Jillian Garrigues

About Jillian Garrigues

Video: Hidden Treasures — Gaining Ground

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STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) - For Mandi Sanders and her family, living off the land is their way of life. They make use out of what some might call just weeds, keep chickens in the backyard and shop local, all in an effort to be more sustainable.

“For our family it’s been a process of almost eight years. You can start simply by replacing some of the food that you’re buying at the grocery store. Seek out your produce when it’s in season from the farmer’s markets. If you read an ingredient label and can’t pronounce the words on there, maybe you shouldn’t eat it. With your own chickens in the backyard, you can have fresh healthy eggs and the chickens can eat the bugs in your yard, so then maybe you’re not spraying your yard. It’s a big ripple effect with just a small change,” Sanders said.

Sanders is sharing the ways of her lifestyle, educating others through Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi. What started as a small dinner table discussion, quickly grew into a state-wide organization in 2010. Local chapters have created recycling programs or city-wide composting. In Starkville, Gaining Ground started the Farm to School initiative at Emerson Preschool.

“We took their complete menu at the school and replaced a lot of canned and processed vegetables with fresh foods and local produce, while not spending any extra money” Sanders said.

The Golden Triangle chapter also often meets for educational programs. In downtown Starkville they’ve helped Sprout create a completely edible landscape.

“The food in our state often does not stay in our state. We lose 86 cents of every dollar. We’re also low on the pole when it comes to our state being financially well off. If we can focus on growing our own food and our own community supporting farmers that want to do this, then we really establish a strong economy and have a healthy food system,” Sanders said.

Gaining Ground has local chapters in Oxford and Starkville. For more information visit http://www.ggsim.org/.