Fourteen people making Orlando a better place 

People we love

Page 11 of 13

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

Emily Rankin

Owner, Local Roots

Emily Rankin's serene exterior belies a steely will. It's a will that's transmuted her beliefs into tangible realities, in the process changing the life of a neighborhood and the plates of a region.

After growing up in Audubon Park (she's a third-generation resident), Rankin, an urban planning student, went to work in Portland, Oregon. "I was really inspired by what was going on there, that they were thriving around a more sustainable lifestyle," Rankin says, recalling the local-first ethos espoused in that city. It was while she was in Nicaragua that she experienced an evolution in her mindset. "I saw how a lot people were trying to change places that they weren't from. They didn't really understand them, and they were trying to make them what they wanted them to be. And I really felt if I was going to do community development, I needed to go back to my home."

So she returned. Rankin founded the Audubon Park Garden District and the Audubon Park Community Market, Orlando's first all-local farmers market, in 2008. In the same year, she founded Orlando's first buy local initiative, Ourlando.

"You plant the seeds, and they inspire and encourage people to plant their own seeds," she says, naming Stardust Video & Coffee the welcoming space she needed to create her market, which incubated countless small businesses, which inspired John Rife to create the East End Market, out of which grew the Fleet Farming projects, and so it goes.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

Her next project was Local Roots, an ambitious plan to buy the best food products Florida has to offer and distribute them to local restaurants. Rankin sells locally grown vegetables, locally made products, and locally raised and wild-caught meats. Over the years, Local Roots went from an indispensable resource to a mark of pride on savvy chefs' menus.

The Local Roots farm store at East End Market has just been rebranded Florida & Co., and will begin serving "98 percent local" meals soon. "I think sometimes people look in the fridge and are stumped. If we can get them tasting it and experiencing how delicious this food is, they'll be more likely to use it at home." Her deep love of Florida is evident in her palpable enthusiasm for mangoes, avocados, shrimp, kumquats, even millet – what she calls the "real Florida."

Also coming soon is the launch of the Florida & Co. website, which will host a webstore where anyone in the state can order Floridian products to be delivered via UPS. There'll also be a host of educational resources and videos – cooking classes, recipes, gardening tips.

"I'm a bridge-builder. I'm all about making that connection. I don't think we're going to get all the way to this idealistic place overnight. I know that more than anyone, because I've seen us baby-step our way over 15 years."

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