WFPA at the Just Food Conference
The WFPA had our first public debut last weekend at the Just Food Conference. This year’s theme was “Break New Ground” and the workshop categories focused on Food Justice, CSAs, Education, Urban Agriculture, Farming, Engaging Local Communities, the Restaurant & Food Industry, Communications, Entrepreneurship and School Food. There were also Farmer and Food Policy panels, as well as a keynote address by Byron Hurt, an award-winning documentary filmmaker who made the critically acclaimed Soul Food Junkies.
The WFPA led a workshop on the USDA’s online Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass and Map. Our goal was to help attendees navigate online resources in order to find local food in their communities. At last year’s Just Food Conference Kathleen Merrigan, the US Deputy Secretary of Agriculture (who announced she is is stepping down), gave the keynote address and spoke about the impending launch of the KYF Compass website. So, it is a new tool and we were excited to share its many capabilities through a live demo of the site.
EXAMPLE: Food Hubs in the NY Region from the KYF2 Compass map
The Compass tool, however, does have its limitations – it only represents USDA data and gives a “snapshot” of the most recent datasets (you cannot compare Food Hubs in New York today with Food Hubs in New York five years ago). This is where Part Two of our demo came in. We showed participants other USDA and independent crowd-sourced websites that offer data on where to find local food, access, CSAs, and more. These sites included:
- USDA Food Environment Atlas – This USDA tool will give you hard data in a variety of formats. The site will assemble statistics on the US food environment, including access, prices, assistance programs, and general community characteristics. It is a great source for graduate students!
- www.localharvest.org – Local Harvest has been around since the 90s and is a crowd-sourced website to help you find farmers markets, family farms, CSAs, and other sources of sustainably grown local food. The site has an online store and newsletter.
- www.realtimefarms.com – Founded by former Google employee, RealTimeFarms.com is a crowd-sourced nationwide food guide. Its four main search categories are: Food & Farms; Food Artisans; Farmers Markets; and Eateries. You can search broadly or be as specific as “organic rhubarb” for that pie you want to make.
We ended our session with brief questions and the below handout to take home. There are so many great tools for collecting information and data out there – but our main conclusion from preparing for and leading this workshop was that sometimes it is still best to pick up the phone and talk to your local farmers or food purveyors. These web tools are very helpful to find contact information and farm websites and we hope they continue to work to engage active communities supporting local and regional food systems.