Seize the Movement: Making the Local Food Movement Work for You

October 21, 2013

By Sylvia Lovely

Sylvia Lovely will serve as the presenter for the interactive seminar, “Seize the Movement: Making the Local Food Movement Work for You,” at the Congress of Cities conference on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 in Seattle, Washington.

When asked why she went to the local farmer's market, the young woman replied, “To see my neighbors, visit with farmers and marvel at the bright colors of the fruits and veggies...oh, and I buy fresh produce as well!”

Two observations about these comments come to mind:  first, the local food movement is busting at the seams across the country.  Just ask Wal-Mart, a company that does not make business decisions idly, and which is always thinking of the bottom line. Their television ad proclaims, “BUY LOCAL” as a Wal-Mart truck rolls along the highway in the background.  And the true arbiter of American society -- the cartoon -- features a couple with one asking the other:  If these canned green beans have been on the shelf for three months, does that qualify as “local?”

Now for the second observation. The young woman, reflecting on her reasons for engaging in the farmer’s market experience, voices an aspect of the local food movement that has gone unremarked upon by many. In her statement, food is almost secondary to the growing need for a sense of community -- that intangible quality that makes a place comfortable and inviting for residents and visitors as well.  Says Eric Mathis, Williamson, West Virginia City Commissioner and organizer of Sustainable Williamson,  “You can’t talk about economic diversity without a healthy community...You also can’t talk about a healthy community without economic diversity -- they go hand in hand -- and this project aims to bring them together.” 

By providing access to good and fresh foods, advocating environmental stewardship, combatting obesity and disease, promoting tourism or creating jobs, the local food movement is a catalyst for building better communities.  Is this focus on the local food movvement due to the recent recession that has the consumer re-imagining life’s priorities? Is it because we all eat -- usually together -- and by doing so we engage in one of the most basic element of community? Or is it the barrage of conflicting and negative news stories that has us turning to our neighbors, friends and community to help make our lives healthier?

Join us at the Congress of Cities in Seattle on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 from 1:30 - 5:00 p.m. as we seek to answer these questions and delve into the local food movement and focus on its many community building attributes, including most notably the opportunity to build a local economy that will create jobs and keep wealth within a community.  Among the topics that will be addressed: (1) what is the local food movement and what is its historical significance? (2) Why should city officials care about the local food movement and what role can it play in the sustainability of a community? and (3) Where to start in engaging in the movement? What are the opportunities and options for plowing this particular field when you return home? Come prepared for a lively conversation and a bountiful harvest of ideas and action steps! 

Sylvia Lovely is President of Sylvia Lovely & Associates. She is an author, commentator and speaker on issues relating to communities and how they must adapt to the "new rules of the 21st century" - including rapid and unpredictable change - to thrive. She has 22 years of experience as CEO of the Kentucky League of Cities, and its full service insurance division - the Kentucky League of Cities Insurance Services. She is also the founder of the non-profit NewCities Institute, an organization devoted to civic engagement. She has authored two books about city and community development.