Agriculture: It’s Not Just on the Farm Anymore / Food: It’s Not Just on Your Plate

On July 19th the Brownfield Communities Network hosted a webinar titled “Local Food Systems and Brownfields Redevelopment” that explored new programs, resources and best practices on the intersection of urban agriculture, job training and brownfields reuse.

On September 18-21st the International Economic Development Council held their annual conference in Charlotte, NC. One of their educational sessions was titled “Locally Driven Approaches to Watering Your Food Desert.”

On September 28-29th Little Rock will host a Healthy Food and Active Living Summit, organized by Mayor Stodola to launch an examination of policies and programs that will lead to improved access to healthy, nutritious and affordable food for their citizens.

Food as a component of health… Agriculture as a healer of the environment… Food as a driver of economic development… Agriculture as a creator of jobs…

These are exciting – and challenging – times for those of us in the sustainable food and farming movement. The spotlight is on. Community members recognize a problem and are seeking action. Political leaders sense an opportunity. Advocates in other fields are beginning to see a connection. And media members smell a good story. 

After working on sustainable food and farming systems nearly anonymously for 25 years, I am a bit surprised by all the attention. In my own community, a new group has formed to work on hunger issues, another group is creating a local food guide, and yet another is teaching gardening to primary school students. City employees are getting involved, as well as independent entrepreneurs. Suddenly I am in demand because of my expertise from working with Southern SAWG.

All these groups could be informed by the models we have created and the lessons we have learned. The people newly involved could become allies, or better yet, partners in our movement. But are we prepared to inform them? Are we ready to include them?

As our movement grows larger and the connections to other issues more numerous, I find it harder to wrap my mind around it all. Am I ready to listen to all these new voices and share leadership? In my work with Southern SAWG, I’ve learned that diversity is a strength and grassroots involvement a virtue. So of course I am willing, but am I ready? 

We’ll need new strategies and skills as we move from the margins to the mainstream. And I’ll need to get used to working with new people. Whether all this attention on “good food” is just a passing fad or becomes imbedded in our society is partly up to us.

Yes, these are challenging times… and absolutely exciting!