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VOL. 36 | NO. 46 | Friday, November 16, 2012

Local food’s value to be examined at Summit

By Joe Morris

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Tennessee Local Food Summit

Nov. 30-Dec. 1

Green Door Gourmet Meeting House

7011 River Road Pike, Nashville, 37209

$100 adults/$50 students


  • Contributing Acres USA writer, Hugh Lovel
  • Sandor Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation
  • Birke Baehr, internationally acclaimed youth advocate for local food and farming
  • Dodd Galbreath, Executive Director of Lipscomb University’s Institute for Sustainable Practice
  • Jeff Poppen, aka The Barefoot Farmer, a regular guest on Nashville Public Television’s Volunteer Gardener (barefootfarmer.com)

The summit begins on Nov. 30 with a reception and panel discussion. Workshops will be held Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Topics include:

  • Building Healthy Soil
  • Organic Farming/Gardening
  • Marketing/Distribution
  • Cooking/Preservation (featuring local chef demos)

An opening night reception is set for 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30, at Sunflower Café, a new vegetarian farm-to-table restaurant, 2834 Azalea Place, in Nashville’s Berry Hill area. Other Nashville restaurants with a local food focus will be on the menu. After dinner, there will be a panel discussion, “Why Care about Local Food.’’ Tickets for Friday night’s activities are $20 or are included with a full conference registration.

Dinner and a barn dance will be held onsite beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday night.

Interest in locally grown food is on the rise throughout Middle Tennessee, as evidenced in packed parking lots at farmers’ markets and an ever-expanding number of community food co-ops connecting growers to residents.

This trend and other topics will be discussed at the second annual Tennessee Local Food Summit, Nov. 30-Dec. 1, as proponents of regional food-to-table programs work to keep their momentum going.

Sustainable farmers in the area organize the event, which drew attendees from throughout the area to the inaugural summit.

It’s geared to home gardeners, farmers, students, consumers and anyone interested in learning about how local food is produced, and the existing food chain in Middle Tennessee, says Jeff Poppen, better known as the “Barefoot Farmer” and is a regular on Nashville Public Television’s Volunteer Gardener.

“I was raised on a farm, and I farm organically,” Poppen says. “I eat local food. These are decisions that I made in the late 1960s, and I still hold that local, organic farming can solve a lot of the problems that our society faces today. From health issues to local economic concerns and the environment, the food movement has solutions to a lot of issues.”

‘Dirty, Buggy, Grown by hippies’

Poppen has indeed been a steady voice in the pro-local movement for decades, but says in recent years it’s become much more visible as the economic impact that growers can have on a community or region has begun to be understood more thoroughly.

“When I started selling organic produce in the 1970s, I was told it was best not to call it ‘organic.’ The thinking was that people would think it was dirty, buggy and grown by hippies,” he says. “I didn’t care, and I’ve stuck with it.

“But what people have come to realize is that the money spent on local food stays within the community, by staying with the farmer who grew it and the distributor who provided it. A group of small farmers can, and does, sustain several other businesses. And as people’s consciousness has been raised about that, it has contributed to the success of farms and businesses.”

The sustainability aspect of the event, as well as a chance to connect with and educate area residents, led Lipscomb University to host the first event and to partner with it again in 2012, says Dodd Galbreath, executive director of the university’s Institute for Sustainable Practice.

“We have a major focus within the university on sustainability, and that includes food systems,” Galbreath says. “Sustainable food systems, like sustainable businesses, don’t do harm to the environment. The sustainability movement emerged out of a concern that society was deficit spending, either in natural resources or in people’s health, in exchange for a bottom line. What the sustainability movement is looking for is a more complete solution.”

Surprising Collaboration

As the movement gathers steam, Galbreath says, a need for collaboration has become paramount.

“Whether it’s health or food, energy or business, we need people involved who are predisposed to collaborating,” he explains. “Lipscomb is a pretty conservative place, so when we started the sustainability institute it surprised the rest of Nashville.

“But we did it because Christians want to be more of a part of the solution. We partnered with the summit’s producers last year on our campus, because we knew there were people in the community who would not go to it on a farm, or a place where they thought it might be more of a countercultural event.

“Some people did come because it was at Lipscomb, and we think they will continue to come even though it has moved to a new venue because they have begun to see the benefits of collaboration, and they want to stay involved,” he adds.

Galbreath says he has seen growth in the organic food movement in other parts of the country, so says he believes the more local organizations work together, the more successful Middle Tennessee can be.

“There are festivals like this that have 30,000 people in attendance,” he says. “We’re not there yet, but that’s mostly due to a lack of awareness. Tennessee is in the top 5 in the nation in terms of obesity and mortality, so that’s something that needs to be addressed.

“We go to Vermont every summer, and see people paying more than $100,000 to the culinary institute to learn about how to be the best chefs using local and organic food,” he continues.

“This movement is appropriate now, but it’s also profitable. This is no longer an idea that’s associated with the 1960s, but something that’s associated with prosperity and survival.”

For Poppen, it’s also a personal quest.

“The event is geared to bring together people who are working in the local food sector, and connect them with the consumers of that food,” he says.

“We want people to know how to find it, but also how to prepare it. Our mission is to have more local food, and have it eaten locally. That’s going to lead to more jobs, and also to a healthier Middle Tennessee.”

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