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Celebrate Local Food

by Debbie Barr

I love summer! My family and I eat from our food garden and what we don’t grow, we buy from nearby farm stands and stores. We are fortunate to have access to nutritious fruits, vegetables, eggs and meat. However, we are still part of the national food system, where 17 western states provide 40% of our food, and multi-national corporations heavily market processed foods, and squeeze out smaller companies. This is a food system “that is a major contributor to climate change, spawned the obesity crisis, poisoned countless volumes of land and water, wasted energy, and tortured billions of animals.” (Mark Bittman, New York Times).

Farmers and gardeners are increasingly aware of how climate change is affecting food production, by severe flooding, drought, heat waves and disease problems, such as tomato blight, that has never before existed in New England. The Concord Museum exhibit, Be Thoreau, focuses on current research that verifies 22 days’ earlier blossoming time and the negative impact on pollinators. Resilience for food growers will mean greater reliance on crop diversity and strong social and economic connections.

How can home food gardening and local agriculture meet the challenge of building a healthy, humane food system? With your help, of course!

Over the past 100 years, we lost a great deal of cultural knowledge about the production, preservation, preparation and enjoyment of wholesome food. But that is changing, as people begin to value good food, enjoy cooking and eating together and support local food with their dollars…and forks. Michael Pollan, Berkeley professor and author of In Defense of Food, famously quips that we should “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Last fall, eight gardening groups convened to discuss the award winning Concord community food assessment “Building Local Food Connections: A Community Food Systems Assessment”. The Report includes research and analysis of all segments of Concord’s food system, from production to distribution to waste recovery, and provides six recommendations for action.

Out of this discussion, the seed to table Concord Gardeners’ Cooperative was born, and members agreed to work on the recommendation “to support, build and promote a local food gardening movement” . The goal is to promote, support and inspire local food gardeners, build a healthy, humane food system, and have fun! We are co-sponsoring the first Farm and Garden Fair on September 7 and 8, with the Concord Ag Committee and other community partners. Farmers and gardeners share a lot of common interests!

The Fair starts with the annual Ag Day Farmers’ Market on Saturday, September 7 from 10am-2pm on Main Street in Concord Center, followed by Home and Community Garden Tours and Activities from 2 – 5 pm at 15 locations around town. The Kids Film Fest runs from 2-3:30 pm at Emerson Umbrella for parents and kids ages 3-9 years old. On Sunday, September 8 it is the farmers’ turn to shine, with 9 hosts offering hands-on harvest activities from 1-5 pm. That’s 24 gardens and farms in two days!

For event details, the Kids Film Fest schedule, FAQ’s, or to sign up in advance for Garden Club home garden tours, go to: www.concordfood.ning.com or email us at concordfoodnetwork@gmail.com.

Take a peek at the Concord Bookshop Farm and Garden Fair window display from August 26 to September 2. Pick up a program guide and schedule at the Concord Visitor Information Center, Town House, Town Libraries and participating farm stands and businesses. Look for the Farm and Garden Table at the Farmers Market, and check our website for updates.

Be inspired! Come on your own, with family or friends---Rain or Shine!

Debbie Barr is a Concord resident and a member of the Steering Group of ConcordCAN! .

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