How do you create a local food system? Two speakers will answer that question on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. They have experience in creating local food systems in two very different locations: the Bay Area of San Francisco and the Meskwaki Settlement in Iowa’s Tama County.
Jennifer Vazquez-Koster will speak about “Beginning a Local Food System at the Meskwaki Settlement” at 4 p.m.
At 7:30 p.m. Thomas Nelson ’91 will discuss “Community-based Strategies to Scale Up Sustainable Food.”
Both presentations, which are free and open to the public, will take place in room 101 of Grinnell College’s Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, 1115 Eighth Ave., Grinnell. Refreshments will be served. Grinnell College’s Center for Prairie Studies is sponsoring the speeches.
More and more people are interested in eating food raised near where they live because it is fresher, tastes better, and is often more nutritious, says Jon Andelson, professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Prairie Studies.
Local foods are produced on a smaller scale and are more likely to be raised using organic methods, which make it healthier, Andelson adds. Purchasing food grown near where you live also contributes more to the local economy than buying the same food from big retail grocers.
But “buying local” can involve many challenges:
- Is supply adequate to meet the demand?
- How do consumers connect with farmers?
- Are the types of food being raised locally also the types that consumers want?
- Is local food out of the price range of many consumers?
- If locally raised food is normally available for only part of the year, can anything be done to lengthen the growing season or make the food available year-round?
Answers to many of these questions can be found through the creation of local food systems. Going beyond ad hoc relationships and even such worthy organizations as farmers’ markets, a local food system is a coordinated, planned set of institutionalized relationships among farmers, consumers, businesses and communities, structured in a way that maximizes the availability of affordable local food to members of a community.
Vazquez-Koster has been working on local food initiatives in Iowa for 10 years. As manager of the 2-year old Meskwaki Food Sovereignty Initiative, she oversees three garden-farm operations at the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama County.
These operations consist of a senior garden affiliated with the senior living center at the Meskwaki Settlement, a school garden and Red Earth Gardens, a large-scale commercial organic operation that sells produce through a Tribally Supported Agriculture (TSA) program, a farm stand and area grocery stores. The concept behind “food sovereignty” is for the Meskwaki to reclaim their food system from the national industrial food and agriculture system.
Nelson has been instrumental in advancing the local food system in the San Francisco Bay Area. He launched a community-based social enterprise, Capay Valley Farm Shop, which connects 54 farms and ranches in the Capay Valley to Bay Area families and enterprises such as tech companies, online grocery and neighborhood businesses.
He is also a business advisor at Kitchen Table Advisors, a nonprofit that works with beginning farmers to help them market their products. In addition, he serves on the board of California FarmLink, which has created a statewide program of economic development support for beginning, limited-resource, immigrant and other underserved farmers across the state.