Building a Local Food Network

Building a Local Food Network

Apr 24

At the Lake Eola Earth Day Festival yesterday, John and I watched a panel discussion on ‘Building a Local Food Network’. The panel of experts were Michael Tiner from Homegrown Co-op, Stephanie Syson of Gray’s Gardens, Tia Meer of Econ Farm and president of Simple Living Institute, and Kendra Lott of Edible Orlando magazine. I can’t say much was discussed that we didn’t already know, however for a person new to the idea of  experiencing non-industrial food, it was probably informative. I, of course the eternal optimist and dreamer, would have loved for all of Orlando’s food problems to be solved and all of us been left with this great new way to spring into action for a sustainable local food network to be born. But that didn’t exactly happen. In the end, the fact that there are even people out there in the community talking and thinking about what our local food system should look and be like was reassuring.

The follow are some excerpts and snippets of what was said at the talk.

When asked what was something someone could do today to change the way they eat and to eat more local:

“To pick your best choice first, instead of going with a recipe in your mind that your bent on doing something with zucchini and the zuchini isn’t local, to be able to have the flexabity to say that “Wow, these green beans are beautiful today, I’m gonna take a bet and take them home becuase thats the freshest thing available”.” -Kendra Lott

“Locally grown food may look a little bit different from the perfect produce from California that they grow out there. To the consumer to open your mind and be open to some changes in your food. It doesn’t have to be a perfect carrot or perfect eggplant.” -Tia Meer

“Don’t be surprised that your big companies, like Publix and things like that that, if you get out there and ask questions and ask them to get some of those local things, that they are really responsive….. they want to sell you food, they want to sell you products and if you tell them what you want, they’ll get it there for you to buy… A lot of people assume that when you go to a farmers market, you’re getting produce grown from a local farmer, and that’s just not the case. But they are usually very honest about it, so ask the farmer, or who you think is the farmer, at the farmers market where they get their food and if they grow it. Becuase a lot of times you think your getting local and you’re not” -Stephanie Syson

“Just do it. Just eat local every day, every meal. Earth Day is a joke if the only time you think and do anything for the planet… My word is ‘total awareness’. We need to become individually totally aware of everything around us and what is going into our bodies, because we cannot trust someone else to do it for us.” -Michael Tiner

When asked about the health benefits of eating locally and eating fresher foods:

“There is actually clinical research where they follow people who just kinda eat the omnivore, you know 24-7 grocery store diet and then others that follow traditional diets that are seasonal that change what they eat throughout the year. The people whose diet changed with the seasons have better health outcomes.” -Michael Tiner  (writers note: I could only find talk of a study done by UNC about the link between local food and health but I couldn’t find the results of the study in my internet searching. That is not to say there isn’t evidence out there)

“There this book called ‘Food as Medicine‘ [about how] regular things that we eat… have such good vitamins and minerals and other phytochemicals, plant chemicals, in them that are good for your health and keep you healthy.” -Tia Meer

When asked what thier vision for what our local food network would look like:

“Obviously we are in the early stages of that right now, we’re trying to build excitement about the notion. I am sure that you all and I have too, lived in other places where it’s just a part of everyday life. I mean on a Saturday you walk to the local farmers market… that would be my goal that it [buying and knowing local food] would just become a no-brainer. For us all to exercise our do diligence, in terms of knowing how to select a good looking piece of produce and continue to demand that from the people who supply them to us” -Kendra Lott

“One of the biggest problems we have here is there is not a lot of local farmers… there is a need for more people to become farmers. I tell all my friends who are unemployed “Hey, you got sun, you got water, grow some vegetables. You can sell them and you can have organic fresh food”. I hope that at Simple Living Institute that we can help educate more people how to grow things and encourage other people to grow here. Because with all these people in Central Florida we are going to need more farmers” -Tia Meer

“We have plenty of land here, the yards are amazing. My dream would be to drive by and through a neighborhood and see a garden in every one. I personally don’t have any lawn at all because I just have paths and gardens, because I don’t like working so hard for something that I can’t eat. If I am spending time outside in my yard working hard I want to bring something in to the kitchen afterwards.” – Stephanie Syson

“I see up to 10% of everyone living in Central Florida working in agriculture within the next 15 to 20 years…. That’s tens to thousands of people who will wake up everyday and work ‘Earth Day’ everyday. That’s my vision for the future; that interconnectedness, relationship-based economy, where more and more of us can live well off the fruits of our labor on the land.” -Michael Tiner

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