October 30, 2010. We taped a popular show in 2006 with Judy Alexander, How Much Food Can I Grow Around My House? (episode 87). Judy has continued expanding the circles of awareness about food. We taped a conversation in Port Townsend, Washington with (right to left) Peter Bates and Judy, both members of the Port Townsend steering committee of the Northwest Earth Institute, and Dick Bergeron, president of the local Chimacum Grange.
These three organized 25 discussion groups in early 2010, using Menu for the Future, a slim but impactful study book produced by the Northwest Earth Institute. It contains fascinating short readings from a wide range of authors and perspectives, plus a discussion guide, all around the topic of food.
The groups are for “anyone who eats.” Each 6-week group has 8-10 members who read a chapter per week, and then explore and discuss their values about food in a safe and respectful environment. How and where it’s grown. Additives. Health. Fossil fuels and other resources. Industrial Agriculture. Local food producers. Justice. Security.
The unique touch is that Judy, Dick and Peter brought together people who might not otherwise be in touch with each other but share an interest in food. “Country mouse and City mouse,” is what Dick Bergeron calls them.
It started when Dick brought together local farmers to see what the rural Chimacum Grange could do to help them. Their reply? They needed help to market their products, which also entailed educating the public about the value in their locally-produced food products and producers.
Judy Alexander and Peter Bates had done a lot of local educating through previous NWEI discussion groups in Port Townsend, so they mined their connections to organize 25 groups of 8-10 people (mostly City Mice). In an innovative twist (and with Dick’s assistance), Judy lined up a food producer (Country Mouse) to be in each group.
Surely the groups were far richer with the addition of a food producer — a real person, a face, not an impersonal supermarket shelf. With stories to tell and likely a different perspective.
Look forward to watching this show, and consider sponsoring a Menu for the Future group in your community. Add the Port Townsend/Chimacum twist: invite a local food producer into each group of eaters, and see what happens. I’ll bet it’ll be all the better for it.
Watch the show Menu for the Future – Bringing Farmers to the Table (episode 189).