There’s a feeling that some Shasta County residents would purchase more locally grown and produced food if only they knew where to find it at a reasonable price. Similarly, there’s a feeling that Shasta County growers and producers would provide more product if they knew they had a reasonably dependable market.
Connecting all the people needed to enhance the local food system is the aim of “Go Local! A Forum on the Future of Our Food” scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, January 22, at Sequoia Middle School in Redding.
The daylong event will feature panel discussions, a networking lunch and a brainstorming session. The organization Growing Local (formally called Shasta Cascade Farm and Food Coalition) has lined up a diverse group of speakers that includes livestock ranchers, organic vegetable farmers, economic development leaders, farmland preservation experts and educators. Michael Dimock, president of San Francisco-based Roots of Change and a leader in the international slow food movement, is scheduled to provide the keynote address and lead the closing discussion.
The event should offer something for growers, producers, distributors and consumers, said Healthy Shasta’s Melinda Shaffer, one of the Go Local organizers. “The consumer part is a broad group,” she explained. “We have nutrition educators, institutions, chefs, families trying to eat healthy.”
The idea is to energize a community that wants to de-emphasize a food system based on monoculture farms, pesticides, long-distance transportation and heavily processed and packaged foods, and instead relies much more on fresh foods that are grown locally or made from local ingredients. Notions of changing the centralized and industrialized food system have reached the mainstream through books such as Michael Pollan’s An Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, and documentary films such as “Food, Inc.,” and “Supersize Me.”
“I am concerned about the food system,” said Wayne Kessler, co-owner of Shambani Organics, which grows seedlings in Shingletown. “The cost of fresh food is going up because of transportation and demand. We have a problem with the safety of some our food, with recalls of spinach and meat and other things. We are concerned with nutrition because the processed food has too much fat, salt and sugar and is making us obese.”
The arguments for a stronger local food system are many, according to Kessler, a Growing Local leader. Growing and processing foods generates economic activity, he said, and easily obtainable fresh foods improve people’s nutritional intake. In addition, a local food system is more sustainable than one that is subject to spiking transportation costs, international market demands and climate change, Kessler contended. Parts of the Bay Area, Placer County and other areas have already made major advances in building a local food system, but Shasta County is behind, he said. The forum should help people start to figure out exactly what is necessary to expand the fledgling local food system.
“We’re trying to do a lot in one day,” Shaffer added. “We keep reminding ourselves that this is just the start of the conversation. We don’t want to have this one-day forum and everybody leaves feeling good, but then nothing happens.”
Organizers expect 100 to 200 people to attend but can accommodate up to 250. They will provide a lunch of locally grown foods. Children from 7 to 14 years old may participate in a youth program with hands-on activities ranging from making pizza from scratch to planting seeds to working with textiles. Childcare will be offered for younger kids.
Registration costs $20 per family, $10 per individual or $5 for students from 15 to 25 years old. The registration deadline is next Thursday (Jan. 20). On-line registration, a complete agenda and other details are available on the Growing Local website, www.growinglocal.blogspot.com.
Paul Shigley is senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a frequent contributor to Planning magazine and co-author of Guide to California Planning, a reference book and college text. He lives in Centerville. Paul Shigley may be reached at email@example.com.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment.