On Friday October 23rd, Erin, HC and I (Cassidy) traveled to the University of the District of Columbia for this year’s Urban Agriculture Symposium. We heard from a wide range of industry experts including United States Department of Agriculture economists, university professors, horticulturalists, farmers, business owners and organization directors about their experience in the world of urban agriculture.
Since our work at FRN focuses on food recovery and redistribution, we especially appreciated that the speakers emphasized the importance of each stage of the modern food chain. For instance, successful food production starts with healthy soil, and Dr. Sally Brown, a professor of soil science at the University of Washington, showcased municipal biosolids as a product that processes food and human waste (two end-results of food production) back into productive soil in a safe and environmentally conscious way. Another speaker, Maria Moreira of Flats Mentor Farm, discussed the opportunities her live-on farm provides for hundreds of immigrants from around the world. She said her farmers grow crops significant to their native cultures, successfully sell them at farmers markets and then take whatever is leftover home to feed their families and communities. This particular story reinforced our understanding that in the local food movement, everyone’s voice deserves to be heard and making way for multiple viewpoints typically leads to greater success than would have been achieved otherwise. The ability to grow those crops, which are hard to find in the U.S. but are undoubtedly important for cooking certain native recipes, empowers Maria’s farmers to bring their traditions into a new environment.
This conference allowed us to branch out, meet new people and find ways to incorporate our work into a larger discussion about the implications of food production in the twenty-first century. Thanks to the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences at UDC for putting on such a wonderful event! We now feel inspired to discuss the importance of the bigger picture with our student leaders.