An unprecedented crowd of over 120 people attended our February event “Taking Back our Local Food System.” We were pleased with the incredible interest in the local food economy topic, and a warm welcome goes out to our three new entrepreneur members of The SEEN!
Over the course of the presentation, speakers and attendees identified a number of opportunities, challenges and needs, which are summarized here.
Successes: larger scale farms, storing and growing in winter, thinking differently about what to do with local food, experiment, partnering to make commodities such as beans and grains into local products, supporting the viability of local meat producers, more milk/cheese producers, connecting farms and buyers.
Challenges: Volume and consistency, profitability, inefficiency, getting enough things together to make it work, creating the structures to transform normal to new ways of operating, availability.
Recommendations: Increases in scale, infrastructure and equipment and building a local network for storage more local buying instead of importing.
Monika Roth described the transformation of the local food economy over the last four decades. From its origins as a vision for a local foodshed back in the 70s, Ithaca has since budded into one of the most successful hosts of authentic farmers’ markets for a city of its size. Since their emergence over the past 20 years, CSAs now serve 2200 customers within a 30 mile radius of Ithaca and produce about $1M in annual sales. Today, Roth estimates the overall local Ithaca farm & food market at $5M with the growing potential to capture an increasing share of the total $200M food economy. Speakers discussed their role as well as their insights into the opportunities, needs and challenges for taking back our local food economy.