Good news for fans of municipal cooperation: After years of discussion, the Slate Belt Regional Police Department will begin operating April 1.
According to a press release from the force’s Chief David A. Mettin, the department will cover Plainfield Township and the boroughs of Wind Gap and Pen Argyl. Its headquarters are on Sullivan Trail at the Plainfield building.
“The officers and staff of the department look forward to providing excellence in police service and working with all municipalities throughout our area,”Mettin said.
RenewLV has been working with the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council to organize a series of events on the topic of “Growing the Local Food Economy,” consistent with the recommendations in the Buy Fresh Buy Local’s Assessment Report: Lehigh Valley Local Food Economy. On January 29th, 100 local food advocates gathered to explore ten themes from that report and develop action plans.
Local freelance writer, Tom Coombe, attended that lunch/discussion and wrote this following piece. There’s another event scheduled for March 30th, “What’s Cooking?” exploring food and beverage entrepreneurship. This piece below adequately describes some of the passion for this topic among diverse voices.
“I’m a chef, and I’m angry,” says Jon Middleton.
A chef at Muhlenberg College, Middleton got into the business because he wanted to make good food.
“Now I feel like I need to put on a spandex suit and a cape. It’s ridiculous,” he said at a meeting in Bethlehem on the Lehigh Valley’s food economy. “Why do I have to be an ‘advocate’ to want good food, good land, good water?”
He corrects himself a few moments later; the word he wanted was “activist,” not “advocate,” but the point is the same: Food shouldn’t be a battle, but it is.
But it’s not a battle he’s fighting alone. Middleton made his superhero analogy in a room full of over one hundred Lehigh Valley acvistists/advocates who care about food.
The meeting was organized by RenewLV, hosted by the newly forming Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council and sponsored by Samuel Adams, Brewing the American Dream. It asked participants for ideas under ten topics on how to boost the region’s food economy.
There are a lot of issues to tackle.
The recent closing of the Bottom Dollar Food grocery chain left a lot of local neighborhoods stuck in “food deserts,” a term used to describe a community without easy access to affordable and nutritious food.
Local farmland is in danger of being swallowed by development.
“We have some of the most fertile farmland in the country, and, increasingly, it’s under warehouses,” said RenewLV’s Executive Director, Joyce Marin.
And there are people who simply don’t have enough to eat. Ross Marcus, of the Community Action Development Corporation of the Lehigh Valley, noted that his organization collects over 7 million pounds of food a year to distribute to people who are “food insecure.”
“The great part is that it’s available,” he said. “The sad part is it’s needed.”
But the meeting was to talk about solutions rather than problems.
There were ideas that worked on a statewide or even national level, like calls for stronger land-use laws, more voter participation in off-year elections — when voters pick new local officials — and a hike in the minium wage.
There were smaller local solutions as well.
One group proposed the $10 idea: If every local family spent $10 more each week on locally-produced food, it would add almost $100 million to the Lehigh Valley economy.
Gary Warren of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op invited people to invest in the community-owned market that is now being organized, saying 350 households will get the group to its goal.
And Todd Nemura, of the Children’s Home of Easton, spoke of plans to turn their facility’s defunct indoor swimming pool into a greenhouse.
The idea of getting younger people involved in gardening and farming was one the group returned to again and again.
The term is “growing farmers,” shorthand for introducing a new generation to farms in the hopes that they’ll grow their own gardens or even start their own farms.
On some level, younger people are already interested in sustainable, local food. As he talked with representatives from other institutions, Moravian College chef Daniel Leiber got a text about a meeting for later in the day from a student who wanted more organic options.
“She’s not uncommon,” he said. “We do get students who request local and organic.”
The trick, he said, is to keep these conversations happening.
“The more we talk about it, the more they get into,” Leiber said. “It just grows and grows and grows.”
Sign up now for “What’s Cooking” an Event to Encourage the Starting up or Scaling up of Food and Beverage Businesses
There are still a few places at our table for a lunch/discussion on Monday, 3/30, that will focus on growing our local food economy through supporting food and beverage entrepreneurs.
The event will start with Risa Sherman, Manager of Philanthropy for Samuel Adams talking about the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program which supports food, beverage and craft brewing entrepreneurs and helping eliminate barriers to their growth. She will discuss how the company provides access to microloans, coaching and mentoring, and new business networks and markets and explain the concept behind the shared use commercial kitchen incubator the company has supported in the Boston area. Panelists will discuss:
- Insights on Food Entrepreneurship and What a Shared-Use Commercial Kitchen Incubator Can Do For Early-stage Food and Beverage Business Owners — Risa Sherman, Manager of Philanthropy, Samuel Adams
- We Did it! – Robyn Jasko, co-owner Homesweet Homegrown Hot Sauces; Rynn Caputo, Co-owner, Caputo Brothers Creamery, Spring Grove, PA.
- Where’s the Money? — Chris Hudock, Rising Tide Community Loan Fund
- Plan your Work and Work Your Plan – The Business of Starting Up – Ellen Larmer, CACLV
Participants who are interested in developing a Shared-Use Commercial Kitchen Incubator in the Lehigh Valley will have an opportunity to discuss it in greater detail with Ms. Sherman during the break-out session following the panel discussion. The nine break out-session small group table discussions will include:
1) Food Entrepreneurship and What a Commercial Kitchen Incubator Can Do For You — Risa Sherman, Samuel Adams; Angela Callie, CED Coordinator, USDA Rural Development representative
2) Planning for Success: How to Develop a Solid Business Plan — Ellen Larmer, CACLV
3) “Show me the Money,” Financing Your Start-up Business with Micro Loans — Chris Hudock, Rising Tide Community Loan Fund; Jessica Dokachev, Community and Economic Development Specialist, Northampton County
4) Facility Options for Start-Ups — Dr. Jack Felch, Executive Director of the Lehigh Conference of Churches, Mary Ellen Griffin, Executive Director, The Caring Place, Anna’s Kitchen
5) Marketing and Branding Your Product – Joe Iacovella, Account Manager, Lehigh Mining and Navigation
6) How to Make a Living from a Small Farm – Cynthia James, ASC Program Manager, Rodale Institute; Sara Runkel, Great Bend Farm; George DeVault, Pheasant Hill Farm
7) Running a Fully Legal and Licensed Food Business/ServSafe – Gary Ritter, Environmental Field Manager, Allentown Health Bureau; Beth Somishka, Bethlehem Health Bureau
8) On the Road Again: How to Get Started with a Food Truck Business – Tim and Hala Bonner, Taza Trucks and member of the Lehigh Valley Mobile Food Alliance, USDA representative.
There is no cost to attend this event, but space is limited so pre-registration is required.
There are still a few spots left. To reserve your seat, go to: http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5246/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=73226
Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council Continues the Conversation on Growing the Local Food Economy with Lunch/Discussion on 3.30
Renew Lehigh Valley and the newly formed Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council will be hosting a food entrepreneurship event, “What’s Cooking?” on Monday, March 30, from 12:00 to 2:00 PM at the Fowler Center, 511 E. Third St. Bethlehem, PA. The event is the second of four lunch/discussion events during the first half of 2015 related to growing the local food economy and are all sponsored by Samuel Adams, Brewing the American Dream.
The event has been organized to help food entrepreneurs start-up and grow, even during these challenging economic times. It will provide opportunities for farmers, food entrepreneurs, micro brewers and emerging food manufacturers to network, share information, collaborate on improving their products and learn more about branding and marketing in order to start or scale up their businesses. The event sponsor, Samuel Adams, has a philanthropic mission, Brewing the American Dream, which is focused on supporting food and beverage entrepreneurship and eliminating barriers to businesses growth. The event will include a combination of panelists and breakout sessions.
With the culmination of the three year EnvisionLV process, RenewLV has continued to conduct public outreach and organize public engagement events on growing a local food economy consistent with Buy Fresh Buy Local’s Assessment Report: Lehigh Valley Local Food Economy. RenewLV’s involvement in this event is consistent with its organizational commitment to ‘Move from Ideas to Actions’ post EnvisionLV. The fourteen founding members of the newly formed Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council, all passionate and committed stakeholders, support growing our local food economy and want to see the ideas in the Food Assessment Report implemented. The Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council Founders Team includes United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, CACLV, Second Harvest Food Bank, Northampton and Lehigh Counties, Rodale Institute, Buy Fresh Buy Local of the Greater Lehigh Valley, the Nurture Nature Center, St. Luke’s Hospital, Sacred Heart Hospital, RenewLV, Seven Generations Charter School, Lafayette College and Jordan Heights Neighborhood Partnership.
Renew Board member and chair of the events committee, Julie Thomases, stated, “At RenewLV we are concerned with the loss of farmland in the region and are bringing people together to explore creative ways of preserving farmland, keeping farmers farming, and helping people make money through producing local food and value-added products. We are excited about the momentum that exists right now on the topic of developing a vibrant, strong local food economy in the region. Entrepreneurs and small businesses have always been the backbone of our economy, and with the current focus on local and organic food, health and farmland preservation, the time is now to build the relationships to move these ideas forward for a better Lehigh Valley.”
According to the Food Assessment Report, “If residents spent just $10/ week on locally grown food, nearly $100 million in economic activity would be generated annually providing jobs, business incubation and expansion, and economic growth for our local farms, business and service providers.”
The lunch/discussion event will open with a panel of experts including entrepreneurs and individuals who have experience in successful regional efforts to support food entrepreneurs in the Lehigh Valley and other parts of the country. Panelists will provide valuable information on topics such as funding opportunities and inspiring stories of how they started and grew their businesses. Risa Sherman, Manager of Philanthropy at Samuel Adams, will discuss the benefits and operations of large scale shared use commercial kitchen incubators, a concept of that Boston Beer, the parent of Samuel Adams, has supported in the Boston area.
There is no cost to attend this event, but online pre-registration is required. To register for this event: click here:
Samuel Adams is sponsoring a Speed Coaching for Food and Beverage Entrepreneurs in Philadelphia on Wednesday, March 11th from 7-9:30 p.m. at the Reading Terminal Market. They are willing to host an event like this in the Lehigh Valley if there is interest. Anyone who wants to go and can fit a trip to Philly into their schedules is welcome to attend this event and let us know if you think that having an event of this nature closer to home in the fall would be helpful to growing our local food economy.
So passionate that they braved icy temperatures Monday night to come to the Nurture Nature Center‘s “Meet Your Farmer” event — organized by Lynn Prior of Buy Fresh By Local of the Greater Lehigh Valley — to talk about the process of getting locally grown foods from farms to farmers’ markets and restaurants.
The standing room only crowd spent an hour listening to a three person panel discuss the challenges and benefits of the farm-to-table movement, and then got a chance to sample some locally grown delicacies.
The panel included Bolete chef Lee Chizmar, Berks County farmer Tim Stack, and Andrew Puglia, procurement manager of the Common Market food hub in Philadelphia.
The event gave us a lot to digest, but we want to start with community supported agriculture, or CSA.
CSAs, farm shares, and buying clubs are all ways for you to get fresh, locally grown food directly from a farmer. There are 19 of them in and around the Lehigh Valley.
With a CSA, you’re basically subscribing to a farm. You buy a membership in the farm before the season begins, and get a box of seasonal produce each week during the growing season.
The keyword here is seasonal, meaning now is the time to sign up. Most farm shares, CSAs and buying clubs operate from around June through October and November, allowing you to get the produce (or in some cases, meat, eggs and dairy products) you want each week straight from the farm.
The Rodale Institute, one of our partners in the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council, has a farm share program that operates on a pay-as-you-go basis. Visit their website to sign up.
Buy Fresh Buy Local of the Greater Lehigh Valley has more information on the difference between CSAs, farm shares and buying clubs, as well as a list of local operations.
Some other key points from Monday night:
- The demand for local food is growing. Stack, who owns Eckerton Hill Farm in Berks County, says he couldn’t have made a living on just selling locally 20 years ago. Now, he grows over 200 varieties of fruits and vegetables, including 100 kinds of heirloom tomato (The farm’s website bills them as “The Tomato People.”) Not bad for a business that has its roots in a rooftop garden.
- The supply is there too, and there’s room for even more growth. Even in the dead of winter, Bolete is able to have seasonal produce from seven local farms on its menu, and Chizmar says he could always use more. Puglia said Common Market is looking for everything from kale to strawberries.
- If you’re a local farmer, Common Market wants to work with you, but that doesn’t mean they take just any farm. Puglia wants to try to sign up as many Lehigh Valley farms as he can to provide healthy, locally grown foods to Sodexo. But there are certain factors he’s looking for: consistency of product, the ability to deliver (literally, as in driving your food in on a truck), and the ability to produce enough for institutional use. He’s also looking at farms that have gotten GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification or are at least considering/on their way to getting it.
It was a satisfying discussion, and there’s still a lot more to talk about. If you want to get involved in the conversation, join us Monday, March 30 for another Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council lunch/discussion on growing our local food economy.
This event will explore starting and scaling up food and beverage businesses as well as a look at the possibilities of commercial kitchen incubators. Join us for a locally sourced lunch and the ongoing discussion from noon to 2 p.m. at the Fowler Center, 511 E. 3rd St., Bethlehem. Click here to reserve your spot.
We know this looks tiny in your browser, but click on the images to get a better, closer look at our February newsletter.
Just recently, RenewLV, together with the newly forming Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council, and the support of Samuel Adams, Brewing the American Dream, organized a meeting discussing growing the local food economy of the Lehigh Valley. Stakeholders with the food policy council include United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, Second Harvest Food Bank, Rodale Institute, Buy Fresh Buy Local of the Greater Lehigh Valley, CACLV, the Counties of Northampton and Lehigh, St. Luke’s Hospital, The Nurture Nature Center, Sacred Heart Hospital, Lafayette College, Jordan Heights Neighborhood Revitalization, Seven Generations Charter School and RenewLV.
With the EnvisionLV’s Assessment Report: Lehigh Valley Local Food Economy talking food being a focal point of sustainability efforts in the region, the discussion from this event was crucial to bring the area’s residents together to talk about “moving from ideas to actions” and what the next steps are in this process.
So how does the local food movement contribute to smart growth for the Lehigh Valley?
- Lower carbon emissions
According to a report by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the average truck travels over 1,500 miles to bring food to conventional supermarkets. If we were able to reduce the number of trucks that traverse America to bring us our food, we would lower carbon emissions. This would create cleaner air for our area’s residents. Also, our food system would become increasingly more sustainable and resilient against changes in oil prices and vulnerability to weather events.
- We get high returns from our land use
At the Summit for Smart Growth this past December, an important point that many community leaders (including Lower Macungie Township Commissioner Ron Beitler) said it’s wrong to look at farmland as undeveloped land, a blank canvas for a “real” use. Rather, we need to look at farmland as a legitimate use of land. It is a use that puts less strain on our community than industrial, commercial and residential uses because it requires fewer roads, less infrastructure and no schools.
The agricultural land in the Lehigh Valley is fertile land, and if it remains in the production of food can bring us independence, self-reliance and food security.
Yet, we continue to pave over farmland because we see growth as good. Think of the wisdom of the song Big Yellow Taxi. Whether you like the version by Joni Mitchell or Counting Crows the message is the same:
“Don’t it always seems to go that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone. They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.”
In the Lehigh Valley we see a trend of taking agricultural land and paving it over for warehouses that provide few and relatively low paying jobs. This economic development strategy takes large amounts of land and strains the tax base due to the increased infrastructure needs, usually being paid for by taxpayers.
Doesn’t this sound crazy to you?
- A culture of people who care about their food
For most people including myself, more often than not we go to the supermarket and pick up apples from Washington State, carrots picked in California, potatoes grown in Idaho, bread made from Midwestern wheat. We usually don’t give any thought to how the food was grown or where it came from.
People supporting Urban Agriculture, growing their own and their neighbor’s food.
We take it all for granted and do not realize how much work has gone into growing our food. One of the benefits the local food movement brings to our area is the opportunity for people to experience what it is like to grow their own food and gain an appreciation for what they eat.
- Healthier people
Another benefit of supporting a local food economy is improved health. Most of the food Americans eat is not very good for us. It is highly processed food with many artificial ingredients.
Smart growth strives to create human-scaled cities for people and to preserve the open space around them. By living in a walkable neighborhood and walking or biking to meet your daily needs, we experience physical activity without trying. That can only help you so much if you are eating fast food every day.
Locally grown food, unprocessed and in its natural state, is great for the human body. By eating what we grow or what is grown in our region, we naturally eat healthier food that improves our physical health.
Looking toward the future
The creation of the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council is significant. By working to bring the ideas in “the food report” to fruition, our local food movement will continue to grow, supporting farmland remaining farmland and using it to feed our residents. Growing a local food economy supports smart growth in the Lehigh Valley and helps us to preserve the sustainability of the region.
We create a healthier region and planet when we rekindle the importance of locally grown food. This will continue to benefit the Lehigh Valley for years to come.
Just recently, Lower Macungie Township announced that they were pursuing install bike lanes along Hamilton Blvd when it is repaved later in the year.
This a radical planning move from the township in order to help turn Hamilton Blvd into more of a street. This is because in its current state Hamilton Boulevard is a Stroad, which is a street/road hybrid that as my friend Ron Beitler explains perfectly as something that, “Does nothing good. If the purpose of a street is to capture value. And the purpose of a road is to move cars efficiently, then much like a futon is both a terrible sofa and terrible bed a STROAD is a bad street and also a bad road. Besides being a very dangerous environment they are enormously expensive to build and, ultimately, financially unproductive.”
So the question now is how do bike lanes contribute to smart growth in the Lehigh Valley?
1. They begin to provide the infrastructure that is needed for a multi-modal transportation system
With plans for the lanes to be near the Hamilton Crossings Shopping Center, this will provide another transportation option for people to get there.
What will be needed along with the lanes leading to the shopping center though is bike lanes in the shopping center along with bike parking which may seem hard to do, but as seen in this article, the Dutch have accomplished this in their suburbs too.
2. When people ride bikes, cars are taken off of the road which …
Lowers Carbon Emissions
When thinking of the influence on climate that carbon emissions from cars has, taking these baby steps of getting cars off the road through bike lanes is a practical way to help fight climate chance.
Creates a Safer Street
Something that is not noted often is how the number one killer of people ages 1 to 44 is motor vehicle accidents. Therefore, if we want to decrease the number of deaths that we see among our neighbors, the best thing we can do is create places where we don’t have to drive if we don’t want to.
Bike lanes gives people the opportunity to use a mode of transportation that is not as deadly.
And even more so, bike lanes helps to contribute to a road diet by repurposing the extra wide travel lane space for cars which thereby creates a street that is designed for traffic to move at slower speeds.
Increases Public Health
From healthier lungs to better mental health to lower stress, these are only a few examples of the health benefits of cycling as compiled by PeopleforBikes.
Challenges against the bike lanes
One word: PennDOT
Because Hamilton Boulevard is a state owned route, the township has to obtain approval from PennDOT in order install the bikes lanes.
Now one might ask why this is an issue?
Well, when looking at smart growth, PennDOT values moving car traffic quickly over creating safe streets for people. This can be seen practically a few years ago in Lower Macungie when the residents of the village of East Texas and the Lower Macungie township commissioners both supported lowering the speed limit on Willow Ln./East Texas Rd. to match it’s character as more of a town center. Now you would think that it would be passed unanimously with this kind of support, but PennDOT actually decided to ignore it altogether.
Therefore the outcome of this decision has long term effects on if bike lanes will be built on the Lehigh Valley’s state owned roads in the future. If it is approved by PennDOT, it will be a large victory for Lower Macungie township in trying to work towards smart growth.
Smart growth is not easy to accomplish, but Lower Macungie working towards bike lanes is the start of a radical transformation of a township that has had enough with urban sprawl.
So the question I want to leave you all with is if you are willing to add space on the streets of your community for bike, to help and work towards smart growth?
And even more so, what kind of Lehigh Valley do you want to live in?
With the end of the HUD grant that supported the EnvisionLV process on 12/31/14, the question keeps coming up, “What will happen with all of those sustainability plans?” The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has ownership of the final report, 1LV. This report and its 31 new goals will inform the revision of the region’s comprehensive plan over the next two years. However, in the meantime there is work to be done. There are plenty of ideas for our municipalities, organizations and regular citizens to implement that are in the various EnvisionLV reports (which can be seen at envisionlehighvalley.com/documents).
One example is the Lehigh Valley Food Economy Assessment Report. We are meeting this Thursday at the Fowler Center on the Southside of Bethlehem from noon to 2 p.m. and you’re invited. If all goes well, (and with the snow I’m taking nothing for granted) you are invited to be guests of the founders team of the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council and Samuel Adams for a locally sourced lunch and discussion. We will be asking the question, “How can we grow the local food economy?” and then breaking into ten small group discussions to learn more and develop strategies for moving forward. Ten tables with slightly different topics from food and beverage entrepreneurship to food insecurity will provide you an opportunity to contribute your passion and ideas. You are welcome to join us.
For you local policy wonks, part of the discussion is how to support policies that will create a better regional food system.
Seating is limited and pre-registration is a must.
Registration is now closed for this event. If you want to be a part of future conversations, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, “like” our Facebook page and follow RenewLV on Twitter.