April 2, 2009
Hosting a Community Dialogue on Local Food Systems
A closer look at one community and the people involved in enhancing their food system.
What does it take for a community to redefine how it accesses food?
The answer is likely different for every community, however, most North American communities are structured quite similarly and a snapshot of a recent gathering of over seventy people in Nelson, B.C., lends an ideal example of who and what's required to better localize our food systems.
There are growing numbers of community food security groups popping up across the continent. In Nelson, Community Food Matters (CFM) has positioned itself as such a group. CFM is made up of businesses, organizations, institutions and individuals who all share a common vision of fostering a thriving local food system that is accessible to everyone.
On March 24, CFM hosted a full-day event that brought together a diverse combination of people involved in the food system. Farmer organizations, food security groups, environmental organizations, restaurants, bakeries, grocery retailers and many individuals working on start-up projects were all in attendance. Over 35 groups were given the opportunity to share their work through five-minute presentations.
The following is just a sampling of the information shared (more on the Deconstructing Dinner web site).
Is this what the beginning of a vibrant local food system looks like?
Kootenay Local Agricultural Society (KLAS)
In just one-year, the newly formed society has amalgamated over seventy members. KLAS has set up a seed/gene bank of locally adapted varieties/breeds. They provide members and the community with hands-on training and invite speakers to visit the area to share their agricultural wisdom. A yearlong bee-keeping course is currently underway. To market their products, KLAS has launched a label known as Kootenay Mountain Grown. The label moves away from the organic certification process yet producers maintain similar organic standards. Fellow producers certify each other.
Kaslo Food Security Project (KFSP)
Kaslo is a small community north of Nelson. In 2008, Kaslo became the eighth community in Canada to adopt a food charter. They have since launched a farmland-farmer database that links new farmers up with available land. The project provides both farmers/landowners with models on how to bypass the market-driven valuation of land, which, currently leads to land prices being beyond the reach of food producing farmers.
Kootenay Grain CSA
As previously documented within this column, the Kootenay Grain Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project is now entering its second year. The CSA has expanded to 600 member shares, which, translates to 60,000lbs of locally grown grains! The same three Creston Valley farmers will grow Hard Spring wheat, winter wheat, Red Fife wheat, Spelt, Khorasan wheat, oats, and lentils.
Kootenay Lake Sailing Association
In October 2008, the Sailing Association volunteered its resources for the Grain CSA and transported 5,000lbs of grain from the Creston Valley to Nelson. They hope to triple the size of the fleet this year.
West Kootenay Eco Society - Farmers' Markets
The Society is seeking to position its two weekly markets in a more visible and accessible location and will attempt to expand the number of food producers. Also being explored is the creation of a "virtual market", whereby producers will be able to post their harvests on-line and individuals and businesses can purchase those products once available.
Hume Hotel / Best Western Hotel
Foodservice operations within cities can have significant impacts on the health of a local food system. While the Hume/Best Western currently source most of their food from national distributors, owner Ryan Martin is keen to explore other options. At the event, Martin announced that most of their compostable waste is being trucked away by a disposal company. Shortly after, a group of farmers from Mount Sentinel Farm approached Martin and have since been picking up the waste to later be applied to their farm. Some of the food grown from that waste will help grow food for the farm's Preserved Seed Café located in Nelson.
Nelson Urban Acres
A start-up project of commercial urban agriculture on neighbourhood yards.
Gardening Through the Seasons
A nine-month course offered to the community by experienced farmers. Focused on growing food in the unique regional climate.
Kootenay Country Store Co-operative / Ellison's Market
Two grocery retailers who seek to offer as much locally produced food as possible.
A local school encouraged its students to rip up asphalt and replace it with grass and gardens. The students have since baked pumpkin pie from their 2008 harvest.
One Nelson resident would like to start a community canning facility and was seeking advice on how to go about doing it.
Community Futures (CF)
CF is a national network of economic development organizations that assist members of the community to launch new businesses. CF informed the event that food-based businesses have been identified as a priority.
If local food is a priority for your community, you too can gather and/or create like-minded groups/projects. Hopefully this brief introduction can get your community thinking about the process.
Deconstructing Dinner is heard on radio stations across Canada and is available as a Podcast. Recording from the event can be found at www.cjly.net/deconstructingdinner/032609.htm
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