Southern SAWG Newsletter Volume 5, #12
|| December 2009
Winter is on the way, but it's no time to hibernate. This is
a busy time of year, with holiday and end-of-year activities, and for the Southern SAWG team, entering the home stretch towards the
As we begin this sometimes hectic month, we want to take a
few minutes to reflect on the power and strength of the sustainable farming and
food community that we are all a part of. This movement has certainly grown and
matured, and it continues to reach out and welcome younger hands and older
converts. Accustomed to finding our way through the twists and turns of tough
economics, along with the challenges and gifts of the elements, we are now able
to shine a light along the path for so many who are seeking sustainable ways of
eating, working, playing, and living.
December is also a good time to remember the basics. For Southern
SAWG, that means our mission: To empower and inspire farmers, individuals, and communities in the
South to create an agricultural system that is ecologically sound, economically
viable, socially just, and humane. With your support, Southern SAWG is able to achieve our goals and live up to this mission. In this season of giving, please be sure to include Southern SAWG
on your gift list, and help us continue our work. It's fast and easy--just click here.
For this holiday season, we wish you peace and joy, with a
well-lit path, and warm celebrations. Thank you for your support..
--Your friends at Southern SAWG
Chattanooga Convention Center
January 20-23, 2010
Save Money with an
Early Bird Registration
Attendees at Southern SAWG's
Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms Conference come for
the practical information and go home with so much more. While over 90 percent
of past attendees reported they learned something they would use immediately,
even higher numbers say meeting so many folks doing so many great things around
the South was a highlight. With the high-rated practical sessions and
pre-conference offerings, and the great networking opportunities, this event
attracts over 1,000 farmers and advocates every year.
To receive the lowest rate, you must pre-register before
December 20, 2009. Complete conference details are at ssawg.org. Online registration is now
available. Click here to learn more.
Give a Gift that
Grows Season after Season
What better way to please your favorite producer or
community food organizer than with a registration to the Southern
SAWG conference? Your recipient will experience season after
season of "high yields" with the abundance of new information, connections and
inspiration that they will gain at the conference and you will be contributing
to the growth of a sustainable food system in your community.
We now offer online registration to make it even easier to
sign up. Click here
to register now. Treat yourself and sign up, too, while you're at
All of our presenters excel at their work and love to share
their practical insights and knowledge with others. See our roster of
presenters and learn more about them here.
On Thursday evening, we will welcome special guest Dr. Tim
LaSalle, CEO of the Rodale Institute, for a thought-provoking presentation on
one of the hottest topics of the day--climate change. Dr. LaSalle will explain
the relationship between climate change and agriculture and will discuss
exactly how sustainable farming practices can reduce the negative impacts of
agriculture on our climate. Click here to learn more about Dr. LaSalle.
To close the conference, the keynote address will be given
by Hollis Watkins, a life-long activist in both the civil rights and
sustainable agriculture movements. Early on, seeing the connections between
community empowerment and food and agriculture, Hollis got involved in creating
a more sustainable and just food system in Mississippi and across the region. His
insightful presentation will remind us how far we have come and will inspire us
to keep up the good fight. Click here to learn more about Mr. Watkins.
Complete conference details are here. Register now and bring a
Justice Project Seeks Input for Standards
The Agricultural Justice Project
(AJP) is a non-profit initiative that was founded in 1999 to create fairness
and equity in our food system through the development of social justice
standards for organic and sustainable agriculture.
Comment Period Open through December 31, 2010
The AJP standards, developed with stakeholder input from farmers, farmworkers,
and indigenous, retail, and consumer groups, are an attempt to identify the
meaning of social justice in organic and sustainable agriculture. The
organization revises the standards once very five years, and depends on public participation
for this process. This is an opportunity for stakeholders in the food system to
provide input on their priorities for ensuring fairness and equity. AJP is
reaching out to consumers; employees, managers or owners of retail food
businesses; food distributors or food processors; and farmers, farm managers,
and farmworkers to provide input on the standards on or before December 31.
To learn more and participate in the AJP
standards revision, click here.
Agricultural Justice Project Certification Opportunity
If you operate a farm or food
system business in the southern U.S. and are interested in becoming certified
to the Agricultural Justice Project Standards, Florida Organic Growers (FOG)
may have funding for you through a new research and education project on
fairness in the food system. FOG is a founding member of AJP, and their
executive director, Marty Mesh, is a member of Southern SAWG's
Board of Directors who brings his vision and guidance on many issues, including
social justice, to our organization.
information click here, call 352.377.6345, or write. Learn more about the Agricultural Justice Project.
Finding Good Food in the Desert:
Creating an Oasis with the Food Security Partners of
A woman and her
three grandchildren walk into a market miles away from her home. It has taken
them 1 ½ hours to make this trip, riding first on one bus, then walking ½ mile
to catch a second bus, which required another bus fare.
The woman carefully
selects the most nutritious foods that she can afford, staples such as beans
and rice, some fresh fruits and vegetables, plus the few necessary household
items that she and the eldest child, her seven-year-old granddaughter, will be
able to carry.
She pays for the
items and leads them down the road to the bus stop for their journey home. They
arrive back at her house; the woman puts away the food and prepares their
long-awaited dinner. The excursion to buy five sacks of groceries took about 4
hours, and she and the children will have to do it again in a few days. It cost
about 5 percent of her weekly income just for the bus fare.
You might think this
family lives in a remote village, perhaps in one of the poorer countries of the
world. They in fact live in Nashville, Tennessee, and the distance to the
store, the closest to her, is all of 3 ½ miles. They live in what community
food systems workers call a food desert.
Experts in the field
of food security, which addresses ways to reduce hunger and build a community's
food resources to meet its needs, generally describe a food desert as an area
or situation that isolates people from healthy affordable foods. In Nashville, as in many
cities, the absence of grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods, combined
with the design of the public transit system, makes what is for most of us a
routine task-shopping for groceries-into a near act of heroism for thousands of
residents who do not own cars.
This story illustrates
the daily struggle for basic necessities, and helps illuminate the near-epidemic
rise of obesity, diabetes, and other major health threats to children as well
as adults. Residents of food desert communities are much more likely to have
poor diets based on high-priced low-nutrition convenience store items and
inexpensive fast food. The other side of this coin is the continuing
disappearance of small and mid-scale family farms that are close to communities
to provide them with fresh, healthy, local produce.
Local Food for Local
Power is a project conceived by the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working
Group (Southern SAWG) and funded by the Mary
Reynolds Babcock Foundation
community-based organizations in their work on local food policy to address
these and other issues.
Mark Winne, author
of Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty, served as a mentor in the Local Food for
Local Power project. Winne believes that one of the critical ways to address
issues of food security and access is through public policy. As director of the
Food Policy Council Project of the Community Food Security Coalition, he talks
about the "3Ps" of developing a just and sustainable food system: Projects, Partnerships,
and Policy. When he began working with Local Food for Local Power, he observed that
all of the participating groups were involved in projects in their communities
around food. "They were also beginning to build some partnerships, local
coalitions, and networks," he said. "But where they didn't have much experience
was in the public policy area, and that's critical." That's where he plugged
in, helping people realize that they could make improvements in their food
system if they engaged with their local policy makers.
"Often, when people
start hearing about policy, their eyes glaze over," says Lydia Villanueva, Southern SAWG's policy coordinator. Many people,
especially those in small, neglected, or isolated communities, feel that it is
out of their reach to work with officials, express their needs and ideas, and
affect policy to change life for the better. Keecha Harris, coordinator of the
Local Food for Local Power project, notes, "A lot of groups think it's
something other people do."
SAWG entered into
partnerships with four organizations in the South to support them in developing
and implementing community food policy action plans that would further their
specific goals. Each organization was paired with a mentor who provided ongoing
support and feedback for their work to improve access to quality food in their
communities. Although each group was quite different, with different goals, the
learning community they created through a schedule of regular conference calls
turned out to be one of the most powerful aspects of the project.
One of the groups, Food
Security Partners (FSP) of Middle Tennessee, had already defined their mission
to create a more healthy, just, and sustainable food system, with advocacy and
strategic action as primary methods to achieve their goals. Cassi Johnson, FSP's executive director, found the
mentoring with Mark Winne and the relationships with other groups to be the
keys to their progress, along with the Community Policy Action Plan, or CPAP,
which all of the groups developed at the outset of the program.
ReStoring Nashville and Growing
Healthy Kids are the two main FSP initiatives that have been driven by Local
Food for Local Power participation. FSP has embarked on an extensive food mapping
project, learning about situations such as how long it takes people to travel
to a grocery store, what percent of their income they spend on food, and how
much it costs people to get to the grocery store, gathering many stories such
as the one at the beginning of this article.
"We've done food
mapping that shows that in five of our lowest income neighborhoods, you are ten
times more likely to see tobacco rather than a tomato in stores where people
shop for food," says Johnson. "They
are not appealing places, and they've got bars on the windows. Not places where
you want to take your family to do your food shopping."
Food Security Partners
is taking a tiered approach to tackle these problems. Long-range goals include
bringing grocery stores and farmers' markets to underserved neighborhoods,
using strategies such as securing tax incentives for retailers that locate
there. For the short term, they are working to create changes to the public
transportation system in Nashville
that will make it easier for residents to get to existing grocery stores.
Food Security Partners of Middle Tennessee to Merge with
Since its founding in 2007, Food Security Partners (FSP) has
been housed at the Child and Family Policy Center
at the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies in Nashville. The organization is now moving
into its next phase. "We have received incredible support from Vanderbilt University and that relationship has
been a critical factor in our growth and success over the past two-and-a-half
years," said Executive Director Cassi Johnson.
"However, it has always been our goal to spin off from Vanderbilt and either
become independent or join with another nonprofit organization."
In keeping with this goal, the decision was recently made for FSP to merge with
Manna, a community based organization that is a longtime contributor to food
access and social justice, helping create Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle
Tennessee, and working to bring WIC (Women, Infants and Children), school
breakfast, and child care food programs to Nashville. Johnson,
who is a member of Southern SAWG's Board of
Directors, said that Food Security Partners and Manna will combine their
missions, experience, and enthusiasm to bring a "dynamic, holistic approach to
addressing deep-rooted health and social issues, linking access to healthy
foods and pressing public health concerns like obesity to food production, food
distribution and environmental concerns."
Johnson will serve
as the executive director of the merged organization; FSP staff members Shavaun
Evans and Miriam Leibowitz, who will be a presenter at Southern
SAWG's conference in January, will also be making the move. FSP's
current programs will be a part of the new organization, which will soon be
sporting a new name and logo.
To learn more...
Education Association Annual Conference:
February 4 - 6, 2010
SAEA's annual conference covers a variety of topics relating
to sustainable and organic agriculture in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The conference
is designed to provide basic and practical knowledge for growers ranging from
novice gardeners to large producers.
Dr. Arden Andersen, noted physician
and agricultural scientist, will present a one-day seminar, Real Medicine--Real Health, on
February 4, before the conference.
For more information
and registration, click here.
Organic Growers 2010 Conference
March 5 - 6, 2010
Save the date for the TOGA (Tennessee Organic Growers
Association) Conference, featuring Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm as keynote
speaker. TOGA is pleased to be expanding this annual conference to two days of
speakers, panels, farm tours and workshops.
Learn more and register.
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|Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, Inc. (Southern SAWG) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 1991 to promote sustainable agriculture in the Southern United States.