Reflections on the Community Food Systems Conference

Posted by Renae Cairns on Mar 1, 2018 11:12:31 AM
produce_city.jpgAt the close of 2017, I was fortunate enough to attend the Community Food Systems Conference held here in Boston. Nearly 600 farmers, policy makers, economists, students, nonprofit leaders, entrepreneurs and organizers gathered for this three-day event to consider what a truly sustainable food system might look like.

The conference served as a call to action for attendees—what power do we each have to create progressive, innovative change? How can we better collaborate with our fellow community members to build a food system that works intentionally for the benefit of all of us? How do we, both as individuals and as larger organizations, need to grow, learn and listen in order to achieve these ends?

Groups across the country are pursuing initiatives to build equity, transparency and sustainability in their local food systems. Organizations such as the Domestic Fair Trade Association and the Agricultural Justice Project are working to protect food workers — everyone from farm workers and delivery drivers to those in food service — by creating new certifications for food businesses that prioritize fair working conditions, living wages, sustainable agriculture and collective bargaining. Nonprofit leaders such as the Oregon Food Bank are looking to rewrite the traditional roles of food pantries to better address the root causes of hunger – systemic racism, poverty, and social and political disenfranchisement — in order to create a food system that eradicates food insecurity.

I met a student from Davidson College that is doing a feasibility study about whether the college farm could scale up and reach profitability. The goal for Davidson is to feed its students with food grown on campus. Pretty cool! It’s also cool that students, even at a liberal arts school like Davidson, are learning to be farmers. America has a shortage of young shortage farmers.

Here at Boston Organics, we are doing our part to help improve our local food system by participating in the B Corp program. B Corporations are a new kind of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. As a Certified B Corporation, we are legally required to consider the impact of our decisions not only on our shareholders, but also on our workers, suppliers, community, consumers, and the environment.

With the stories and experiences of presenters and attendees in mind, I returned from the conference with a renewed sense of purpose and a growing list of ideas for how Boston Organics can grow into an even stronger link in our local food system.

How will we continue to help build a better system that benefits our employees, customers and growers? Stay tuned!

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