Opening wide for local food

The Recorder, December 12, 2013. By Richie Davis

If you’re interested in helping local agriculture thrive and supporting locally grown foods, what more can you do than eat it?

That’s what Community Involved in Supporting Agriculture wants everyone to be asking themselves as the Deerfield-based organization closes out its 20th-anniversary year.

With a new report, “Eat Up and Take Action for Local Food,” CISA hopes to inspire local-food aficionados and local-economy fans to help it move toward its goal of doubling the amount of local foods in Pioneer Valley diets over the next 20 years.

By taking actions ranging from getting involved in local schools and community gardens to speaking with friends and business associates and learning more about the needs of the local food economy, the report encourages people to become more pro-active, for the sake of the environment, the local economy and the planet.

“There’s lots of roles for businesses, for organizations, and I think people feel, ‘This is an issue I care about, it’s an issue I’d like to do more about, but what kind of things could I do?’” says report author Margaret Cristie. “This is an effort to say there are lots of places in your life, beginning with what you eat, but moving on to volunteer roles: Are there ways you can bring this to your work? What can all of us do to create the food systems that will sustain us in our communities?”

CISA is beginning to focus more attention in Springfield and the rest of Hampden County, where there’s been less widespread visibility for its “Local Hero” campaign.”

When the grassroots organization first got going, Christie said, there was an immediate responsiveness from a lot of people who realized that local farms support the local economy.

“Now we have this huge range of people: People who care about public health and people who care about climate change, people who care about land use — and not just in the country, but in the city. All those people see local food not as a panacea, but as a piece of the puzzle. It’s accessible, it’s something we can actually do: How can we think about getting local food into the schools, how can we deal with the gaps in the infrastructure and do one small thing?”

The new CISA primer is an attempt to stir the pot with inspiring links and stories for potential food entrepreneurs, from strategies for bringing local food to holiday parties to links to recipes for winter crops to suggestions for learning to preserve food.

“I’m sort of amazed when I look around and see the range of people involved in this, who care about this and who see it relating to their own work,” Christie said.

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