Growing Local is a coalition of groups and individuals in the north state who value local, healthy food and are determined to find ways to introduce more local, healthy food into the lives of area residents. To this end, the coalition hosted Go Local! A Forum on the Future of our Food held in Redding early in 2011. Almost 200 people attended the day-long forum.
Interactive panels addressed the following topics:
- What are we growing?
Go Local! Forum Sponsors Ag Innovations Network; Edible Shasta-Butte; Fedora Catering; First United Methodist Church; Future Farmers of America; Good Work Organic Farm; Grilla Bites; Healthy Shasta; Hill Country Health & Wellness Center; Jefferson Public Radio; People of Progress; Roots of Change; Shambani Organics; Shasta College Economic Workforce Development and the Shasta College Natural Resources, Industry and Public Safety Division; Shasta County Department of Agriculture; Shasta County Farm Bureau; Shasta County Public Health; Shasta Growers Association; Shasta Senior Nutrition Program; Slow Food Shasta Cascade; Superior California Economic Development; University of California Cooperative Extension; Western Shasta Resource Conservation District.
- Where does our food go?
- Who is eating local? and
- How can we nurture a sustainable food system?
Following the panel presentations and discussions, the conference participants moved into groups to synthesize the day’s learning into recommendations to promote a local, sustainable food system.
Encouraged by large and enthusiastic turnouts at January forum and the first Growing Local general meeting of 2011, the Growing Local steering committee organized a broad-based meeting to update the strategic plan, bringing together coalition partners and the eager general community to identify ways the community can participate meaningfully to invigorate a healthy food system and food economy. To achieve a realistic strategic plan with broad-based ownership, an Appreciative Inquiry addressing the topic Imagine a Healthy Future: Planning the Ideal Food System was held on May 25, 2011 at the Gaia Shasta Hotel in Anderson. The goal was to produce strategies that would create a healthy, sustainable and accessible local food system.
A. Economic Sector and Local Food System
Create a distribution and processing system economically accessible for small producers.
Establish web-site links between farmers and consumers.
Identify the potential role of the Food Coops in a local food system
Create a Farm-to-School system to expand the procurement and consumption of local and healthy food in schools.
Establish a cooperative kitchen accessible to the local community for food preparation and preservation.
Create a system that allows local investment.
B. Outreach and Education and Local Food System
C. Policy, Governments, NGOs, and Citizens
D. Social and Community Building
Twenty people from the region who represented various food production and distribution sectors attended this event that started in the afternoon and concluded at 8:30 pm. The Appreciative Inquiry approach leads strategic planners through a series of steps starting with paired interviews focusing on positive experiences with the local food system.
Following the paired interviews, the participants shared their stories in two groups of eight, one self-titled the “Food Web Group” and the other “All Things Food.” The Food Web Group distilled these strengths of the local food system from their interviews:
FOOD WEB GROUP
- Food connects people – building neighborhoods and empowering people around food.
- Food is the center of our community web. Healing potential for our community.
- Creating a food hub that is a point of departure for growing the interest in local food & increasing accessibility.
- Growing the local food economy by making food the basis of the economy (the middle of the web).
- Goal: From 1% to 20% more local food by 2020.
The other group, All Things Food, culled these strengths from their shared stories:
- Farmers As RockStars
- Cultural Celebration / Valuing of Food (family)
- “It’s sacred to feed others.”
- “Believe in the Dream”
- “Little things add up.”
- Food CoOp
- “Work together to achieve our dream.”
- Policies that prioritize the local food supply.
- “Work together to achieve our dream.”
- Protecting Land and Water for Agriculture
- “All things are connected.”
- “People look to food to change their life and surroundings.”
The two groups’ next task was to fold the identified strengths into statements that would support and, indeed, provoke actions. To ensure that both the right and left hemispheres had opportunities to contribute to the propositions that would provoke community action, each group improvised a skit and/or song. The two groups then incorporated the values that were most important to their collective whole brains in statements to guide future efforts–a strategic plan.
We are committed to work toward a sustainable future where local food plays an essential role in building a healthy community which supports and encourages the growth of our regional agricultural economy.
We seek to inspire our community to embrace a local sustainable food supply and support the growers, producers and consumers who live in it.
Given that food is the source of life, we recognize the interconnectedness of all systems related to food. We support the relationships between local food growers and consumers and the conservation of agricultural resources as the foundation of a healthy, just and prosperous community.
The provocative propositions suggested these strategic actions:
- Create a directory of local food system activities and identify gaps to inform future activities.
- Celebrate the value of local food.
- Cooking classes.
- Food faire.
- Farm tours.
- Farmers as RockStars.
- Youth Programs.
- Media campaign.
- Family activities/programs.
- Film series.
- Training, Mentoring, and Skill Development. . .
- For activities that support the local, sustainable food supply.
- Support local infrastructure initiative for food and farm.
- CoOp & distribution, Commercial Kitchen and Processing Center.
- Develop policies that promote sustainable food supply, land and water resources.
- Increase Memberships.
- Cooking demos
- Collect data.
- Create Coalition Structure
Revisiting this list of activities will be Growing Local’s next task with a view toward developing specific action plans to bring the strategic goals to fruition. A meeting is planned of the participants in the May 25 meeting plus other interested folks who were unable to attend the May 25 strategic planning meeting. Check this web-site for further details, or contact Edible Shasta-Butte.
We look forward to your participation in creating the next phase of Growing Local!