Last week, I attended the most exciting workshop all about local food access. I know I get a bit excited about these things, but there are so many amazing opportunities in our community for local food to grow. The workshop was called "Connecting the Dots: Creating a local food system in Wake County" and it was facilitated by one of our partners, Advocates for Health in Action (AHA).
The turnout was unbelievable. There were over 100 people there from diverse backgrounds, but all with energy and interest to create a vibrant food community in Wake County. Heather Wooten was the keynote speaker, and her data about local food economies was compelling. I was particularly interested in the economic development arguments.
The "old" economic development model is to woo and give incentives for big companies to come to your town to add jobs, however that can leave you vulnerable should the company leave or demand more tax incentives. The "new" model is to invest in people who are already vested in your community - Entrepreneurial Development. This model supports the businesses that are committed to your town and help them scale up, in addition to reducing the barriers that prevent them from growing and adding jobs to their businesses. Heather called it "Economic Gardening."
Our farmers' market has experienced one such barrier first hand. When the WWFM wanted to go year-round, we found out that the current rules only allow us to have a temporary permit for 180 days. We had to spend countless hours and meetings with the town to find a work around to this. It's the same situation with trying to occupy space temporarily. The rules should allow for innovation and independence. It's very difficult for beginning farmers and beginning restaurants to devote so much time to figuring out how to comply with the local rules.
With over 60% of Wake County residents obese or overweight, it's critical for local communities to invest in their own resources to affect the food landscape. We don't need any more fast food restaurants. Heather showed a slide with all the McDonald's across the US. There is one McDonalds for every 13,000 people in our country. I beg our elected officials to make it easier for good food to thrive.
Wake Co. Commissioner Joe Bryan attended the workshop and heralded the efforts of the local food movement and the large number of people attending who are passionate about growing our local economy by supporting local farmers and food entrepreneurs. He promised to work on getting the Local Food Enhancement Plan on the agenda of theWake County Board of Commissioners.
I think we are starting to move in a healthy direction, but we have a lot of work to do.
How can you help?
- Contact me for information about how you can support the WWFM's efforts through the Town of Cary for a multi-use farm park. Click here for a blog update by Emily Graban.
- Contact AHA for updates through their newsletter to become part of the process to create a local food system in Wake County.
 According to 2009 NC Nutrition and Physical Activity Survellance System (NC-NPASS)
43.2% of children age 5-11 overweight and obese in Wake County
49.5% of children ages 12-18 overweight and obese in Wake County