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POMONA >> At first blush, Fairplex can come across as the home for drag racing, spa sales and dog shows.
But at its very core, Fairplex is about agriculture, and Thursday morning, about 100 people offered ideas on how to grow that aspect of the fairgrounds’s mission.
The ideas flowed and included bolstering Fairplex’s role as an educational resource, as a link in the chain to bring fresh, locally grown products to the region and support system for startup businesses with connections to food and agriculture.
The brainstorming session was the first in a series this year as part of the 2017 strategic planning process, which will to a new vision for Fairplex’s future.
In the coming months, those helping to create the vision — everyone from residents to elected officials — will tackle topics ranging from healthy living and transportation to governance and transparency.
Tuesday morning’s session “exceeded my expectations,” Miguel Santana, president and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles County Fair Association, said after the meeting.
Among David Teig’s goals is to raise public awareness about agriculture while introducing people to healthy fruits and vegetables. Teig is the managing director of agriculture and hospitality at Fairplex. He also wants to convey a message of good environmental stewardship.
Of course, not everything edible at the Los Angeles County Fair is nutritionally tops, Teig acknowledged.
“We need to look at being more diverse,” he said. “We are always going to be a place for corndogs and fried Twinkies at the Fair,” he said, but people do seek out healthier options and younger crowds want to know the story behind them.
Among the ideas shared Thursday was that Fairplex and The Farm, the fairgrounds’s 5-acre organic farm, should be a place where people can learn to grow fruits and vegetables and how to adapt recipes to make them healthier.
Pomona resident Andy Quinones suggested Pomona become the place to learn about community gardens.
Pomona resident Larry Ortega said exposing children to healthy foods and eating practices can be done through Fairplex and its resources.
Fairplex can also “be the suppliers of these locally grown food products,” Ortega said.
But nutrition is a spectrum, and on the bad end, residents should learn about the importance of setting limits, be it sugary products or alcoholic beverages, Pomona Councilman Robert Torres said.
Fairplex can also play a part in assisting those who live in the city but don’t have enough to eat, he said.
“Feeding our own youth and people in our city” is something he’d like to focus on, Torres said.
Fairplex should help people learn how to cut down on food waste, said John Echeveste, chief executive officer of the nonprofit La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown Los Angeles.
When he walks his dog in his Temple City neighborhood, he sees trees in yards that produce bumper crops of fruit but much of it goes to waste, he said.
“Is there something Fairplex can do to get (some of the fruit) in the food stream?” Echeveste asked.
Santana said the comments the participants offered were more than helpful.
“I was really inspired by the work others are doing and their suggestions,” he said.
The next discussions and brainstorming sessions in the planning process are scheduled for 10 a.m. May 11 with a focus on entertainment and lifestyle interests. The same day healthy living and sports will be discussed.
The meeting, which will be four hours long, will be broken into two, two-hour sessions with no requirement to attend the meeting in its entirety. Meetings include a free, working lunch.
To RSVP, email Juan Madrigal at madrigal@Fairplex.com or by calling 909-865-4219.
The public can also be participate by going to www.fairplex.com/ceo, where meeting topics, briefing papers, meeting minutes and materials from previous meetings will be posted.