A Tipping Point for Local Foods?

I think we’ve hit a positive tipping point for local foods. “Local” has entered mainstream parlance in a similar way to “organic” a few years ago. Whether or not it is going to be similarly adulterated remains to be seen. But in order to make a real difference to our environment, our local farmers on small farms, and our health, “local” does need to go mainstream in my opinion. It can’t remain a fringe movement and make a significant difference.

My yesterday started when I registered for the Brooklyn Food Conference. It was inspiring and encouraging to see so many people turn out on a drizzly morning to learn how they could participate in changing our food system to something sustainable, healthy, and tasty. The auditorium was packed for the opening statements by Robert Jackson of Brooklyn Rescue Mission, Alison Cohen of World Hunger Year, our Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Dan Barber of Stone Barns Institute, LaDonna Redmond of Institute for Community Organizing, and Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved.

After the opening event, there were three floors of workshops related to sustainable food systems going nonstop for six hours. I wished I could clone myself because there were so many of them I would have liked to attend. I hesitated over whether or not to go to the obvious (for me) local foods one on CSAs and farmers’ markets, thinking I probably knew most of what they were going to say. But in the end, I did choose that workshop on the justification that I am, after all, working on a second book on the subject.

And delightfully, I didn’t know all of the info already. I didn’t know how extensive the programs trying to make fresh, local foods available in low income neighborhoods are, or that there is a campaign to reopen a wholesale farmers’ market in the city where bodegas, chefs, and shop owners could get locally produced products wholesale.

I left energized and enthused. In a fun syncronicity with the local foods theme, I had to miss the mid-afternoon workshops because it was pick up day for my CSA meat, egg, bread, and cheese order. After I picked up my CSA order, I spent the rest of the afternoon taking notes on Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food, because I’d be speaking on it later (read it and loved it when it first came out, but that’s not the same as being able to speak publically about it, so I had to do my homework). I didn’t know what to expect when I showed up at the Brooklyn Museum to host this month’s First Saturdays Book Club.

I was told afterwards that it is normal for the club to have 10 to 20 people show up. We had over 80. I don’t kid myself that they were there for me: Pollan’s bestselling author status and the topic itself were what brought them to the event. The questions I got were both intelligent and urgent. These were people who saw the need for a change in how they eat and got the connection between food choices and the environment, and they wanted to know what they could do now. Even the lone heckler (there’s always one) asked some smart questions. It was a privilege to moderate the conversation, and once again, as I’d felt at the conference earlier in the day, I felt hopeful and motivated and encouraged.

The conversation will continue this coming Tues. May 5th at the Community Bookstore in Park Slope. I’ll be reading a bit from my first book, but I’m just as interested in your questions. Can you do a local, organic diet affordably? How do you fit in the time to get the stuff and cook when you’re schedule is already about to explode? Why and how does it make a difference? These are some of the questions I got last night, and I look forward to talking with you about them on Tuesday.

And if you were intrigued by my last post about the foraging tour I led for Green Edge, please check out this post on supereco. There are some great photos there of what you can create with a foraged salad, and also good info on the plants we identified on that walk. I’m a big fan of her blog, and heartily recommend that you subscribe.

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One response to “A Tipping Point for Local Foods?”

  1. acmeplant says:

    Doesn’t it feel good to see people start to get it! You have definitely done your part to spread the word.

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