Blog Archives

Consciousness Raising is the Goal of Tennessee Local Food Summit Organizer Jeff Poppen

Promoting the local production and consumption of healthy local food for everyone is why for the last three years organic farmer Jeff Poppen takes time away from tending to his vegetable fields, blueberries, apples, beehives and cattle in Red Boiling Springs to organize the Tennessee Local Food Summit in Nashville, an event that brings in over 200 attendees each year.

“I want people to learn from different perspectives about how to have a healthy food system,” said Poppen who has confirmed a dozen different speakers who will talk about everything from permaculture, food quality and diets, building a local food economy to gardening edible plants. “These are very valuable things for people to hear about and learn about. I am trying to raise the consciousness of people. People will hear personal stories about how a healthy food system can affect bigger issues from human health, economics to the environment. People will be able to network with like-minded people.”

“A local food economy can solve a lot of problems,” said Poppen. “When people eat fresh produce and items fresh from the farm that are raised from wise, traditional methods the food is better for people and people are healthier. The environmental consequences are a lot less than having a few giant agricultural facilities. There are also social impacts on the community.” Small farms bring employment for people to work the land. With this, education and spiritual values are heightened, explains Poppen.

He knows there are obstacles but he believes that people coming together to find pathways to foster a local organic food system is the only way to move forward. Poppen is excited to see local chefs take part and share what can be done with the food.

Also known as “The Barefoot Farmer,” Poppen has hosted events celebrating homegrown food for thirty years at his Red Boiling Springs farms. “People would talk about what was on their hearts and I thought what a good idea to have this kind of thing in Nashville,” said Poppen. So in 2011 he approached Dodd Galbreath of Lipscomb University who hosted the summit the first year. Sylvia Ganier of Green Door Gourmet hosted the summit in 2012, and Jason Adkins of Trevecca Nazarene University will host the Saturday workshops this year. Poppen likes to move the summit to a different venue each year to showcase the local food economy in middle Tennessee. He is honored so many universities and businesses want to take part.

As a boy, Poppen watched his father tend his organic farm in Illinois. When he was 18 he moved to Tennessee to become a farmer himself. Poppen has two tracts of land in Red Boiling Springs. One is about 15 acres which he is considering transitioning to an education and retreat center after he made the decision not to farm there when a confined animal feeding operation for chickens moved near the property last year. His second farm is over 200 acres and is where he raises his cattle and grows a variety of vegetables including greens, corn, potatoes, watermelons, squash and herbs for his 150-member CSA and local restaurants. Poppen has published two books and does consulting for other farmers and gardeners.

The Tennessee Local Food 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 to tnlocalfood.com. To learn more about Jeff Poppen go to barefootfarmer.com

by Heather Foust

Trevecca’s Jason Adkins Hopes to Inspire Urban Farming in Food Deserts

Tennessee Local Food Summit participants who attend speaker Jason Adkins’ workshop or tour Trevecca Urban Farm, will learn how Trevecca Nazarene University students are nurturing seedlings to replant in area low-income neighborhoods and community and school gardens, raising chickens for eggs and growing tilapia fish using aquaponic methods, just a few of the programs that are part of the school’s Center for Social Justice program whose mission is to help all people have access to healthy, affordable food.

Adkins, the university’s Environmental Projects Coordinator will speak at the summit’s December 7 10:45 a.m. workshop, “Exploring Environmental Justice Through Urban Farming in a Food Desert,” and the next day at 10 a.m. summit attendees will get to take a tour of Trevecca Urban Farm. The workshop will talk specifically about the farm’s practices and how it was incorporated in to a whole educational farm, the relationships they have with the community and farmers as well as how they are teaching the farm’s programs to locals and as to students as far away as to their sister university in Asia.
“I am happy to connect with local growers and people interested in eating, buying and growing good food,” said Adkins of speaking at the summit. “I want to share what part of that (local food) movement we are trying to inhabit in Nashville and hopefully inspire people to look at adopting some of the practices we found really rewarding.”

Other programs at Trevecca Urban Farm include students composting food scraps from the university’s food service to create mulch for their farm projects, a worm depository that creates fertilizers to nourish farm plants, helping to restore Brown’s Creek, planting fruit trees and bushes on campus and in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood, beekeeping, creating community and school gardens, and growing and deploying cleansing plants at local schools to increase better air quality.

“I hope people will go away from it inspired to participate in creating together a food system that works for the local landscape,” said Adkins. “This type of food shed, where people draw food, helps to recreate the local food culture.” He sees that in the last 70 years, a great amount of money and labor has been spent “building an extraordinary (food) system that has failed the people.” Some people have gotten wealthy from this type of system that in general has caused people’s health to fail and failed farmers, said Adkins. “The farming system has failed and needs to be repaired.”

The Center for Social Justice tries to advocate for people to become more interested in farming. “We need more farmers, more people on the land,” said Adkins. He said they want people, especially students, to equate farmers as having “honorable and viable vocations. We need to support it all the way up to the higher education so we get the kind of students who seek it in higher education who feel inspired to take up the vocation and make it so it’s economically sustainable.” The workshop will also talk about farm-to-school programs and the importance of people taking to young people about eating right and challenging them to grow their own food.

He is encouraged to see that more people are supporting local agriculture with the popularity of farmers’ markets, people creating backyard gardens, as well as restaurants using local food and more farm to school programs. “Supporting local farmers who grow great food for us, I really think is a critical piece in rebuilding middle Tennessee’s food culture,” said Adkins. He explains that when we are more involved in knowing about where our food comes from, we want to support one another and buy local. “We need to understand this is an important practice to cherish and spread. People have begun to make the connection and are putting their energy and money where their convictions have led them.”

Adkins reimagines a whole new farming system where we do not rely on prodigious amounts of petroleum that requires wars and ecological destruction. Rather he sees a “tastier, healthier future where we know and support people who grow our food with a future that is more transparent of how food is grown. Food that is environmentally sound and made with food justice. We have a lot to look forward to as we build this (the local food economy).”

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 to tnlocalfood.com. To learn more about Jason Adkins and the Trevecca Urban Farm go to tnurbanfarm.org.

by Heather Foust

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