Local Food Summit 2009 Report

On Thursday, January 29th, 2009, a small group of community members working with the HomeGrown Festival and Slow Food Huron Valley organized a day-long conference-style meeting called the Washtenaw Local Food Summit. The motivating idea of the Summit was simply to bring together area stakeholders interested and involved in improving and re-localizing our food system, and to make connections that would strengthen and build the network of people who demand healthy, secure, safe and fair food for our community. The goals of this Summit were to “map our current food system, find gaps, identify priorities, and coordinate efforts leading to a healthy, just and secure local food economy.” 

What Happened
To address these goals, we spent the day involved in brainstorming and hearing about examples and models from several Michigan communities. We were fortunate to have speakers give their perspective and inspiration, including:
• Patty Cantrell: Traverse City’s Taste the Local Difference - http://localdifference.org/
• Chris Bedford: Muskegon County Farm-to-School Project - http://www.healthyschoolmeals.org/
We also learned more about the increasing scope and extent of food insecurity in our own community from Fran Alexander, see:
• Food Gatherers: http://www.foodgatherers.org/
• The Washtenaw County Human Food Habitat: http://ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/public_health/hip/pdfs/FoodHabitatinWashtenawCounty2008.pdf

An important part of the day was the spent time eating together, and talking in small groups about what action we are prepared to take toward our priorities. Coverage about the event by Mary Morgan from the Ann Arbor Chronicle is here: http://annarborchronicle.com/2009/01/31/local-food-for-thought/

We Succeed or Fail Together
Although we learned some things that we could have done better in organizing the Summit (bigger space, more time for working groups, etc.), even on our shoestring budget, we felt that the enthusiasm, energy, and involvement in the room made the day a huge success. This movement, this idea that we can have food that is good for people, good for producers, and good for the planet, is only possible through our relationships with each other as a community. As Chris Bedford said in his talk - we succeed or fail together. If our goal is having food that is healthy, just and secure, we must “trust each other, know each other, work with each other and love each other in our communities.”

What’s Next – Choose Priorities
The Summit served the purpose of demonstrating that there is a lot of love in this community, and that we have important priorities in common. It has also served the purpose of bringing us into each others’ orbits, both in person and online. What happens next will be based on what each of us, as individuals, feels moved to work on, and with whom, as individuals, we feel moved to work.

Each of us, as an individual, is the only one who can make change happen. As someone recently told me “Please go back to your community and tell other people, work for change in policy, get involved in local government, get your community involved. You can be sure that if you don’t, no one else will.”

Ways to Get Involved
A number of possibilities for ways to get involved certainly already exist in the community (for example, with Food Gatherers, Project Grow, the Washtenaw Land Trust, Growing Hope, Slow Food Huron Valley, The HomeGrown Festival), but some new things have sprung up as a result of the Summit as well.

• Washtenaw Local Food Website – Calendar and Workgroups
New ways to plug in to efforts coming out of the Summit can be found through the Washtenaw Local Food Website that the Digital Initiatives Summit Working Group just set up. The Washtenaw Local Food Website has links to a Local Food Calendar, to a Ning site (called Local Food Summit) for social networking (where the Summit Working Groups, Discussions, and other ways to share can start out), and eventually to other resources as well. See: http://washtenawlocalfood.net

The Local Food Calendar is already populated with many local food events and anyone can add a food-related event, viewable by everyone. See: http://washtenawlocalfood.net/calendar.html

Local Food Working Groups and Discussion Forums have just begun. Anyone can start a new working group or discussion. See, edit your profile, and start joining in at: http://localfoodannarbor.ning.com/
o The Working Groups at this site so far include:
New Farmer Resources
Edible Schoolyard
Local Food Month
Digital Initiatives
Reading Room
Multimedia Show and Tell

In closing - there are still connections to be made, conversations to be had, and working relationship to be forged. If the Summit was one step on the journey toward healthy, secure and fair food for our community, we would like to encourage you to take another step by:
- Joining in or creating a conversation in a Local Food Working group here: http://localfoodannarbor.ning.com/
- Adding en event to the Local Food Calendar here: http://washtenawlocalfood.net/calendar.html
- Reading the transcript of Summit Notes at the Summit 2009 Working Group here: http://localfoodannarbor.ning.com/group/summit2009/forum/topics/summit-2009-documents

Thank you again for your participation and interest in the Washtenaw Local Food Summit and for your willingness to work together and care for our community.

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