Politics of Food: a conference hosted by ELP in Raleigh

September 21st-24th I spent in Raleigh at the ELP’s national conference on the Politics of Food. There were numerous good workshops, but mostly the people I met, from literally near and far, will impact my life–that’s “it” right?

Close to home: Eva Clayton opened as keynote, and hearing her was an inspiration as always. Chris Rumley and Rob Jones–with Good Work and Bountiful Backyards–will be partners on some future project I’m certain, and Chris has already introduced me to Margie Ellison, who is phenomenal and already we are working together to find a grad student fto help her develop a community garden and documentary project at the Pittsboro Fair Grounds here in my own town–the Fair Grounds is one of two African American owned fair grounds in NC, plus she’s helping me with outreach for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems’ Statewide Initiative on building a local, sustainable food system in NC. I love that gut knowing when you meet people and just know your paths are going to intertwine.

Since this was in our backyard, two of the conference fieldtrips came to Goldsboro, one to CEFS and one to the Wayne County – Community Food Systems Initiative, more affectionately known as WFI. We had a blast, but I’ll let you read about the conference and our tour in Andrea Gram and Justin Van Kleeck’s elp summary

–but here’s an excerpt cause I’m still teary-eyed over how amazing they were. Will get a video and post it soon!

What came next nearly brought everyone in the room to tears: the children gathered around their music teacher and keyboardist to present two very creative and powerful music ensembles that they had created – not to tote the values of a MTV music culture but to celebrate the joys of fresh vegetables and healthy eating habits! It was the most heart-warming experience I’d had in a long time, all the while munching on the delicious pear preserves and biscuits they had prepared especially for us. The moments of vulnerability, hope, and pride that flickered across their faces as these children strutted their stuff before our teary-eyed audience was a powerfully moving experience. In fact, it left my cheeks sore from permagrin and the incalculable joy of it all. Now that was some real Southern hospitality!

And then there are those friends from afar, particularly two from MI–Guy Williams, who I met a year or two ago at Iantha Gantt-Wright’s Diverse Partner’s for Environmental Progress Conference and we’ve been keeping touch ever since. He’s working for Fair Food Foundation now and loves his new food world! I am completely convinced that Guy, working at FFF, is going to change the world.  And I met the magic Malik Yakini, founder of Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN), who has a packet of stuff he’s going to send me to help us in Wayne with our kids curriculum development . . . and who I just liked talking with . . . but he’s beyond busy, has just moved his school, plus I suspect does something daily to improve the planet. He did send me a link to a great video on detroit today! Check it out! DBCFSN is doing soil remediation work that is going to be vital to cities all over the country, but the positive energy growing in Detroit is truly an inspiration to us all. watch video on Detroit’s food efforts!

Honestly, couldn’t begin to count the number of folks I’ve crossed paths with in powerful ways in last month or twenty four hours, and really that’s just cause I’m back at work. I sat with Lyle Estill on the sidewalk of my local food co-op, Chatham Marketplace, here in Pittsboro with a big bucket of chalk and talked about the town farm/community garden to be. It is still an idea, but the idea is in the middle of a neighborhood that is right out the back of the mill property on the back side of the food coop, and just a few blocks away from the fairgrounds where Ms. Margie is going to have kids gardening and gathering for music.

Connect a few people together, and ideas come to fruition.


About tessa eliza thraves

a local food and sustainable energy freak, working for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems on community and youth Food System projects across the state. www.cefs.ncsu.edu www.ncfoodcorps.org ncfoodyouth.wordpress.com

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