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