Friday I went to four sessions and a screening of the film "The Greenhorns." On Saturday, I went to sessions on policy and activism, especially around the 2012 Farm Bill. I still had a chance to catch a fascinating presentation by a Harlingen farmer who is transforming her area, one season at a time.
Two presentations from Friday were about rebuilding community around food. One was titled, "Food Hubs: Moving Higher Volumes of Good Food to Local Markets." A food hub, in this case, is a business that buys local farm products and distributes to groceries and supermarkets. The presenters were very forthcoming about the nuts and bolts, and the challenges, of putting together this kind of distribution network. I have notes and contact information to share with anyone who is interested in trying this.
The other was by Paige Hill of Urban Patchwork Neighborhood Farms, an Austin nonprofit that helps neighborhoods put together cooperative yard gardens for the residents' use, for sale, and for donation. Rather than finding one big plot for a neighborhood or community garden, she says, you can create small plots throughout the neighborhood, with all the functions served somewhere. They work with each group's unique circumstances--some people have space for a garden but no time, and others want to garden but might have too much shade for some of the crops they would like to grow. Some want food for their own households and to share with neighbors, and some want to sell at a farmers market. Most also donate some to nearby food pantries. She told a story about a backyard tilapia pond that one neighbor wanted to build, to supply fish for the neighborhood. What seemed like a daunting task was done in an afternoon by a group of teenage boys who needed a service project.
These gardens reduce the cost of living for everyone involved, and also increase the quality of life and quality of food. We can do it here, too.