“Can you believe vegetables are growing in the shadow of an urban high-rise apartment building?”
“I will be more deliberate in including community members—particularly those whose voices are often omitted—in the early, developmental phases of my Extension educational outreach and programming.”
These thoughts are from two participants of the USDA AFRI funded Food Security Conference hosted by the eXtension Community, Local & Regional Food Systems Community of Practice (CLRFS eCoP) and held in downtown Cleveland, September 29 – October 1, 2014. The conference included 104 Extension educators, researchers and community partners from Land Grant Universities and local non-profit organizations from 23 states. Since 2012, this group has grown to become the fourth largest eCoP among nearly 80 in eXtension’s nationwide system.
Key conference goals included:
- positioning food security as a priority in food system research and practice
- enhancing Extension’s capacity to work on food security and food systems
- bringing together University and Extension workers with community food system practitioners to address core competencies for professionals engaged in this work
It also sought to align University research priorities with community needs and to train Food Systems Extension professionals of the future. The breakout sessions focused on skill development, aligning research, developing understandings among the local and regional food system community and building the capacity and value proposition of the CLRFS eCoP. The Cleveland location allowed participants to gain experiential knowledge via urban agriculture tours and conversations with the growers and food security practitioners in the region.
The conference keynote plenary session targeted the role racism plays in food security in America. The CLRFS eCoP identified the need to build Extension’s capacity to address food security through new lenses as a critical initiative for the group. Trainers from The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond led attendees through a training session on “Undoing Racism in Our Food Security Work.” Conference participants were challenged to define racism and its implications for society and to consider how their work might unwittingly contribute or further injustice in the food system.
Click here to read the full article, including descriptions of the urban ag tour stops and links to additional coverage.
The conference was made possible by eXtension and a grant from the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).
(Submitted by: Brian Raison, Assistant Professor and County Extension Educator, Miami County and Top of Ohio EERA / Co-leader, eXtension Community, Local & Regional Food Systems Community of Practice.)