Chen,  (B-W) Greenway Community Land Trust

Kelly Smith, Cleveland Pre K-6 schools


Reach DCP freelance writer Joyell Nevins at


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Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at or reach her at

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