Grow the Local Food Economy at the Summit for Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities 12.4

PA farmland

On Oct. 29 the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council gathered with individuals interested in growing the local food economy for a lunch/discussion on the topic of “Making Connections.”  Farmers, distributors, restaurant owners and community leaders connected with each other and learned about exciting possibilities to increase profits through understanding the institutional buyer and how to capitalize on additional profits from “going organic.”

Why is this important? Because growing a local food economy is one important strategy to preserving farmland and farmers in our region.

An informative panel of speakers kicked off the event, with Frank Baldassarre of Artisan Exchange explaining how to establish a for-profit brick-and-mortar cooperative manufacturing space with a commercial kitchens, retail space and distribution options. Cynthia James of Rodale Institute explained about the benefits and profit opportunities of going organic. Andrew Puglia of Common Market Philadelphia discussed closing gaps in product collection and distribution. This was the fifth in a series of events this year – which supported to the formation of the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council.

So, what happens next? The conversations inspired during discussions will cointinue during RenewLV’s Summit for Smart Growth and Sustainability 2015 on Dec. 4 at the Renaissance Hotel in Allentown. The Summit is known for attracting leaders from across the region to learn to collaborate and craft solutions to some of our most challenging problems. One of Summit’s keynote speakers, Judy Wicks, pioneered the use of local food in restaurants at the White Dog Café and founded BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) – a Localist Movement that connects leaders, spreads solutions and attracts investment toward local economies. Space is limited, so reserve your spot at the Summit here.

RenewLV organized the Oct. 29th event, with sponsorship of, Samuel Adams – Brewing the American Dream. Jon Middleton of Sodexo was unable to attend but shared his thoughts in writing about how local institutions like Sodexo could pump as much as $200 million into the regional economy by purchasing more local products.

Marc Rittle at Oct. 29 event

Marc Rittle of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley invited people to join the conversation by using #LVFood4All in social media before introducing panelists.

Vicky talking at Oct. 29 event

Vicky Bastidas of Camels Hump Farm at the Johnston Estate in Bethlehem (center) talks to Frank Baldassarre of Artisan Exchange (left) and local food entrepreneur, John Glagola, of the Wayfare Baker.

Brianna and Ross Marcus at Oct. 29 event

Briana McGonagle CACLV (center left), Ross Marcus, CACLV (center right) and Sherri Penchishen (right) of the Bethlehem Health Department discuss reducing food insecurity.

After the panel discussion, experts and participants broke into small group table discussions.  These discussions gave participants an opportunity to share information and forge new solutions in a collaborative way.  They gained insights from each other into scaling up the food and beverage businesses for institutional buyers and closing gaps in the regional food system were cultivated.

Each table discussed different sub-topics related to the food revolution and participants agreed upon actions items for moving forward that were shared with the entire group. At the table focusing on Connecting with Institutional Buyers, Michael Brack, Sarah Edmonds and Sophia Feller agreed that if customers (especially patients in large healthcare institutions) spoke up and demanded local food then those institutions would be more likely to buy it.

Frank Baldassarre, Victoria Bastidas, John Glagda, Trudy Siak, Chris Kauzmann, Erik Ruth and Larry Dugan comprised the Food Incubators and Distribution table discussion. Together they determined that a survey to gauge interest and potential use of an incubator space is warranted. The challenge is to connect farmers/producers to students/entrepreneurs and distributors. If it can be done they believed such a space would create synergy and sharing of resources between like-minded entrepreneurs and farmers.

The table discussion about Local Food Delivery Services revealed a need for more customer and consumer education on how to use and enjoy quality products. Some solutions might be chef demonstrations at point of sale outlets or restaurants, websites with recipes and grower hosted meals. Participants identified brand loyalty as an integral part of the solution. Robert Siliani of Organics Live, Janice Graver and Robert Aptaker participated in the discussion.

Cynthia James of Rodale Institute, Bridget Salantri and Peter Crownfield of the Alliance for Sustainable Communities talked about starting an education campaign to inform the public about the positive benefits of organic farming at the Transition to Organic table.

Participants in the table discussion about Scaling Up Food-Based Business proposed the development of a tool library to provide access to equipment needed for food-based businesses.  Lucile Boehm, Amy Baringer, Chris West and Brian Moyer of Penn State Cooperative Extension Office, participated in this discussion.

Briana McGonagle and Ross Marcus of CACLV, Janet Ney of the Second Harvest Food Bank, Dangy Danga-Storm, Sherri Penshishen of the Bethlehem Health Department, Sheikh Dukuly and Diane Fegley of The Allentown Brew Works discussed Food Insecurity. They agreed on the need for one person or entity to help coordinate perishable food rescue from farmers and restaurants. Identifying organizations that accept unprepared and prepared food donations would help restaurants who have extra food. Participants told the larger group their action item would be to bring a food rescue program to the Lehigh Valley, similar to one in Bucks County called “Rolling Harvest.”

The group focusing on Food Aggregation discussed the differences between a food hub which is centrally located and aggregation points that are geographically dispersed. They determined the Lehigh Valley could benefit from a Farmers’ Cooperative. People in this discussion included Allison Czapp of Buy Fresh Buy Local of the Greater Lehigh Valley, Andrew Puglia of Common Market Philadelphia, Peter Todara, Rich Fegley of The Allentown Brew Works, Dr. Meagan Grega of the Kellyn Foundation and Peter Crownfield of the Alliance for Sustainable Communities. Their action item was to disseminate information about the aggregation process and keep their eyes and ears open for possible aggregation points throughout the Lehigh Valley.

Preserving Farmland by Growing Farm Business was discussed by April Niver of U.S. Rep. Matthew Cartwright’s office, Heather Skorinko, Amy Cook, Diane Donaher of the Northampton County DCED and Attorney Don Miles. Together they determined issues for the agricultural entrepreneur are support in finding resources, identifying profitable markets and reliable distribution. Additionally, they discussed the need for funding farmland preservation; providing legal advice on the multitude of regulations and insurance information; and providing incentives for those who want to buy and farm land.

Thanks to all who attended the fifth meeting of the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council this year, with a special thank you to panel discussion moderator, Marc Rittle of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. Special thanks to Samuel Adams, Brewing the American Dream, the sponsor of the event and Wendy Landiak, of Shankara, for the wonderful vegan lunch.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for the 2015 Summit for Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities

About RenewLV: Renew Lehigh Valley is a non-profit organization committed to promoting smart growth and smart governance in order to revitalize our core communities, preserve open space, and establish an economically and environmentally sustainable foundation for our region’s future growth.

Posted on November 9, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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