by Erin Buckwalter, MS Candidate, University of Vermont

“Food and Agriculture:  Growing Local Food and Agriculture Economies”                   with:  Tara Kelly, Rutland Area Food and Farm Link (RAFFL), Phil Korman,     CISA, Andrew Meyer, Center for an Ag Economy, Tim Stevenson Post-Oil Solutions, Vern Grubinger, moderator

How do you make changes in the food system in your community?  So many communities are addressing this question yet some have been more successful than other.  Listening to Tara (RAFFL), Andrew (Center for Ag Economy), Tim (Post Oil Solutions), and Phil (CISA) talk about how they’re impacting their communities made me wonder what’s going on different in these communities than others?

Take home messages:

-Change doesn’t have to take a long time.

We get stuck in this framework of belief that change takes time but these organizations are proof that changes in these communities can happen really fast.  Go for it, push for it, make it happen.

-Go after low hanging fruit.

Take small projects and build belief in your work in your community (ie.build your local community garden from 3 to 20 plots)

-But don’t be afraid to take risks and risk failure.

Know what your goals are and go for it.  It’s better to fail trying to succeed than not meeting your goals by not going for it.

-And another I’d add…go ahead, try to work yourselves out of a job.

Go into your work with the attitude and expectation that you are going to succeed and hopefully someday the support you provide will become part of the system and your organization’s support will become redundant.

-Take advantage of circumstances

Look for opportunities to collaborate, organizations to partner with(ie. local colleges and universitiesyou can partner with), etc.

-Look for a really clear gap that no other organizations are addressing or bring those organizations together.

My interest in local food and sustainable agriculture is largely what brought me to this summit and sitting in this room listening to the representatives from these organizations was inspiring.  The buzz has been happening…louder in some places than others but almost always present.  It seems to me that sometimes we can be our own worst enemies; getting stuck within the framework of the status quo and thinking that change takes time.  But these speakers have shown that sometimes change happens fast, that if you really believe it’s can and will happen, it will.  And it happens differently in every community so look to other for models but don’t feel like you have to replicate their work.