First of all, we were honored to be visited by Virginia's First Lady, Mrs. Dorothy McAuliffe. Mrs. McAuliffe has a passion for getting local, chemical-free foods to low income children and our farm was the first farm she visited as she explores avenues to make her dream of healthy food for all children a reality. Sitting next to her at a picnic that followed the tour, I found her to be well educated on the issues of food insecurity and the need to connect local farms with low income families. A bonus was discovering her to be a warm, gracious person.
|Stopping for a photo op with Mrs. McAuliffe|
Another amazing event was being second time presenters at the Wild Goose Festival. This year we again exposed attendees to the realities (and horrors) of industrial agriculture and invited them to be liberated from this oppressive model by partnering with local farmers or to even grow their own food.
One of the presenters on our panel was a well-known (in certain circles) woman who gave her talk just before ours. Public speaking is not my forte and knowing a relatively famous person was on our panel upped my anxiety. What happened just before our turn really raised my blood pressure.
The presentation she gave was not at all what we expected and I was rattled by the time it was our turn to speak. As she comes from a community where food has been elevated to an elitist state, this particular presenter mocked those who seek out "sustainable" food. As I stared at the notes for my presentation, which began by my introducing us as sustainable farmers, my mind raced, trying to find a way to not look foolish. Bill whispered to me that he would open our presentation and then we could continue as planned. He defended our position and we presented our program. I kept making eye contact with the previous presenter and at one point, laughed, and told her I wasn't able look at her whenever I used the word "sustainable." This got a laugh from everyone, including her, and helped lighten the tension.
The final outcome from our program was that most of those attending the session agreed with us and felt the other presenter didn't understand the problems with health and food choices outside of her culture. Friends who attended said people were very attentive when we spoke and most were busy taking notes. We also were stopped by at least 15 people over the course of the weekend who said they agreed with us. There is a vast difference between an area where shoppers use the food movement as an vehicle for prestige and a region where poor food choices are killing people and causing health care costs to sky rocket (not to mention the cost to the environment).
Ours were not the only two presentations. Another presenter was Olufemi Lewis, an amazing woman who has started a program called Ujamaa Freedom Market. This program has a food bus that travels to low income neighborhoods in Asheville, North Carolina, delivering healthy produce as a foil against the "candy bus" that goes through those same neighborhoods, offering nothing but sugar laden fare. The program came about because Olufemi noticed that this candy bus only went to low income neighborhoods where most of the residents were African Americans; she noted that this bus did not go to the affluent, mainly Caucasian neighborhoods. Olufemi says her current struggle is getting community members to change their eating habits, to learn how to cook produce, and to wean themselves from processed food. We know that she also understands that people in our region need to be educated about and buy (or grow) sustainable food. Not because it's trendy, but because it will save lives.
Despite the moments of stress - both with the First Lady's visit and with the presentation - it has been an amazing week. It is wonderful to see the message I've been preaching become more mainstream. Good for people and good for the planet.