By Waltraud Beckmann
[Note: This is the third post by guest blogger Waltraud Beckmann, who attended Hope College’s Critical Issues Symposium, “Good Food for the Common Good,” while I was at the Taste of Greenmarket in New York City last week.]
Bryant Terry: A Conversation About Creative Cuisine
During a morning focus session on October 6, Bryant Terry, who had been one of the two keynote speakers for the symposium, addressed a smaller audience and responded to questions.
Bryant spoke about his activism, inner city food deserts (stores with nothing but processed staples), his work and the programs started in New York (Be Healthy, Healthy Moms), and successful programs in other parts of the country (such as Will Allen’s Growing Power in Milwaukee). He also talked about his book Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen (co-authored with Anna Lappé), the online Grub hub called Eat Grub , and his new book Vegan Soul Kitchen (VSK): Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine.
Bryant’s active role resonated with the student audience and he encouraged them as they asked questions to become involved.
Grub Parties, a trend expanding around the globe, are all about healthy thinking about food: planning, preparing, and sharing. And the food does not (or, as he said, should not) come from Whole Foods but rather local providers. (Try LocalHarvest.org to find farmers near you.)
Joel Salatin: Local Food to the Rescue
Joel Salatin, the other keynote speaker at the symposium, also spoke on October 6 at an afternoon focus session with a smaller audience.
While Joel’s keynote address was full of philosophy and rich images of his farming environment in Virginia, his talk on Wednesday focused on the components necessary to create a successful, transparent, accountable local food system.
He presented six components, each equally important to make up the “whole of a pie.” As he went through the list he gave examples of the negative influence of government and its regulations and norms as well as positive local grassroots developments.
Production Practices – ethical white-collar farmers, symbiotic, high-tech, high-touch, aesthetics
Processing – packaging, overcoming government regulations and constraints, the food police, discrimination against small-size farmers
Marketing –farmers are not good at it, telling the story, need for learning to communicate
Accounting – essential, more than basics and skills farmers are known for
Distribution – breaking down the hurdle created by large food chains and government regulations; some efforts are underway such as the “school bus” example ( i.e., selling from a school bus, offering cooking lessons from a school bus), metropolitan buying clubs, CSA (limited choice)
Patrons – partnering, developing culinary art, emphasizing, promoting seasonal eating
Joel’s response to a question from the audience about government regulations took up much of the remaining time of the session, although he shared many personal accounts of others who have dealt with government intervention, requirements for regulations and corporate influence. This quote by Joel Salatin sums up the session: “Entrepreneurial spirit is held back by the food police.”