On Wednesday, I spent a bit of time observing Tom Perriello as he demonstrated his interest in the topic of local food. To do so, he 1) observed rye and vetch growing outside Friendship Court, 2) earned a wooden nickel, and 3) participated in moving worms from a bin to a compost pile. Politics is so bizarre, no?
Photo by Ashley Twiggs
It was all part of a visit by the congressman to the Urban Farm. Farmer Todd Niemeier (background, green jacket), some cute local kids, and a few folks from the Quality Community Council gave Perriello the tour, from fields to compost. There’s a lot to be proud of over there, from the new rainwater harvesting system to the weekly distribution of fresh produce from the gardens to those residents who have volunteered with gardening. You get one wooden token, redeemable for food, for every 15 minutes of volunteering you do.
For his own quarter-hour, Perriello was tasked with moving red wiggler worms into the big compost pile on which he stands above, so they can help break down all the decaying stuff into compost. He certainly proved his lack of squeamishness, shunning an offer of gloves.
After that it was off to the CCDC for a somewhat more serious affair: a local food roundtable with all the heavyweights of the locavore movement: VICFA, the Local Food Hub people, the Farm Bureau, the PEC, Tanya Denckla Cobb from UVA, a bunch of farmers, the guy behind Meet The Farmer TV, Flavor magazine…only person missing was Michael Pollan.
Perriello framed the event as a chance for himself to learn from everyone else. What are the barriers to creating a local food system? What needs to be done? He got an earful of answers. "Our federal government subsidizes processed food. This is something you need to address," said Kathryn Russell of Majesty Farm. Another farmer pointed out that if farms don’t survive, the land will be used for housing developments. Kate Collier plugged the Local Food Hub project. Deborah Stockton of VICFA placed the onus for farmers’ struggles squarely on excess regulation.
Perriello seemed to earn huge points when he said this: "If I buy meat at the grocery store, and I don’t know where it came from, I want to know that it was inspected somewhere along the way. If I buy it from a farm or at the farmer’s market, I know where to go if there’s a problem." Basically, he gets what VICFA and others are saying. And holding this event at all is significant. Our guy believes in local food! How ’bout that!
We’ll see what he’s able to get done. Let’s keep Goode out of his way for at least another two years.