Reviving the Knox County Local Food Council continues. It's been since October when the rebooted council last met over potluck at The Farm on Kenyon Road, and a few representatives of the handful of council volunteers to serve as leadership were able to sit down together on February 2 to revisit council issues.
Somewhat starting from scratch, the Council is wrangling with existential issues of what role(s) to play for local food. We covered the list of issues of interest identified at the last all council meeting, discussed some ways to focus the new mission of the council.
Historically, the council focused mostly, if not solely, on creating a year round farmer's market (eventually what became The Harvest at the Woodward). After disbanding, the newly revised efforts to form a local food council for Knox County come from a state-wide and national effort to create/maintain local food systems, help inform policy to better represent local needs, and create a food system that is equitable and steeped in smart growth development. The newly revamped Ohio Food Policy Network (OFPN) is working with counties across the state to rebuild local food councils in ways that better reflect today's local food system needs. As the county with the oldest council on record, Knox County has received direct encouragement from the OFPN to reboot itself.
Today's council reflects a much broader range of interests than the council has had in the past and in the near future we will need to decide what our mission, and tangible goals are. To be blunt: it feels like herding cats right now. And while everyone at the table confirms an affirmative desire to have a local food council, much of the talk centers on what we "can't " do or what folks don't want on take on.
The project has had little momentum and I can't say I feel inspired after the two meetings I've attended (to be honest, despite knowing all intentions are positive, the group just doesn't act like a group of people who want this very much; I assume it is the daunting scope of the task that is suppressing enthusiasm). I hope with some dedication, maybe pitching in by doing the administrative grunt work no one else wants to do, we can get a council off the ground. I think a council could be an effective tool to protect local food needs by working with local governing bodies like the Mount Vernon City Council and the Knox County Commissioner's office. I think we could tenure local food protections to advantage and sustain local food production way into the future, regardless of politics or when the end of the local-food-as-fad ends. I think we could use the council to do the things producers and food access points can't or don't have time to do, as well as things that are outside of the scope of the Knox County Farm Bureau (e.g. non-traditional ag issues, or community gardens): research for insight into why increases in food insecurity persist simultaneously to increases in food waste. How to move nutrition into a more central part of education and life management skills. How to answer questions about why projects like food vouchers have not worked in the past...
Any interested parties out there who want to donate a little time? Contact us if you are interested in helping the effort. March 6th is tentatively our next meeting date - email us for details if you are interested in attending and getting involved.