This is Part 3 of a written and expanded version of my brief remarks to Rocket Hatch Thursday July 24, 2014, on Building Community Value in Local Food Systems. Part I is here and Part II is here.
We’ve all been lectured ad nauseum about eating fresh and healthy food, eating local and sustainable, supporting local businesses. Even if you are a convert to the cause, like me, another plea, lecture or threat of dire consequences isn’t necessarily welcome. A household juggling schedules and budgets may even agree, but find themselves either unable to change their habits or it just isn’t a high enough priority dis displace something else. Despite our local progress, it’s neither easy nor cheap to abandon mainstream shopping and eating habits on a consistent basis. Another lecture or PSA isn’t going to change the actions of many more people than have already accepted the message.
The solution is to engage with customers in a genuine and non-dogmatic way. This is increasingly becoming the formula for successful businesses, and it can also be the formula for successfully shifting the buying habits of the community.
I believe that Huntsville needs an Urban Teaching Farm. A place that engages and educates in a meaningful and entertaining way, trains people who want to learn more in an environment where it is safe to fail, and inspires future farmers, chefs and food entrepreneurs. A teaching farm should cover not only topics related to traditional food production, but expose the public to concepts that may need to be part of a more sustainable food future, like rooftop farming, vertical farming, edible landscaping, hydroponics, aquaponics and high density heated greenhouses. And it should be highly visible in the city, to better foster dialog about our relationship to food production and between consumers and producers.
In Huntsville, if we build the soil, we’ll get more fruit.