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Central La. economic development firm hires food systems planner

The Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance has hired a regional food systems planner to create a marketplace that encourages the buying and selling of local produce in the alliance’s 10-parish region. John Cotton Dean is beginning to map out his new job. He started last month. He says it’s very forward thinking that the grant-funded job is housed within an economic development agency.

"I think we’re really on the forefront tackling this from an economic development perspective," Dean said. "We want to help producers make money, but we also want eaters to have quick, easy access to local foods at a very reasonable price."

Dean is holding a series of talks across Central Louisiana to get acquainted with the communities that are eager to put effort into a local produce economy. He also wants to round up farmers who seek shorter distances to market. The first of these meetings is called Eat Local Natchitoches. Dean says his job is about making connections.

“There are producers who want to sell, but there are people who want to eat. It’s about connecting those two locally. Rather, what we’ve been doing is selling far away and having to go far away to buy that food," Dean said.

Dean holds master’s degrees in sustainable agriculture and community planning. The Eat Local Natchitoches event is slated for Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. at Northwestern State University’s Student Union. More information is on Facebook. Search for "Cenla local foods."