Note: Jennifer Owens, our former Advocacy Director, has some words of wisdom about Good Food’s next steps.
I learned a lot in my time at Georgia Organics, the most important of which was a reminder of an African proverb – “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This is an exciting time for the food movement in Georgia. Farmers are meeting with school nutrition directors, the medical community is promoting farmers markets and chemical-free food, consumers are buying organic products. I truly believe policymakers stand ready to act to improve the regulatory conditions of small farm businesses, farmers markets and school food service. And we have a funnel of innovative, hardworking farmers and entrepreneurs who see a different way forward for food and agriculture in this country.
Now comes the heavy lifting. We need to be smart, strategic and engage in public policy. It’s easy to ignore the email asking you to reach out to your congressman or blow off that city council or county commission meeting. But we have gotten the ball this far down the field and we must finish the drill.
Wonderful regional food groups around the state are critical—the Savannah Local Food Policy Council, Macon Roots, Federation of Southern Coops, West Georgia Farmer’s Cooperative, the Augusta Food Policy Council, the Atlanta Local Food Initiative, Coastal Organic Growers, the Urban Food Abundance Network, and Locally Grown chapters, to name just a few. These groups are ground zero for assessing current conditions and policies and have tremendous potential to serve as locally-based centers of power to push for policy changes. These groups must be fostered and supported.
Move beyond the choir
It can be uncomfortable, especially if you are the only one in the room with your viewpoint. But we have to be there. Be respectful and know that you will not change hearts and minds in one meeting. Keep showing up. Make food a part of the conversation whenever you can.
The non-profit sector cannot single-handedly create large-scale social change
Nor can one cause. Collaboration is critical—it’s going to take environmentalists, farmers, public health professionals, entrepreneurs, planners, policymakers, chefs, moms, and on and on. This is the strength of and opportunity for the good food movement in Georgia. If we want to go far, we must go together.
Owens is now the Director of Development & Outreach at the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute.