“We need to change this idea that food is a product or commodity,” said Land Stewardship Project member, farmer and leader, Josh Reinitz. “Food is not a product—it is our energy, our medicine, and is made by and for real people. Not consumers.”
On Oct. 7, LSP members like Josh came together from across the state to launch LSP’s Local Foods Listening Campaign. The campaign was started during the local foods breakout session at the LSP Leadership Assembly in Saint Peter. Building off of the work that the Community Based Food Systems Program has done, LSP’s Policy and Organizing Program is now launching this listening campaign to determine what local food policies to advocate for in Minnesota.
During the breakout session, LSP members discussed what stories, regulations and policies we want changed. Member-leaders used their expertise and experiences from farming, food processing or buying food at their local co-op or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation to help shape what narrative and policies we want for local foods.
LSP members have a great history of fighting for community-based food systems and being leaders in sustainable agriculture. We are now ready to use our collective voice and power to fight for state policies and regulations that put small, local farmers — both rural and urban— first and increase everyone’s access to healthy, local foods.
We discussed what we want the narrative for local foods to be and what systems and policies we need put in place to bolster local foods. What can we do in the long term to support cultivation, selling, marketing, distribution and buying of local foods? For one thing, we need to identify what barriers are in place that, for example, keep local foods out of our local schools.
“Many of the schools in my community are not equipped to cook food; they can only reheat,” said LSP member-farmer and Farm Beginnings graduate Anna Racer.
What can be done about this problem? Well, for one thing the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s AGRI Farm-to-School Grant Program makes it possible for schools to apply for funding to buy equipment that can process local foods. This is a program that LSP can fight to have more funding directed toward.
“Schools should and need to serve local food,” said LSP member and CSA farmer, Erin Johnson. “Kids who know where their food comes from and have a connection to where it was grown become more informed consumers and perhaps future farmers.”
As farmer Josh Reinitz made clear, a theme that emerged throughout the Oct. 7 local foods session was that we want a food system where local foods are seen as part of the larger system and where food is not seen as a product. Instead, it should be understood as something that is real and made by hard-working people who care about what they grow. LSP members want to make Minnesota a national leader in supporting farmers growing food for their communities and state. We want food to be redefined and re-understood as our energy source, our connection to the land, and one another.
How do you want local foods to be understood? What policies and regulations would you like to see in place to support sustainable, local foods? This breakout session marked the start of our listening campaign. We will host listening sessions across the state for the next two months and then gather a core group of member-leaders who will determine what policies LSP will fight for during the upcoming state legislative session. Share your voice and your vision for local food here.
University of Minnesota student Laura Schreiber is interning with the Land Stewardship Project’s Policy and Organizing Program. For more information on LSP’s Local Foods Listening Campaign, e-mail LSP’s Ben Anderson or call him at 612-722-6377.