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Talk is cheap. Let’s have a real conversation. SELRS Update November 1, 2011

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories.
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Our previous SELRS update told you about how we are entering a phase of conversation-mapping and relationship-building. We’ve been getting out, talking to each other and to people across the food system. The conversations last about an hour and allow us to get to know a bit better who people are, how they define and relate to terms like ‘sustainable’, ‘equity’, ‘local’, and ‘regeneration’. These terms may be defined in dictionaries and our formal documents but they come alive and hold deeper meaning when we find out what they mean for people, based on their life experiences.
It’s a learning experience to spend time with one person and hear their reflections on the current food system as well as their ideas for our future. And it’s powerful to sit with the responses for one question from many people and see the similarities and the differences. As we get a volume of responses from people who are producers, eaters, working in food security and social services, education, agricultural policy, distribution, retail and more, we get a deeper understanding of what opportunities and challenges exist. We see patterns forming that give us insight into where we can take action to build and strengthen SELRS and we are getting to know better the people who will be key in building a SELRS. Our workshop in December will allow us to sit more deeply with what we are hearing through this process and see what direction that is taking us. Some of the more prominent patterns and themes emerging include:
  • the importance of individual consumers and citizens and the choices they make: having the priorities and ability to invest time and money in the food system you want
  • the importance of building relationships first and growing initiatives from there
  • there are both healthy and economic benefits of becoming a food producer for yourself
  • sustainable farming practices are here and could be implemented more widely
  • supply management (dairy example) can be a sound approach to local food
  • the culture of consumerism is counter to what we are trying to achieve
  • need to remove the power differentials from food if we want an equitable system: not about haves and have-nots or about charity, which supports the have/have-not mentality
  • government has a role to play and we need the ear of politicians and government workers
  • the importance of education: learning about how to grow food, where our food comes from and the impacts our choices have
  • need to focus on those who believe and want to improve the system, this will lead to good for everyone
  • distribution and storage are key challenges in our climate and conditions
You can see that they cover a wide range of ideas and there is much we need to do to explore, refine and then build actions behind them. But it is a rich and fertile ground we are uncovering and therefore the seeds we plant will have great opportunity to grow.

Submitted by Brenda Schroeder and Rene Michalak
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