UK Happenings

UK Food Connection to Host Summit Celebrating Local Food

Food organizer assembles a sandwich
Detail of banana-topped cupcakes
Food organizers speak with participant over table
Food organizer cuts steak on cutting board

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 13, 2020) —​ The Food Connection at the University of Kentucky, in collaboration with Bluegrass Farm to Table and Kentucky Proud, is holding its second annual Kentucky Local Food Systems Summit beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26,  in the Gatton Student Center.

This action-packed event is designed to bring together food systems experts and professionals for workshops, networking opportunities and important conversation surrounding the local farm and food systems landscape. Participants will learn about community nutrition, market development, agricultural research and practices, as well as the public policy behind local food systems.

“By supporting a vibrant local food system, Kentuckians support the farmers, chefs and food entrepreneurs that help make Kentucky the place we’re proud to call home,” said Lilian Brislen, executive director of The Food Connection. “By choosing foods raised by Kentucky farmers, we do our part to ensure Kentucky continues to enjoy the benefits of a robust small farm economy. Healthy rural economies run on agriculture, and access to fresh, flavorful foods helps us all enjoy healthful meals and celebrate our regional cuisine.”

The existence of The Food Connection at the University of Kentucky, in partnership with Aramark through UK Dining, is an important facet of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. The Food Connection is an applied food systems center that serves farmers, food producers, students, and community members by supporting the development of vibrant and sustainable food systems on campus and across Kentucky.

“The Food Connection reflects the university and food service partners’ commitment to locally sourced food,” said College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Dean Nancy Cox. “Through this we have seen an expansion of the farms and producers in this space, thus growing Kentucky's agricultural economy in an effective way.”

Organizer Lilian Brislen hopes the event with be successful in bridging the gap between an abstract understanding and one that is more defined.

“Learning about local food systems helps us to see how we are all connected through our economy, our food culture and our land,” Brislen said. “Engaging the world through local food systems is a great way for students to make the link between big, sometimes abstract issues like sustainability or food security with work happening every day in our community.”

This year, in addition to featuring UK faculty, staff and students in the organized session portion, there will be a poster activity for participants. It will provide attendees with an opportunity to gain a sneak peak at the wide array of research and activities related to local food happening on campus as well as spark ideas for future projects and collaborations.

A limited number of tickets are available; please contact Lilian Brislen at to inquire. The registration fee of $75 includes attendance, parking, coffee, a locally sourced lunch and attendance to the networking reception.

Participants at the summit will be broken up into numbered sessions. Session topics include food consumption and waste, food security, farmers market innovations, culinary outreach, Kentucky distilling and wine making, and the promotion of local purchasing and restaurants, among many others. The session descriptions can be found here.

The day-long event is sponsored by American Farmland Trust, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, UK Dining, Fayette Alliance, Student Sustainability Council, Fayette County Farm Bureau, Good Foods Co-Op, Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, Kentucky Proud and Marksbury Farm.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.