Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Listen to Me

Report from the Soupbox

As I previously posted, the Illinois Local and Organic Food and Farm Task Force held "listening sessions" yesterday. The session leaders informed us that only a small fraction of the food grown in Illinois went directly to consumers in Illinois. Moreover, Illinois consumers were spending a host on organic foods and about none of that came from from food grown within the state either. The result, as we were told, the real ghettos around here were the boarded up and declining rural communities of Illinois. The Task Force hopes to rectify that by ramping up, tremendously, the local food system. Eat local.

The listening session gave a bowl of soup, a delicuous fresh baked roll and a soap box of 120 seconds to who ever wanted. Beyond the time limit, there were no rules. One person read a poem that turned soup into sex. Another person had a poem, with no connection, as far as I could tell, to food, period. Jason Hammel, from Lula's in Logan Square made some very good points. Others railed against GMO's and wanted to give it to the Man. I planed on just being a listener myself, but when most of the talkers seemed 10,000 feet in the air, I thought it would help for someone to speak from the ground. I wanted them to hear from someone eating local. I asked for non-frozen meat and better hours and more available food. If I really had myself collected, and perhaps could talk fast, I would have given this list:

  • A central, year-round, daily market, somewhere triangulated between Milwaukee's recent Public Market, the Ferry-Terminal Market in San Francisco and Cleveland's Westside Market.
  • Markets open in the afternoon and evening
  • More winter markets
  • Farmers growing for winter markets. In other words, producing surplus quantities of potatoes, root vegetables, apples, pears, onions and the lot then storing them at optimum conditions. These crops will be released over the course of the Winter.
  • Farmers growing in the winter using hoop-houses and other technology--lettuces, greens, herbs, maybe even berries.
  • Fruits and vegetables grown for ethnic markets.
  • Local food served in schools.
  • Mills grinding local grains into the full range of desired grains including white flour.
  • A viable commercial fishing industry, including river fish and Lake Michigan fish.
  • Pecans grown at one tip of the state and hazelnuts grown at the other; in between a revitalization of the native black walnut crop.
  • Artisanal consumer (that's consumer) products derived from local corn and soy including tofu and cooking oils.
  • Clearly marked sugar derived from locally grown sugar beets.
  • Efforts to ensure the survival of our honeybees.
  • Marketeers selling a range of foraged crops including watercress, ramps, paw-paws, wild burdock, dandelions and plenty of mushrooms.
  • And last but not least, local meat that is not frozen when I go to buy it!

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