Thursday, April 30, 2009

Food Systems Conference Leads to Intensified Collaborations

Last month 72 people from five Appalachian States, including 20 attendees from Ohio, met at the Stonewall Resort in Roanoke, West Virginia from April 14 – April 15 for an intensive two-day meeting that was aimed at strengthening and expanding local food systems in our region by building capacity and enhancing collaborations. The event was hosted by the Central Appalachian Network (CAN), which is a collaboration of non-profit development organizations that includes Rural Action and ACENet in Southeast Ohio. Funding for the event was provided by the Ford Foundation, and the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation.

Both Rural Action and ACENet presented at the conference on our work in the region to create value-added supply chains in Southeast Ohio. Other presenters included Anthony Flaccovento from Appalachian Sustainable Development in Virginia, and Kim Barker from the Oklahoma Food Co-op. The agenda was based around smaller group meetings, first focusing on specific topics including building supply, marketing, and distribution. The second day brought participants together at the regional level to develop sets of specific “next steps.”

However, the heart of the meeting was not presentations. Rather, it was the animated, interactive dialogue that took place between individuals and organizations that all have a stake in developing economically, environmentally and socially sustainable local food systems. The conversations were open, honest, and intense, and mirrored the magnitude of what is at stake – creating a resilient food system during a time of intense transition.

Rural Action would like to thank CAN and all of the attendees for an invigorating and eye-opening two days. We look forward to building open the connections that were made at the conference in the future.

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