Local Foods

As you all know by now, I am a huge supporter of getting to know your farmer.

After reading an article in the Huffington Post about a recent visit to Chicago by the USDA Department Secretary, I feel that something is still lacking. It is great that they had “representatives from executives, economic developers, and  businesses you may have heard of — SyscoChartwellsSuperValuGeneral ElectricFeeding AmericaWhole Foods Market and FamilyFarmed.org. There were also representatives from local, state and federal government ranging from USDA’s agencies to the Illinois Commerce Department.”

The questions are…..Is it working? Aren’t some of these groups big business? Where’s the benefit?

Big business super chains like Sysco do have a value. Sysco has been notoriously known as “the canned food” food service portion of the industry. Many colleges across the US have Sysco on campus providing a variety of meals and treats. Why are they important to have at the table for a local foods conversation? There are many factors to be considered. One: Local foods generated sales of fresh local farm goods. A big consumer like Sysco could benefit from networking and connecting with farms within their regions. It’s a win/win situation for the farm, Sysco and for their food consumers. Maybe the ultimate consumer won’t get to know the farmers but the buyers for Sysco will.

Businesses like Whole Foods have been out throughout many states across the country utilizing the local foods system. There is one thing that is lacking within their system….a definition of what local foods are. Is there a specific radius (miles)? Are they considerations for sustainable farming practices? Whole Foods does promote animal welfare concerns, which is part of knowing your food.

We (The Global Animal Partnership) were created after Whole Foods Market had worked for several years to establish even higher welfare standards for its own company. The natural and organic food grocer recognized that a greater global impact could be achieved by working with an independent organization, rather than alone, and donated the intellectual property developed during the creation of its own standards to our new, multi-stakeholder, nonprofit organization“—Global Animal Partnership. (We will discuss these guys again in the very near future!)

In 2009, the USDA launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative to coordinate the Department’s support and understanding of local food systems. Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food leverages existing USDA resources and improves our ability to execute programs and policies supporting local food businesses and developments across the country. We are proud of the investments the USDA has made in producers, processors, distributors, buyers and other important players in strengthening local food systems to date, and will continue to do so in the future. As part of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, we are currently preparing a summary of some of the great achievements and inspiring stories coming from these food systems across the country. We know these stories will spark a national conversation about the impact local food systems have on our economy, our farmers and ranchers, and your community. The conversation I had in Chicago is just the beginning.” says Kathleen Merrigan, Department Secretary at USDA after a meeting at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago to discuss the business of local food in January 2012. “The conversation focused on how USDA and other federal agencies can work together with the private sector to harness the economic potential of local food across the Midwest.”

I keep thinking…something is missing in the whole mix of everything covered in the article………

Oh wait……

I got it!!! Guess who’s missing?

Where o’ where do you see the farmer in this who’s who roll call list of attendees? It’s all a political front. One organized group after another. Followed by big business and Government run organizations.

Not one word about the farmers who do the “dirty work” but all about a marketing ploy of knowing your food, not the people behind it.

What do you think? Am I mistaken? Speak out, speak up and let your voices be heard!

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