Greetings readers, old and new!
I've had an exceedingly busy day, but amazingly, I'm not tired. In fact, I'm energized. I find it so interesting how work can make you feel either way.
Today was my first day at the Community Food Security Conference and I had a fantastic time.
First, I have to give a shoutout to the Polk County Convention Center. The center was extremely well organized and easy to navigate, and the staff was friendly and polite. The food, which was as locally sourced as possible, was actually very good (well seasoned, even!) , and they made every accommodation for those with dietary restrictions.
Through the plenary and the sessions, I noticed some interesting things about people at this conference. One of the most valuable characteristics I've found among most participants is a focus on action. These people in general have emphasized clear goals and critical thoughts about how to achieve them. I've heard very few sweeping general statements, which I appreciate very much.
Likewise, every person I've encountered has been passionate about their causes and sharing their message with anyone who will listen. I have made a huge number of contacts from meeting people, learning about their perspective, sharing mine, and hearing connections.
Another thing that has struck me about this conference is how I've perceived my role: frankly, I feel like I have a heck of a lot to learn. In past conferences that I've been to, I left feeling largely unmotivated and like there was little left for me to do. After one day, I have tons of books, websites, and movies to dig up and consume to put myself on the same playing field with these people, who have been kind enough to engage me despite my lack of knowledge.
Unfortunately my camera battery ran out before I could take a SINGLE PHOTO, but thankfully my phone takes decent pics.
The morning began at the plenary, which was a panel discussion led by four speakers. The most interesting to me was Dr. Eduardo Sanchez. The speakers set the tone and context for the conference and there was a small group session at the end followed by q&a with the panel. Their goal is to shift the discussion of food in this country from a commodity system to community systems. All the comments and questions were extremely practical, thought-provoking, and the topics resurfaced throughout the day. It wasn't surprising to me just how often the current health-care debate came up.
(There were a lot of macbooks at this conference.)
Then we moved on to our first workshop. I chose to attend a session called Gardening: A Gateway to a "Good Food" System. This workshop was headed by Rose Hayden-Smith and Angie Tagtow. The session centered around their national call for action to garden, which you can read about here. This includes school gardens, but only in conjunction with home, community, and workplace gardens. School gardens are something I'm very interested in, but had always thought of them as isolated. Rose and Angie made it clear that school gardens can't be sustainable without being connected to a greater network of area gardens.
I was lucky enough to wrangle Rose for an interview for an audio project I have coming up, so I don't want to share too much with you, but this fact should show you a little about her perspective: she claimed that the US agriculture system doesn't produce enough fresh fruits and vegetables to meet USDA guidelines for caloric intake, and that only 18% of Iowans get the recommended five fresh fruits and vegetables each day.
Check out Rose's blog here, and I very much look forward to sharing her ideas with you.
Next we headed to lunch, where I ate this.
The first Food Sovereignty Prize was awarded to La Via Campesina, a very noble and innovative organization.
I sat in on a meeting for the Urban Agriculture Committee, which is a part of the Community Food Security Coalition. The focus of the meeting was setting agenda items for their monthly phone meetings and discussing some legislation, HR 3225, which I plan to discuss later. You can learn more about this committee here.
The next session was the most exciting for me: See Jane Grow: How Women Farmers and Ecopreneurs Can Change Our Food System, Increase Economic Recovery, and Transform the World, a session all about women in food & food businesses. I was so moved by the stories of each woman on the panel, and by the environment of the session itself. I'd like to tell you more about all of them when I have time, but I'll at least post their names here for now. Lisa Kivirst from the Rural Women's Project and Inn Serendipity Farm, Denise O'Briend from Women, Food, and Agriculture Network, Faye Jones form Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Servie, Gail Myers from Farms to Grow, Rose Hayden-Smith, and Melinda and Hannah Hemmelgarn, a glorious mother and daughter team I got to interview.
Each woman shared her story, and then put up two words to show thier personal philosophy. The words included things like "question authority", "compelling storytelling", and "radical self-sufficiency". Then they asked for thoughts from the audience. Can you guess which two words on this board are mine?
Finally, we headed to the Des Moines Sculptural Garden, where we were given hot apple cider to send us on a cold walk (food conference has it's perks).
The evening ended at a cocktail reception featuring vegan, vegetarian, and locally sourced appetizers along with local beers and wines. (I saw Tabor and John's White Ale! YUM!)
As you can see, it was a long fulfilling day and I can't wait for day two.
Keep up on the tweets if you're interested and send me any questions or comments!
Also, apologies for the photo layout. I'm still trying to learn blogger's new format and my editor is on vacation :P