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Measuring the Local Food Economy with Ken Meter

Food system analyst Ken Meter has seen various U.S. communities take his research and incorporate creative ways to make a thriving local food economy from connecting food buyers to local farmers, building better package and storing facilities cutting down on food transportation costs to helping farmers market themselves better. His studies and community initiatives will be part of his talk, “Building a Local Food Economy” at the Tennessee Local Food Summit December 7 at Trevecca Nazarene University. 

“I am happy to be coming,” said Meter whose work integrates market analysis, business development, systems thinking, and social concerns. “I want to learn more about food issues emerging in Nashville.” His keynote address is at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and his workshop begins at 1:30 p.m. Other topics to be discussed at the summit by over a dozen speakers include permaculture, water conservation, fermenting vegetables, gardening and the effects of local food on health, the environment, spirituality and social justice issues.

Meter plans to speak with local people about what they are doing and achieving and what obstacles they are up against. He is excited to learn more about Tennessee’s potential to create a local food economy as he has only worked in a few counties in Tennessee as part of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. Meter is very interested in the state’s ability to have an extended growing season for produce – “there is a lot of potential for some interesting production early and longer in the year.”

His talk will include some 100 U.S. regional food studies he has done and how to create opportunities for everyone in the network by showing people what has worked in other places. He will discuss how money flows in a region, the economic reality for farmers, ways to make farming more rewarding for farmers, what the local market for food is and how much consumers are buying as well as share how to build connections between local farms with local markets.

As president of Crossroads Resource Center in Minneapolis, Meter holds 41 years experience in inner-city and rural community capacity building which helps people to understand the obstacles that inhibit themselves, governments and organizations from realizing their developmental goals while enhancing their abilities to help them achieve measurable and sustainable results. The non-profit organization consults other groups, academic partners, foundations and the government about building strong local economies, fostering community-based food systems, planning for and measuring sustainability, working in complex, changing systems, working with ethnic and cultural communities and evaluating community initiatives.

In the last few years, Meter has watched as the local food movement has become a “very strong” social movement with people in every state of the U.S. becoming interested in where their food comes from and the farmers who produce their food. “It is a very interesting movement transforming American society in a pretty profound way,” said Meter.

“The thing that is exciting about the movement is that farmers, consumers and professional people, all in business together, most everyone has something to gain. I hope that we can increase the chance for people to work together to design more effective strategies of where people want to go.”

He hopes those who attend his talk will “take localizing food supplies more seriously both with an awareness of the strengths of the region and its obstacles and learn some practical ideas that people can use in the Greater Nashville area. I want to help them design and build the food system they deserve to have.”

The third annual summit begins Friday December 6 with a 6 p.m. reception at Sloco, 2905 12th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37204. The workshops on Saturday, December 7 begin at 9:00 a.m. December 7 at the Boone Business Building at Trevecca Nazarene University, 333 Murfreesboro Road, Nashville, TN 37210, and include a chef-made lunch. Saturday night at 6 p.m., Corsair Distillery will host summit attendees for a farm-to-table dinner and entertainment by indie rocker Will Kimbrough. Sunday, December 8, at 10 a.m., it’s back to Trevecca for a tour of the aquaponics operation followed by a tour of Delvin Farms greenhouses at noon. The full price of the three-day summit is $100 per person but discounts and single event tickets are also available.

For more information about the Tennessee Local Food Summit, go tnlocalfood.com. To learn more about Ken Meter go to crcworks.org

by Heather Foust

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