Welcome to the Eat Local column: a space for exploring our local food movement through the lens of our growers, restaurants, and food justice activists. Seeing that I will be writing this column during the 2015 growing season, I wanted to provide a brief background on my work with food systems. My name is Dana Eardley and I am a student at Grand Valley State University. My first exposure to the local food movement in West Michigan began three years ago at the Sustainable Agriculture Project at GVSU. There I found immense joy in getting my hands dirty while learning to cultivate food and community. My work at the SAP has driven me to continue working with local organizations focused on the food movement. I currently work with Local First, the West Michigan Growers Group, MSU Extension, Baxter Community Center, and the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids in order to find ways to create a more equitable food system in West Michigan. Working with others to address food insecurity and promote sustainable farming practices has proven to be inspiring, challenging, and deeply fulfilling.
I am writing this journal to take you on my journey towards understanding how we, as responsible consumers, can best support our growers and our local food businesses, all the while learning how to become more connected to our environment, our health and each other. The more I learn about our local food movement, the more I recognize just how many individuals and organizations in our community are invested in these issues. Through a number of different methods and strategies, members of our community are looking to find ways to make sustainable agriculture more economically viable, make food more accessible, and promote education on healthy eating. I am here to tell some of the stories of our local food movement. I will introduce some of the people in our community who have devoted their time, energy, passion, and resources to promoting sustainable food systems. These voices are invaluable. These are the people on the ground doing the work that will ultimately help to create a more vibrant West Michigan. I will be touring farms, interviewing farmers, sampling different CSA shares, and writing about different food related events in our community. I hope that you can join in as I spend time thinking through the ways that our food system allows us to foster community and diversity, ultimately connecting us to each other and our land.
I would like note that my food journey is constantly evolving. I am continuously learning how to move towards becoming more connected to my food. Through working with our community, we can collectively make the decisions that are best suited for our unique place. It does not matter if you have been thinking through these questions for years or if you are just beginning your food journey, this is really just a conversation that we are having with ourselves and with those around us. There is no one “right” way to eat, no one way to participate in our food system. Although there are rarely clear-cut, static and universal answers to the hundreds of ethical questions that accompany where, what, and how we eat, the act of seeking out these answers is critical to developing our response to our current food system. Thus, this is a space for thinking through these questions in a way that makes sense to me within the confines of time and place. I encourage others to follow their food journey in ways that make sense for them as individuals and as members of our community. This movement is simply about asking honest questions about our food while being adaptable enough to work together to find long term solutions for a more equitable food system. Cheers to embarking on this adventure together!