Cass Clay Food Commission
As a farmer’s daughter from northeast North Dakota, Megan Myrdal cares how food is grown and how it’s marketed and sold.
And as a registered dietician, she cares what people eat. She believes everyone deserves access to good, healthy, affordable food.
“Food has been at the center of my life for as long as I can remember,” says Megan, a local food consultant in the Fargo-Moorhead area. “I want to make sure people have the opportunity to make good, healthy food choices.”
She believes that creating a strong local food economy is everyone’s business—a win-win for producers and consumers alike. She’d love to see local farmers selling their food to local restaurants, schools, and grocery stores—where shoppers, diners, and students could have fresher, healthier, tastier food grown by people down the road or across town and maybe even harvested that day.
“Ideally, locally grown food doesn’t get shipped out and instead gets eaten within a closer area. That has the greatest potential in moving the needle in a number of ways and creating more community building around food, too. There is a more personal connection along the lines from producer to consumer,” she explains.
She started Ugly Foods of the North, a grassroots group that hosts informal events such as community conversations, potlucks, and pop-up farmers markets simply to get people sharing and talking about food and feeling more connected to where their food comes from, who grows it, how it tastes.
She also runs the fairly new Cass Clay Food Commission, an intergovernmental board formed to identify systemic and policy changes that strengthen local food economies and improve access to high-quality, healthy, affordable food.
An earlier incarnation of the group helped to convene grower-buyer networking meetings and supported the Million Square Foot Gardening Project—just as it sounds, trying to get local growing areas and gardens of all sizes to add up to a million square feet of local land.
So far the commission has created blueprints for area jurisdictions—they’ve begun to plot out how local communities are either supporting or inhibiting policies and ordinances that affect supply and demand for locally grown food and its quality, safety, and affordability.
In a two-county area, much less a whole region or state, there may be a wide range of rules, ordinances or laws that affect how local efforts such as community gardens, composting, urban chickens, urban bees, season extension, and farmers markets thrive or die on the vine.
Megan says local conversations are starting to reflect a more complex and complete understanding of food choices and new ways of looking at our food system.
“More people care about who they are supporting when they make choices and how their choices are treating the land and the farm workers. So if this is happening within a small radius, it makes it more real for people. People see it more directly and they see the people working in the field, and people benefiting from their food choices.”