Quick thoughts from the Edible Institute, which was held this week in Santa Barbara. First, I can’t believe I don’t live here. It’s sunny, warm and right on the ocean. And, at the end of January, they are harvesting spring garlic.
Seriously, though, this weekend’s conference served up plenty of inspiring stories (rooftop gardens, urban farms) and thoughtful discussions (how can we better cover industrial agriculture so readers really understand the food system?). But what was most inspiring was the clear recognition that reformers must draw new people into the conversation about developing a healthier food system. Deb Eschmeyer, co-founder of Food Corps, urged Edible magazine publishers to get their magazines into local legislative offices — Democrat and Republican. Ralph Loglisci, of the Monday Campaigns, talked about behavior change theory, which suggests that only immediate self-interest — not calls to save the planet — will lure new supporters to the cause. Joan Dye Gussow, an advocate of local food for more than 30 years and the conference’s keynote speaker, stated it most simply: “We need to find ways to make agriculturally ignorant Americans give a damn.”
This is what we are trying to discover in our work in Huntington. What do Americans outside the wealthy enclaves of Brooklyn, Berkeley and, of course, Santa Barbara where spring begins in January, care about? What will motivate them to make change? There is no one answer, and what resonates will vary from place to place. Discovering the answer is essential as the food “movement” takes its next steps.