Originally published December 15 2008
A Local Market Supports Community
by Heather Flournoy
(NaturalNews) Can one woman change the way we eat and do business around here? It's possible, especially when she is as passionate as Cynthia Brennan. Cynthia had already started on the mission to make Bedford Hills a place where people can stroll to shop, eat and visit. She opened James, NY Gallery, focused on responsible and sustainable goods and is now up to her elbows (literally) working to open TABLE Local Market, a full-time farm market with prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner available.
What? TABLE isn't just another market. It's a local food market that will create a supply of food that we don't currently have. It's a concept and it's happening at the right time. It's an act of dedication and caring and commitment and passion for the development of regional farms,ecologically sound growth, the improved health of community members and independence from foreign trading. It is a business model that could potentially be taken to other communities.
Here's the idea in a nutshell: people can commit a portion of their grocery dollars for a year to the store. Cynthia and her discerning team do the work of sourcing and selecting local produce, meats, dairy, bakery and dry goods and getting them to the store. Her team then displays them for sale or utilizes them in their kitchen to prepare a meal so it's waiting for you. We as the co-op customers have then participated in a project where the return on our investment is real change in the infrastructure of our community, and we get fantastic, convenient food in exchange. Cynthia's vision is to keep costs in check by cutting out the dependence on middlemen and brokers by building relationships directly with farms. This way she estimates that their prices can compete even if at the moment local production costs are higher than production costs of industrialized agriculture and food grown in other regions (where there is usually not a livable wage). This is a way to direct our dollars to make positive change in the larger community.
She has a really great team of local resources including TABLE's chef Jon Pratt, co-owner of Umami Cafe and Peter Pratt's Inn (two outstanding restaurants in the Hudson Valley with sustainable food at their core and even solar-heated panels on the roof) and a solid group of volunteers, advisors, and founding members who will help to establish TABLE. (There is still time to join as a Founding Member which offers exclusive benefits).
The Implications: "I think we can change the market," Cynthia says. "We can guarantee a market to the local farmers we are dealing with, and then we can start encouraging them to grow more of what we need, when we need and how we need it." Right now there are area farmers looking at what to grow, when and to whom to sell. If TABLE jumps into action now, they can have a steady supply of regionally produced goods within the year, and hope that within several years the supply of currently "impossible" produce will be grown in the area. "If we develop a better end market, then we can help to further the supply chain for a regional, sustainable food shed ." In other words, if there is a market, there will be a supply developed. If TABLE can say to a farmer that they guarantee to buy 5 cases a week of tomatoes and 5 cases a week of peppers, in January, then maybe we'll start seeing tomatoes and peppers grown locally in January.
From there it is nearly limitless. Check out this video on one of this year's MacArthur Grant, Will Allen who is farming in greenhouses year-round in Milwaukee. Judging from the videos of Milwaukee winters, it look like the type of growing it could be done in upstate New York: www.sciencefriday.com/newsbriefs/read/174 . Area farmers might even want to go check out one of his projects and get one going here in Westchester County.
Why? Because it's necessary. Because we want this in our neighborhood. Because if we are conscious of our health and the health of our children, we want to eat food that isn't injected, colored, pumped with hormones, abused, irradiated or sprayed with chemicals. Because it simply makes sense that farmland gets farmed and that farm work is valued and that farmers have dependable outlets for their goods, and that people know where their food came from, who grew it and how exactly it is grown. Because we all need to participate in making positive change happen.
Where? Babbit Road, Bedford Hills, NY.
When? In January, 2009. Stay posted on TABLE's website: www.tablelocalmarket.com The Founding Membership program is available to the first 200 families and offers exclusive benefits for helping to establish Table!
About the authorHeather Flournoy is a writer, grassroots marketer and natural health expert who resides in Katonah, NY. You can visit her blog at www.KatonahGreen.com
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