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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.
During this holiday season, RenewLV would like to honor you and the many people in the Lehigh Valley who made “sustainable” choices in 2014 – choices that benefited us critically as a region — individually and collectively, economically and environmentally.
2014 was a big year for sustainability in the Lehigh Valley. Thanks to…
- People who supported our local food economy by shopping at area farmers’ markets or by subscribing to CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture). One of our EnvisionLV consortium members, Lynn Prior of Buy Fresh — Buy Local of the Greater Lehigh Valley reminds us that if every household spent $10 per week at a local farmers market, it would bring almost $200 million into our regional economy. Keep those local food purchases going!
- People who did their Christmas shopping on one of the Lehigh Valley’s traditional Main Streets, supporting local businesses;
- Businesses who invested in our center cities in unprecedented numbers, some purchasing and rehabbing properties, others making decisions to move their offices downtown. It’s great to see so many new businesses in the downtowns!
- The 200+ people who came to the RenewLV Summit for Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities at the Hotel Bethlehem on December 5th to discuss regional strategies for smart growth, regional cooperation and wrapping up the three-year EnvisionLV process through “Moving from Ideas to Actions;”
- The municipalities who cooperated across municipal boundaries making more efficient use of precious tax dollars (Special shout-outs to the municipalities that do multi-municipal comprehensive planning and Slate Belt for their efforts toward a regional police force!)
- The over 12,000 citizens who got involved in the issue of sustainability through the Envision Lehigh Valley initiative. Your familiarity with and excitement for the ideas in the EnvisionLV studies will ensure our region grows more sustainably as the population of the Lehigh Valley continues to climb;
- A special thank you to the EnvisionLV consortium partners for the monumental work you all did on developing sustainability plans for the region. It was an honor to work with each of you:
- The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation,
- The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission,
- Lehigh County,
- Northampton County,
- City of Allentown,
- City of Bethlehem,
- City of Easton,
- Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley,
- Lehigh And Northampton Transportation Authority,
- Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges,
- Lehigh Valley Research Consoritum,
- The Nurture Nature Center,
- Buy Fresh — Buy Local of the Greater Lehigh Valley and
- The Wildlands Conservancy.
- A special mention to Becky Bradley, Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and her staff for the historic effort that went into the culminating report of the EnvisionLV process: 1LV
As 2014 and the EnvisionLV process wraps up, at RenewLV, we believe that the best is yet to come. Now is when we continue the drumbeat for “Moving from Ideas to Actions” for smart growth, sustainability and municipal cooperation in 2015 and beyond.
In order to continue to engage the public in our important work, we need your help. Please support RenewLV financially with a year-end donation by clicking here for online donations, or send a check to RenewLV at 1337 East Fifth Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015.
Thank you for your interest and involvement in our cause. I’m looking forward to continuing to work together with you to be a catalyst for action in 2015!
Joyce K. Marin
p.s. We maintain social media to keep you informed of the latest opportunities and issues related to our work. We invite you to connect with RenewLV through:
- Renewlv.org website,
- Email blasts (register on the renewlv.org website)
- Crossroads blog at renewlv.wordpress.com
- RenewLV Facebook page, and
- RenewLV Twitter feed
Additionally, we invite you to refer to the Envision Lehigh Valley reports that will be available online for at least the next two years, at
- envisionlehighvalley.com website,
We have been and will continue to post the drafts of the studies as they are completed by the Envision Lehigh Valley consortium partners at envisionlehighvalley.com website under “documents.” If you have not already done so, we highly recommend that you read the reports and supporting documents on the topics of interest to you and consider their recommendations. They include a wealth of information in areas of economic development, fresh food access, transportation, housing and the jobs/housing balance and ideas on how you and organizations with which you are affiliated can join the larger effort to making more sustainable choices. If you want to connect with others who are “Moving Ideas to Actions,” reach out to us at email@example.com and we will get you plugged in.
My name is Michael Sutherland, and currently I am a junior at Penn State University studying Geography. I have grown up in the Lehigh Valley my entire life in the city of Allentown and borough of Hellertown. I deeply treasure this area and have seen it change in both good and bad ways over my lifetime.
The Lehigh Valley, like the rest of America, has sprawled out in its development enormously over the last few decades. I have seen it first hand in the endless sprawl of places such as Lower Saucon Township with the mega-homes of the Saddle Ridge development that eat up farmland with no apparent stopping in sight.
I have grown up in a society where I have almost always had to drive to get anywhere. For a long time when I was a child I had dreamed about driving. I had all of the toy cars and on the maps of imaginary places that I drew, I created crazy highway interchanges. The interesting thing, though, is that after driving for a little while, it wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be. Traffic congestion made driving awful, and even more so, gas was and still is an expense.
These are all consequences of the urban sprawl that we have built. Because of it, I lost the enthusiasm of someday owning a car. It’s not even that I don’t enjoy driving. I find it fun, and for some tasks a car is necessary for getting around. It’s just that it should not have to be the only option. All of this has led me to be a proponent of smart growth in the Lehigh Valley. I believe that building smarter can help create better functioning, more resilient and more interesting places for people to live.
It is for this reason that I encourage citizens to attend the Summit for Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities taking place Friday, 12/5 at the Hotel Bethlehem. This all-day conference will be a great place to learn from national, state and regional experts, connect and collaborate. The cost is $65 per person, but two meals at the Hotel Bethlehem are included. Go to renewlv.org to register TODAY, because seats are limited.
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission projects that 145,000 more people will move here in the next 20 years. What will the Lehigh Valley look like in order to accommodate this influx in a sustainable way?
We’re three weeks away from one of the most dynamic events of the year! The 2nd Annual Summit For Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities, “Moving From Ideas to Actions,” takes place on Friday, December 5th at the Hotel Bethlehem. It will engage community leaders and those who want to be part of the process in finding solutions to tough regional challenges. Now is the time to reserve your spot for the Summit at renewlv.org. Seats are limited!
We plan for 200 people to join us for a vibrant discussion that will engage experts from the local, state and national level. The event will be a high-profile opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to co-creating new regional solutions to challenges such as: how we streamline governance, revitalize our urban communities and preserve open space. A more in depth itinerary for the summit can be found at this link.
RenewLV continues to serve a unique role in facilitating dialogue and cooperation that is essential in improving services and finding inefficiencies in government operations. The Lehigh Valley continues to thrive because of the culture of the region: its sense of community, its resilience, its collaborative spirit and its willingness to look at new approaches to solving complex problems.
Despite the tremendous efforts in recent years, there is still much more work to be done on municipal cooperation, resource consolidation, preserving open space, revitalizing our downtowns and building up existing communities rather than developing farmland. The Summit will provide an opportunity to raise the bar, shed light on critical and neglected areas, identify solutions and work together to lead and affect change. Our collaborative work has never been more important. Join us!
Seating is limited, so reserve your spot now at www.renewlv.org (bottom of the page) for $65 per person. Registrations can also be paid by check made payable to RenewLV and sent to 1337 East Fifth Street, Bethlehem PA 18015. With any questions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 484-893-1060.
It’s also not too late for your organization or company to be a sponsor of the Summit. By clicking here, you can find a sponsorship brochure, and by clicking here you can make your online sponsorship donation and join our sponsors, including our Presenting Sponsors PPL and Just Born, our Partner Sponsor, Sam Adams/Boston Beer, our Contributor Sponsors Brown Daub Foundation, City Center, Embassy Bank, HDR and Lehigh Valley Health Network, and our Community Supporter Sponsers Easton Coach, Hanover Engineering, Lehigh Financial Group, Morris Black & Sons, Inc., Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, Pa., Smooth-On, Spillman Farmer Architects, St. Luke’s Hospital, Susqeuhanna Bank, Taggart Associates and The Sustainable Energy Fund.
To AICP planners, 5 CM credits are pending for this event.
-Joyce Marin, Executive Director of RenewLV