Summertime Sustainable Solutions

Maureen Wilmot's picture

The other week, while the House of Representatives were fumbling around with the farm bill, I had the privilege of joining more than 200 funders who work to create a healthy, safe and secure food and agriculture system in this country. I attended the Sustainable Agriculture Food System Funders annual forum in Providence, Rhode Island – Rethinking, Risk and Resilience. We spent three muggy and dynamic days delving into issues that impact how our food and fiber is grown, distributed and accessed.

We toured a health center that ‘gets’ the connection between healthy food and healthy humans.  It included non-clinical programs such as a fully accessible community garden, on-site farmers’ markets and even bicycles! The waiting room is filled with samples from the on site vegetable garden and healthy recipes.

An afternoon session partnering USDA staff and philanthropic funders explored public-private partnerships in three key areas: beginning farmers and ranchers, farm to institution, and healthy food access.  Everyone walked away with a new perspective.

Fibershed founder, Rebecca Burgess, looked at textiles and its production in the context of our agricultural system. As we see a greater awareness of where our food comes from, Fibershed highlights where our textiles come from. This will no doubt be the next wave of sustainability issues.

One of the liveliest sessions was an afternoon plenary exploring the successes and challenges of working at the regional scale to develop a resilient food system. Food system leaders from across New England and a regional agricultural historian from Brandeis University shared trial and error efforts to build the food system. Regional beers and snacks were served during the session. A lively and inspiring conversation ensued.

This three-day forum focused on how collaborations, innovation and willingness to take risks will lead to a stronger and resilient food system. Next year, I suggest the House attend this event.  (And, don’t hold back on serving regional brews to them).

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