Posted January 6, 2005: Making agriculture sustainable
requires development of new marketing strategies, processing and distribution
infrastructure, and community economic relationships that sustain
the farmer, as well as earth-friendly production and pest management
practices that sustain the landscape. In recent years, locally based
food systems and community food security programs have begun to open
new market opportunities for family farms. This year, the Southern
Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (Southern SAWG) offers an extensive
Community Food Systems track in its 14th Annual Practical Tools and
Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms Conference, which takes place
on January 21-23 at the Hilton New Orleans Airport Hotel. Speakers
will share their practical knowledge and personal experience to enable
and inspire conference participants to design and initiate community
food projects that can bring about win-win solutions for their own
farms and communities.
Hank Herrera, the founding president and CEO of the Center for
Popular Research, Education and Policy (C-PREP) in Rochester, NY,
will be one of the featured speakers. C-PREP builds local self-reliance
through participatory action research, capacity building and policy
work, and provides management services for the New York SAWG and
for Rooted in Community, a nationwide network of more than 50 youth
community gardening programs.
Herrera’s workshop, entitled From Global to Local: Developing
Strategies for System-Wide Change, will examine barriers to
changing the current industrial-global food system and emerging
opportunities to build locally-based, sustainable food systems in
our cities, towns and rural communities. In most parts of the nation,
Hank observes, “there is a large gap between farm revenues
and what consumers spend on food,” indicating that only a
tiny percentage of what most Americans eat is produced locally.
“That figure could be as high as 60 percent, he says. “We
simply have to find out what it would take for local producers to
sell to local consumers.”
In the workshop, Herrera will discuss how to develop trade relationships
needed to connect farmers with local markets and some existing models
such as the Oklahoma Food Coop in Tulsa and ‘value chains’
that create regional market opportunities for mid-size farms. “We
will also look at issues of community food security and food sovereignty,
which means local ownership of the whole chain of production, marketing,
packaging and distribution,” he says.
|“The majority of consumers want local,
fresh food, but they also want the convenience of one-stop shopping.
One hurdle in developing an effective food economy is that we
must have a way for these people to participate.”
Other CFS sessions include Bringing Kentucky’s Food and Farm
Economy Home, by Martin Richards and Shana Herron of the Community
Farm Alliance (CFA) in Kentucky. Richards notes that, through lobbying
by the CFA and local farmers’ groups, half of Kentucky’s
share of the Tobacco Settlement has been earmarked for diversification
of agriculture throughout the state. The funds are spent through
a “grassroots planning process in which each county assesses
what it is good at growing and what it needs in order to realize
the potential,” he says.
In the workshop, Richards and Herron will discuss ongoing efforts
to create a locally integrated food economy in Kentucky and create
needed infrastructure to connect farm to customers. “The farmers’
market is a simple and direct way to do it, but only a small percentage
of the population shops there,” Richards observes. “The
majority of consumers want local, fresh food, but they also want
the convenience of one-stop shopping. One hurdle in developing an
effective food economy is that we must have a way for these people
to participate.” He notes that lower-income neighborhoods
like the west end of Louisville are underserved with fewer food
stores than suburban neighborhoods, and that people there are desperate
for quality, fresh food.
“Food security is now front and center,” says Richards.
He noted that outgoing Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy
Thompson recently raised concerns about possible terrorist attacks
on the U.S. food system and added that “we need local food
systems” to minimize this danger as well.
Other workshops at the conference cover topics a range of topics
related to sustainable agriculture, including crop and livestock
production, marketing, value-added products and farm business management.
Tours of nearby sustainable farms and urban food projects, a trade
show, a job fair where farmers can meet aspiring farm interns, and
a “Taste of New Orleans” feast with jazz music will
add to what promises to be a memorable event.
Conference lodging will be available at the Hilton New Orleans
Airport Hotel at a special rate of $72 per night (single or double).
For a complete program, registration form, lodging information and
directions, visit www.ssawg.org
or contact Jean Mills, Southern SAWG Conference Coordinator, email@example.com,