FAYETTEVILLE — The upcoming Dig In! Food and Farming Festival is on track to outgrow last year’s inaugural event, due in part to a growing national focus on local and sustainable farming.
The festival, scheduled for March 2-3 at the University of Arkansas Global Campus Center on Center Street, will include documentary film screenings in the center’s 375-seat theatre and seminars on garden keeping, backyard kitchens, beekeeping and more.
The festival was launched last year by gardener Leigh Wilkerson and farmers Cheri LaRue of Green Fork Farm and Charity Lewis of Chicken Moon Farm. Wilkerson was most interested in organizing a film festival featuring documentaries on local food and farming. LaRue and Lewis suggested they involve area farmers and restaurants that use locally sourced ingredients.
The group notes on its website that supporting local food suppliers boosts a local economy.
“Buying from locally-owned, independent businesses has an important ‘multiplier’ effect for a community. For example, research shows one hundred dollars spent at a local independent bookstore will create $45 for the local economy. Spend the same hundred at a chain store and only $13 remains in this community,” according to the Dig In! website.
The website also notes: “One study showed that if Seattle area residents put just 20% of their food budgets into local food, it would inject a billion dollars a year into their economy. In NWA, our 20% could make an impact of well over a hundred-million dollars a year to our economy.”
The festival evolved to feature classes, panel discussions, food tastings and film screenings. A highlight of this year’s Dig In! is a seed swap sponsored by The Fayetteville Community Garden Coalition. Area gardeners and farmers will meet to trade seeds, some of which have been in their families for generations.
“You can trade seeds that have been adapted to this exact ecosystem,” said Wilkerson, “and it’s a way to preserve heirloom seeds.”
Documentary screenings include Urban Roots, a film on the urban gardening movement in Detroit; Greenhorns, which profiles young farmers; and Seed Swap, the festival’s only locally directed documentary.
Seed Swap, directed by Zachariah McCannon, follows the work of Ozark anthropologist Brian Campbell as he organized a seed swap in 2008 in Mountain View. That first swap sprouted several more throughout the Ozarks and one in the Arkansas Delta. The film showcases the use of applied anthropology to get the public involved in more localized food systems and outlines the steps necessary to establish a community seed bank and host additional seed swaps.
Festival passes are $30 in advance. However, each film and class will be open to to the public on a suggested donation basis.
“We are not going to turn anyone away,” Wilkerson said.