In Case You Missed It- TN Local Food Summit 2017 Recap

Written By: Jeff Poppen
Photos by: Sherman Thomas – See more at The Lost Art of Farming

Nashville’s local food movement celebrated it’s 7th annual Summit December 1, 2 & 3 at Montgomery Bell Academy. Chris, a MBA science teacher, had been to the previous 6 events and thought it would be great to bring the learning and excitement back there. The first three sessions were geared for the students. 

Tradd Cotter explained how fungi eat up environmental problems like oil spills, chemical pollution and garbage. Virginia Harper gave a talk on health and wellness and Hal Holden-Bache related the steps it took to develop his popular restaurant, Lockeland Table. A lively social hour was followed by a delicious gourmet meal and a talk on community food security by representatives from the Nashville Food Project and Vanderbilt University. 

Saturday morning found the massive dining hall, modeled after Harry Potter’s “Hogwarts”, bustling with the energy of three dozen vendors setting up tables. From farms, foundations and food coops, to solar energy garden suppliers and slow food, there was a colorful, informative trade show all weekend. A few hundred attendees finished a hearty breakfast in time to hear about Metro Nashville’s food systems assessment, which pointed out that over 6 billion dollars spent on food leaves our area annually. 

We then broke out into one of 5 smaller sessions, one of which focused on how we can get some of that money to stay and support middle Tennessee farms. Other discussions revolved around mushroom culture, fermenting vegetables and permaculture. Tandy Wilson led a chef demonstrations, and the Gibbs Kitchen continued all day with Julia Sullivan, Eric Zizka and Tony Galzin. 

The second session featured the Baylor School garden in Chattanooga, food as medicine, farmland access and farming cattle to help sequester carbon. A long lunch break gave everyone a chance to mingle and network, which is at the heart of this community. The fabulous luncheon prompted the comment that the meals alone were worth the ticket price. 


The afternoon sessions began with an interesting comparison of the effects of conventional versus organic foods on our health, organic grain production, community gardening and raising food with hand tools. The next workshops were on using bees other than honey bees for pollination, mowing with sheep rather than a machine, transitioning organic farms to future generations, and a discussion on how we can collaborate better for a community based food system. 


As you can see, we not only learned gardening and farming techniques, but looked into the way bigger issues facing our efforts to secure fresh food for everyone in our community. As consumers demand better quality food, local farm economics are revitalized, land is conserved for agriculture and they are rewarded with better health. A local food distributor, Nashville Grown, treated us to an evening social with much more lively discussion. 


Our deepest appreciation goes out to Montgomery Bell Academy and their gracious staff for hosting us. Chefs William, Paul and Steve compiled the great meals, all from local foods, with the help of Margot, Jeremy and many others. We couldn’t do this without the help of our many sponsors and the dedicated volunteers. The commitment of our community to eating locally and healthily will bring about huge economic changes in the way farming is practiced in the future. Middle Tennessee farmland once fed Nashville, and it will again. 

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