Taking action in the cause of local food

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, December 10, 2013. By Margaret Christie and Philip Korman.

SOUTH DEERFIELD — In this season of gratitude, reflection and good food, we remember how fortunate we are to live in a region of bountiful farms and their enthusiastic supporters. With the end of the year, CISA’s 20th anniversary year celebration is also ending, and we are looking forward to the work of the next 20 years.

Luckily, we are well-nourished for that effort — stomachs, hearts, and souls — by our local farms.

During this anniversary year, we set an ambitious goal at CISA to double the amount of local food in the diets of Pioneer Valley residents. In the next 20 years, we’ll make local food a full quarter of our diet as a region. As an organization, our next steps toward reaching that goal include providing more support for new farmers, increasing the availability of locally grown food for Hampden County residents and aiding the businesses that connect farms and tables — processors, retailers, institutions, restaurants, and distributors, for example.

Filling your family’s table with food from local farms is a delicious way to support farm businesses in your community, and is perhaps even more meaningful during special holiday meals. But you can do more to build a vibrant local food economy.

Using the power of our food dollars and our strength as active, engaged citizens, we can create a local food system that nurtures our families, our communities, our economy and our environment.

Doubling the amount of local food in our diets will require new infrastructure, new businesses and new market outlets, as well as the financing, public policy, support services and enthusiastic customer base to ensure their success.

This big goal brings together many organizations with diverse interests in the Pioneer Valley: economic development, public health, food access and the environment, for example. Ultimately, though, to succeed, it must be a community effort, and there’s a role for everyone.

CISA’s new publication, “Eat Up and Take Action for Local Food,” provides resources and encouragement to bring your love of local food to your workplace, your neighborhood and your friends and family.

The publication includes stories of local people and businesses that are going the extra mile for local food. You can read about the Springfield Food Policy Council, where residents come together to fill gaps in the city’s food system and champion such initiatives as a new city ordinance that supports gardening in the city. At Cooley Dickinson Hospital, wellness policies encourage employees to eat more fresh food from local farms by allowing employees to pay for a CSA share through payroll deduction, pick up the farm share at the hospital, and earn wellness credits by joining a CSA.

Or learn about Greenfield’s Real Pickles, which cemented its commitment to local ownership by forming a worker-owned cooperative and funded the co-op’s purchase of the business through a highly successful community investment campaign that raised half a million dollars.

“Eat Up and Take Action” also provides ideas for how you can take action. Here are just a few, both large and small:

• Bring a friend to the farmers’ market.

• Volunteer at your school garden or community farm.

• Become a local foods entrepreneur.

• Tell your child’s school that you’d like more local food at lunch.

• Make your workplace local-food-friendly: bring local snacks to meetings, add local-food-related benefits to your health insurance options, or give a corporate gift that supports local food.

Eating fresh, seasonal food nourishes our connection to the land where we live and the people that grow our food. It supports our local economy, creating jobs and increasing our economic resilience. It gives us a way to take concrete, hopeful action, every day, to address some of the big problems facing us: climate change, corporate power, a fragile global economy.

And it provides a route to building a local food system that nurtures our community for the long term.

Realizing that vision may require us all to do a bit more, to think about how we can promote and support local food not only at our dining tables but in the board room, break room, cafeteria, fitness center and town meeting room. Eat up and take action for local food. Find the report at

Margaret Christie is special projects director and Philip Korman is executive director of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture.