Heroes are people who improve the quality of life for all
by Burr Williams
Published: Friday, March 26, 2010 8:12 PM CDT
One person CAN make a difference. Matt Hanson started the Downtown Midland Farmers Market a couple years ago.
Such an endeavor adds to the quality of life for Midlanders. During the growing season, between 200 and 300
people come by on each of the every-Saturday events. Matt also has arranged to use the yard behind the yellow
house at the Scarborough-Lineberry Historical House as a community garden (which will have spaces available by
the end of May for vegetable gardening enthusiasts to have their own plot.) Now, in conjunction with Oglalla
Commons, a community-building non-profit agency based out of Nazareth, Matt is the driving force behind the
"Local Foods Conference" next Monday and Tuesday.
On the evening of Monday the 29th, at the Sibley Nature Center, a get-to-know everybody "soiree" will begin at
7 p.m. The cost is $10. The conference the next day will be at the Atmos building just west of the Midland
International Airport. The cost is $35. To register and pay online, go to www.ogallalacommons.org, click on
"Events," then click Rebuilding Locals Food Systems.
Among the local folks present will be Dave and Marta Beard, beekeepers, and Bunny Leavitt, bread maker and
flour miller. Susan Leibrock, the Community Relations director of the Sustainable Food Center in Austin and a
Midland native, is the featured speaker at the soiree. Upon graduating from the University of Texas at Austin
with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, Leibrock lived in New York City for seven years, working in both
the restaurant industry and for five years at the flagship office of J. Walter Thompson (JWT), the global
advertising agency. She realized as she researched supermarket industry trends that she wanted to help solve
the issues surrounding food marketing in the U.S. Leibrock attended the French Culinary Institute and read
many books on local food systems and sustainable agriculture before returning to Austin in summer '07 and was
hired at the Sustainable Food Center.
The Farmers Market gives local growers direct access to urban residents in demand of freshly harvested
produce. In the future, with programs such as farm-to-cafeteria, farm-to-school and farm-to-work, local
farmers can connect with hospitals, universities, schools, and worksites to provide fresh produce and
strengthen the local economy. A Farmer's Market affects positive change by involving farmers and consumers in
a broad effort to promote reliable and nourishing local food sources while helping to sustain our environment.
The market increases weekend traffic to the downtown area and builds a sense of community.
Author Wendell Berry is one of the "grandfathers" of the "Local Foods movement." He neatly summarizes why it
is important: "Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting. Most 'eaters' in
America, however, are no longer aware that this is true. They do not think of themselves as participants in
agriculture. They think of themselves as 'consumers.' They buy what they want -- or what they have been
persuaded to want -- within the limits of what they can get. They pay, mostly without protest, what they are
charged. And they mostly ignore certain critical questions about the quality and the cost of what they are
sold: How fresh is it? How pure or clean is it, how free of dangerous chemicals? How far was it transported,
and what did transportation add to the cost? How much did manufacturing or packaging or advertising add to the
cost? When the food product has been manufactured or 'processed' or 'precooked' how has that affected its
quality or price or nutritional value? In the food industry -- as in any other industry -- the overriding
concerns are not quality and health, but volume and price. For decades now the entire industrial food economy,
from the large farms and feedlots to the chains of supermarkets and fast-food restaurants has been obsessed
with volume. It has relentlessly increased scale in order to increase volume in order (probably) to reduce
costs. But as scale increases, diversity declines; as diversity declines, so does health; as health declines,
the dependence on drugs and chemicals necessarily increases."
Folks who contribute to the "quality of life" of their town are heroes of mine. Their importance far exceeds
that of any Hollywood star, rock star or pro sports figure. Come to the soiree and seminar and become involved
in improving the quality of life in Midland.
Read more: http://www.mywesttexas.com/articles/2010/03/27/news/opinion/columns/burr_williams/burr_williams.