Local food in Atlanta? We’ve barely broken ground

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By design of their jobs, food writers are constantly trolling for new trends. And in the last few years, Atlanta has caught the “local food” and “farm-to-table” fever raging on both coasts, and the efforts of local chefs and farmer’s markets have been covered amply. It could become easy to start rolling eyes at the now-ubiquitous catch phrases.

But a one-day conference last Friday demonstrated how much potential there is for local food in Atlanta and Georgia, and how little has really been fostered. The conference was held by the Atlanta Local Food Initiative Georgia Organics (ALFI), an umbrella coalition under which groups such as Georgia Organics, Slow Food Atlanta, Emory University Sustainability Initiative, and even involved leaders at the CDC can gather to brainstorm and strategize mutual goals.

“How do we meet demand?” seemed to be the question that loomed largest over the day. Most attendees—farmers, retailers, activists and policy makers, a smattering of chefs—felt that it’s no problem to sell local food: It’s either getting the produce to consumers or (in the case of organics, particularly) growing the food. Dr. Bob Randall from Houston’s Urban Harvest, an organization that models success particularly with metropolitan gardening, gave the morning’s keynote address.

In the afternoon, groups broke into discussion on eight key topics:

1.    Increasing food production
2.    Establishing and encouraging community gardens
3.    Setting up backyard gardens
4.    Farm-to-school initiatives (a subject about which CL’s Besha Rodell wrote eloquently six or so weeks back)
5.    Expanding cooking skills
6.    Tackling the issues tied to purchasing local foods
7.    Attending to underserved neighborhoods using local foods
8.    How to better integrate and market local food in restaurants, markets and retail stores

The short of it is: There’s much work to be done, but it was energizing to witness these conversations finally happening in Atlanta in an organized, proactive way. If you’re interested in getting involved, email info@atlantalocalfood.org.

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