Slow Food Huron Valley - Local Food Victories of the Future
P.O. Box 7237, Ann Arbor, MI 48107
...until next year. The Summit is nearing its end, and it's time for me to wrap up this party.
This has been a really great, positive experience. I had a lot of fun learning about local foods and my role as a foodshed stakeholder. Hopefully anyone that wasn't able to make it this year will give some thought into attending the 5th Annual Local Food Summit. There has clearly been progress toward healthier, economic, community-driven food, and an eye toward what can be done in the future, as well. This community has its goals in sight and plenty of strength to reach it.
For my part, the theme of past, present, and future victories was incredibly relevant to my experience as a newcomer. It was like a recap of everything that has been done to this point, but with a hook to keep me coming back for more. I want these individuals and organizations to succeed in what they're doing. If they do, I can honestly say that the benefit will equal more than the sum of its parts.
I want to give a shout out and thank Kim Bayer and Monica Patel for being my team's contacts for this project, as well as the Local Food Summit for the privilege to attend. Good luck to the organizations at the Summit, and here's to a great new year! (See you at the Corner Brewery) Cheers!
I really enjoyed this session. It was led by Randy Burns, Senior Buyer for the Patient Food and Nutrition Services at the University of Michigan Health System, and Jon and Karlene Goetz, owners of Goetz Greenhouse LLC. Together they talked about the hurdles and red tape that both the buyers and sellers of local food have to go through. It was surprising to hear how difficult it is to get these two important parties to be able to communicate and accept business transactions. Mr. Goetz brought up some of the rules and regulations that are easier said than done, or sometimes counter-productive. He explained that he has little choice but to comply because institutional buyers, such as Mr. Burns, are by law required to purchase food from certified sources. Some other problems were logistical in nature; loading docks aren't staffed early enough for morning delivery, deliveries can be too far away to make economic sense, or equipment may not function perfectly and cause delays.
Scheduling is also important for both groups. Buyers need to know how much things cost at what time and sellers need to know how much product is needed and when to deliver. Good communication is essential, they emphasized. Each group must make sure they're talking to the right people in charge when making important decisions like these. Good record keeping helps prevent these problems. Sellers need to track how much they are owed and that their contact information is updated frequently. Buyers can track how much they need on a given day and plan accordingly, preferably a year in advance for some produced goods.
Overall, the session was a great discussion on good business practices in inventory management and planning, but also tremendously valuable in illuminating some of the practical realities of acquiring local foods. The nitty-gritty details that put a focus on communication between community members really made me think about the difficulties of expanding local foods and their benefits to the public at large institutions; however, it hasn't stopped progress, and steps are still being taken to increase local food exposure. It was a pleasantly optimistic session with a healthy dose of real problems and solutions far from wispy ideals.
There's some time before the breakout sessions start, but I just wanted to make a quick word about my first impressions of the Summit.
This has to be, without a doubt, one of the best community organizations I've taken part in, and I'm not just saying that because I don't take part in very many. The impact on southeast Michigan are the results of the things that are being done, that have been done here. It's growing all the time and I hope to support more of the same in the future.
Lunch was also fantastic, by the way. Kudos to the volunteers, donors, and chefs for putting on such great meals today!
After a quick cup of Joe, we're back. Local food victories of the present include several organizations categorized into victory groups, all of which are "working toward goals larger than themselves" according to the speaker. These include improving health, building the economy, creating community, and imagining the future.
These organizations all share the drive to bring locally grown foods and food products to local markets in economically and environmentally sustainable ways. From the sheer number of participating organizations' successes, I'd say these victories were well worth the time and effort these businesses and volunteers have put in.
Several pitches were made to the audience as part of the search for local food victories of the future. They had one minute to tell us about their plans for making a business or organizing a program. If I could say one thing about them, it would be that their forward-thinking ideas are, for the most part, brilliantly small in scale and tightly bound to the community. Not only does that make most of their ideas possible, it also makes the rewards that much more pronounced and effective within the community. They all shared a theme of bringing some value to the public at large, starting locally, and resulting in health, economic, community, and future victories.
I'll be back to cover the breakout session titled "Scaling Up Local Food Access" after lunch around 1pm.
Following the opening note, Jan Longone delivered a few words as curator of the Culinary Archive in the Clements Library at the University of Michigan, then Larry Massie gave a presentation about Michigan's culinary history starting in the early 19th century. Far from being a classroom lecture, Mr. Massie's talk was very entertaining and informative. Not only did he talk about the things Michigan has been historically famous for, like the fur trade, but also some things we should be less proud of, including the hunting extinction of the passenger pigeon and the grayling fish. Mr. Massie continued through history and brought up the celery boom of Kalamazoo, the cereal boom of Battle Creek, and then ended on a note about Michigan's future.
Water, according to Mr. Massie, is Michigan's future. Our state has the greatest supply of freshwater in the nation thanks to the Great Lakes, and Lake Superior in particular. It is our responsibility and our obligation to protect that water from people, governments, and corporations that want to siphon it, pollute it, and otherwise waste our resources without paying anything back to us or the environment.
On that note, we're moving into a short break before heading into local food victories of the present. A great start to a great Summit!