Nashville Scene: Tennessee Local Food Summit Plans Most Ambitious Program Yet
Three-day conference moves to Montgomery Bell Academy for its seventh iteration
The seventh annual Tennessee Local Food Summit will take place this year Dec.1-3 at Montgomery Bell Academy’s campus at 4001 Harding Road. Organized by Jeff Poppen, best known as The Barefoot Farmer, this year’s summit makes the bold assertion the “Middle Tennessee farmland once fed Nashville; it will again.”
To reach this vision, Poppen has gathered multiple panels of local, regional and national food and farm advocates for educational workshops and networking opportunities. Some of Nashville’s best and most forward-thinking chefs will also participate in the panels and prepare meals for attendees.
Poppen has been an advocate for local food for more than four decades, growing his own food and selling his wares from one of the oldest and largest organic farms in Tennessee, Long Hungry Creek Farm in Red Boiling Springs. But don’t get the impression that this summit is just a meeting of old tie-died hippies advocating some sort of return to agrarianism.
The Tennessee Local Food Summit is dead serious about improving the economics of local food production and consumption and has invited one of the most respected food systems analysts in the country to address the conference. Ken Meter is known for his work that integrates the technical sides of business development and marketing analysis with the fuzzier concepts of social concerns and development of successful systems. He has undertaken an analysis of the Nashville food system and will be talking about his findings as part of the summit.
Other local and regional experts who will participate in educational sessions include Tradd Cotter from Mushroom Mountain; Ian McSweeney, executive director of Russell Farm and Forest Conservation Foundation; Mac Wilson of Community Garden; Susana Lein of Salamander Springs Farm; Robin Fazio of the Baylor School; Paul Bela of Hill & Hollow Farm; Jay Williams of Williams Honey Farm; Loran Shallenberger of Bells Bend Farms; Alfred Farris of Windy Acres Farm; Bill Kenner of Sequatchie Cove Farm; and Tasha Kennard of the Nashville Farmers’ Market. Go to the official event website for a full schedule of seminars.
Nashville chefs participating in cooking demonstrations include Tandy Wilson from City House, Julia Sullivan from Henrietta Red, Eric Zizka of Oak Steakhouse and Tony Galzin from Nicky’s Coal Fired, and meals will be provided by local partners Husk Nashville and Lockeland Table.
The Tennessee Local Food Summit will take advantage of many of the facilities at the host venue, Montgomery Bell Academy’s campus. Events will take place in the school’s Hogwarts-like dining hall, also utilizing MBA’s kitchens, classrooms, and lecture halls. Students from MBA’s entrepreneurship, health and wellness, and conservation societies will take part in the conference sessions, as well as providing volunteer manpower for the weekend. Free parking will be available in the MBA parking garage off Wilson Boulevard.
“MBA is thrilled to serve as host for Tennessee Local Food Summit,” said MBA Headmaster Brad Gioia. “The event and its mission provides a great opportunity for our boys to see the impact that the local food movement can have on our community,” he continued. “Last year, our students provided more than 4,800 hours of volunteer service to 26 organizations in the area, and we see MBA’s involvement in the Local Food Summit as a continuation of the school’s commitment to serving Middle Tennessee..”
Other workshops will be offered in topics ranging from backyard and community gardening, online marketing, the effects of agriculture on the environment, and more. Tickets for conference, which include all workshops, meals and free parking, are $75 each and can be purchased at Eventbrite in advance. This is an incredibly affordable admission for the chance to take part in this vitally important discussion for our community while learning and networking from some amazing experts in the field and enjoying food prepared by local heroes. Don’t dawdle on this one. Sign up for your tickets today!