On August 4th, 2014 a network of farm-related agencies called The Midlands Local Food Collaborative hosted The Future of Midlands Farms and Food Summit. Over 100 farmers, Ag educators, chefs, extension agents, food writers, producers, and eaters gathered to discuss the most pressing issues involving farming and eating in the 50 mile radius surrounding Columbia, South Carolina referred to as “The Midlands”. After the summit, community members had selected four areas of focus for Midlands food systems work (Farm to School/Farm to Institution, Land Access, Agriculture Education, and Farm Labor) yet no local-food-focused, grassroots entity existed to work on these issues. The Midlands Food Alliance was formed the last week of September 2014 as a grassroots group to advocate and educate for a sustainable and equitable, localized food system in the Midlands of South Carolina.
The Midlands lacks a concrete map or understanding of the local food system. There are gaps and challenges within our food system that are not currently defined. We DO have people that care about local food, but we don’t have a network of these people built or communication among the people that care about the local food system. The Midlands Food Alliance is working to change that.
Local food supports our health, the local economy and local farmers, it tastes better, is resilient and sustainable, and independent from big corporate farming and the food industry. It provides food security for the region, which promotes homeland security and secures water for the future. Caring about local food will hopefully influence future generations to make better food choices and will connect children back to their roots. Local food is better for the environment, connects us back to our land, and will help preserve our beautiful S.C. wildlife and traditions, such as hunting and fishing. We want to work toward a fair, secure, sustainable, dependable, healthy local food system.
If we are going to support local food and learn how to improve the local food system, we need to map it out and understand it better. That way, we’ll know where our strengths and weaknesses are so that we work toward a healthier, more accessible local food system as a community. We need to raise awareness of the local food system and advocate and educate about the gaps and weaknesses we find in our local food system in order to improve it. Creating a network that cares about local food and opening communication is important. Connecting local farmers to each other and all aspects of the local food system is also important, as well as connecting local farmers to resources and information.
We have an opportunity to learn how to improve our local food system and engage with Midlands residents around food systems change. The Midlands Food Alliance is coming together to first map our food system and build a network supporting local food producers and consumers in our region.