Presentation by James Worley, Missouri Dept. of Conservation
Summary Tim Tassitano, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
The need to reach, and connect, to new audiences is more important than ever. While national trends show fewer and fewer Americans are hunting annually, interest in locally sourced and sustainable food is only on the rise.
Agencies looking to leverage this growing interest among urban and suburban residents should explore existing Field to Fork programs to see if they can help them achieve their goals.
Calling it a “gateway to hunting”, James Worley, Community Education Specialist at the Missouri Department of Conservation, has been teaching his Field to Fork program for years.
Not simply just a game-processing demonstration, the program James developed allows for audience participation and has a “you clean it, you take it home” policy. Each class is seasonally themed and includes natural history along with regulations and methods of harvest.
James enlists local chefs who provide cooking demonstrations, samplings of each dish, and recipes that can easily be recreated in the home kitchen. These chefs aren’t just providing their cooking talents and expertise, they also serve as influencers that help bring their fans and new audiences to the table.
This exposure, along with publicity from the media, helps spread the word even further. James was invited to be a panelist on NPR’s Going There: How We Eat and the Field to Fork program has been featured in Feast Magazine.
While building partnerships with local chefs and gaining media exposure are keys to a successful Field to Fork program, there are other, more significant challenges to getting started.
Missouri’s Field to Fork program takes place at the Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center, which has both classroom space and a full kitchen. Other states looking to get their own programs started will have to figure out not just space and equipment needs, but also how to obtain enough game and fish to feed a class of participants.
While the challenges to getting started may seem daunting, the rewards are worth the effort for Missouri.
Their Field to Fork program continues to reach new audiences. 50% of their classroom participants identify themselves as foodies or locavores – 25% are urbanite parents in their early 30s. These participants leave with a new willingness to try other outdoor programs and a newfound understanding of the conservation message.
This message, and the Field to Fork experience as a whole, is something participants are more than happy to help share to their communities.