A full day at HomeGrown Local Food Summit

Borden - crowd at HomeGrown Food Summit  Over 200 people attended the HomeGrown Local Food Summit at U of M's School of Natural Resources & the Environment.

Photo by Dave Brenner, School of Natural Resources & the Environment

I started out my day at the HomeGrown Local Food Summit talking about turkeys (with John Harnois of Harnois Farm in Webster Township) and finished it talking about garlic (with Dick Dyer of Pretty Good Garlic). I can only say, to extend the metaphor, the poor bird would be bursting at the seams if I tried to stuff in all of the conversations, ideas and people that swirled around the Samuel Trask Dana Building at the U-M yesterday, a gray Tuesday in early March.

According to Jason Frenzel, longtime member of the HomeGrown Steering Committee, the desired outcome for the summit could have been nothing but vast and powerful. “The goal of today is to come to an understanding of what the next phase of the local food movement is going to be. We will have a lot of different discussions and go through a lot of different processes to figure that out today.”

The energy was high from the very beginning, with Frenzel asking questions and the crowd responding with laughter, cheers, and raised hands.

“Give out a whoop if you GROW food!." "Raise your hand if you EAT food!"

The energy continued with Kim Bayer, president of Slow Food Huron Valley, presenting a slideshow of local food victories in 2009. These are victories for all of us.

2009 - Local Food Victories! Guaranteed to make your head spin and your heart full.

Borden - Yes we can Can

WHEW! I would also add to this list my personal favorite, the City of Ann Arbor changed zoning rules in order to make the Westside Farmers Market legal (yippie!).

Jeff McCabe then stood up to speak about the 10% Campaign, and his data was compelling. “In Washtenaw county, we spend over $1 billion a year on food…less than one percent of those purchases are grown in the county…growing 10 percent of our food would result in over $90 million in new direct economic activity and increased community security.”

At this point we broke into small groups to work on a slogan or a brand for such an initiative.

And the results were awesome:

“Keep it Local: Eat ten for your town!” “You drive a Michigan car, now eat Michigan food.” “Add 2 [meals a week] get 10 [percent]” “Ten [locally sourced meals a month] tastes great!” “Eat 2 [locally sourced meals a week] for you!” “Produce, Prepare, Prosper.”

Buoyed by the creativity and intelligence of our fellow participants, we broke out again into action groups focusing on the many facets of the local food hydra: education, infrastructure, inclusivity, management, resources, transportation and policy, among others. Each group worked on short-term and long-term ideas to improve a facet of that issue. My group was public outreach, and we centered our discussions on how to raise awareness of the local farmer’s markets. Ideas ranged from bicycle deliveries from the market to food preparation tips and guides.

Regrouping for a delicious meal by A Knife’s Work the day continued.

Smaller group workshops continued throughout the rest of the afternoon. From a dizzying array of choices (Beekeeping, Wildcrafting, Backyard Mushrooms, Farm to School, Local Food Distribution) I chose social media, where we spoke about the role of social media in raising awareness and improving distribution. Then I went to a workshop with Jennifer Fike of FSEP to hear about the Michigan Charter being worked on at the Michigan Good Food Summit to use as a template for Lansing discussions (you can read it on their Web site under “Draft Work Group Agenda Priorities”).

I started out the day talking to John Harnois about 13 frozen heritage turkeys in his freezer leftover from Thanksgiving and his concern about finding a market. Right then Chef Brandon Johns, of the Grange Kitchen & Bar, walked by and said that he might be able to take “a few." I ended the day sitting next to Dick Dyer, of Pretty Good Garlic, talking about the offers he had received from local restaurants to purchase his garlic. "I met so many people today, isn't this great?"

It appears I was not the only one making vast and powerful new connections and left feeling full of possibility and choices.

Here is the link to the annarbor.com article!