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October 09, 2013

Healthy Foods, Local Farms


The 14th annual Healthy Foods, Local Farms Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, co-sponsored by the Sierra Club, is taking place this Saturday, Oct. 12, at the Kentucky Country Day School. This year's theme is "Food: Sustainability and Justice."


"All people deserve good, clean, healthy, locally-grown food," says Aloma Dew, below, the lead organizer of the conference for many years and a longtime Cumberland Chapter volunteer leader. "Eating is both a personal and an environmental act, and until the food system is overhauled and small, independent farmers can make a living wage by growing food the right way, we won't see real change."


The Sierra Club supports independent farms and does not view industrial-scale agriculture as it now exists as a sustainable model. "We feel that growing and eating local and seasonal foods is part of a solution and helps build stronger, more just communities," Dew says.

Featured speakers at this year's conference include Barton Seaver, a chef, National Geographic Fellow, and advocate for sustainable oceans and public health; Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, who has worked extensively on food, water, and energy issues; and Dr. Michele Morek, coalition coordinator for UNANIMA International, a nongovernmental organization that advocates on behalf of women and children and the environment.


The Healthy Foods, Local Farms Conference, says Dew, "is for people and organizations who care about where their food comes from, and that their daily repast is ethically and sustainably raised or grown and harvested." Locally-sourced, sustainably raised food will be served for breakfast and lunch at the conference. On Friday the 11th, an optional pre-conference "Restaurant Hop" will commence at 5:00 p.m. at five participating local restaurants, each of which will feature a "CFA Special" benefitting the Community Farm Alliance and Kentucky's small-scale family farms.


The conference will examine the true cost of food with regard to sustainability and justice. Topics to be discussed include:

- Who can eat good, healthy, locally-produced food?
- What about people who work in intolerable conditions or live where they are exposed to polluted air and water around industrial animal facilities?
- Is the current industrial monoculture system really making food available and cheaper, or is it ruining our soil, water, and air and encouraging people to eat more foods with additives, antibiotics, hormones, and high sugar and fat content, leading to obesity and poor health?
- Is it encouraging more animals to be raised in inhumane conditions, and how do we change the system?
- What about small farmers who want to farm in a sustainable manner but are driven out by large corporations and lack of affordable markets for their goods?


The Healthy Foods, Local Farms Conference germinated from a water conference in Washington, D.C., in 1999, and has been held in Louisville every year since. This will be the third year in a row it has been held at the Kentucky Day School. (There's still time to register.)


"The crowds have grown through the years as more people become aware of and concerned about our food system and the link to the health of our planet and our people," Dew says. "What we are doing to our land, air and water is also unjust, and some would argue, immoral. Our children and their children will pay the price if we do not protect these resources."


Breakout sessions will cover topics such as faith-based efforts for sustainable food systems and justice; minority and small farmers; voting with your fork and your wallet; learning to be a food-justice leader; factory farming and the high cost of cheap food; and permaculture -- to name just a few. Below, attorney and longtime Kentucky Sierra Club activist Hank Graddy (in yellow tie) leads a breakout session at last year's conference.


The closing plenary session will be focused on youth -- what they are doing, what they see for the future, and what they have to tell us. "It's their world and we need to listen," Dew says. "It will take all of us working together to make a sustainable and just food system. Until all people can eat good, healthy, sustainably-grown food; until we call take care of our soil and water; until the people, not corporations, have more power; until then, our work will not be done."


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