Written by Dr. John Brett–
With generous support from The Colorado Trust, University of Colorado Denver’s Food Systems Research Group and the Mile High Business Alliance have made major strides toward developing the Colorado Food Guild. After 5 months of intensive planning by the Convening Council, we held the Colorado Food Guild Think Tank where we tackled 5 important themes that impact the local food economy (https://sustainableagdenver.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/envisioning-the-colorado-food-guild/). With nearly 120 people from all the major stakeholder groups in attendance, we engaged in a number of semi-structured, facilitated conversations to identify central problem areas within the focal areas, define possible solutions (next steps), who needs to be at the table for these discussions and what resources will be necessary.
The five topic areas on which the Think Tank focused included:
1. Barriers to Local Food Access
In this first of two linked session we will identify the key barriers to improving access to local food. Through the course of this facilitated discussion we will identify key individuals, organizations and government entities that need to be involved in enhancing access. We will seek to identify concrete next steps on those topics deemed most important by the group.
2. Making Local Food Affordable
This is the second of two linked sessions in that affordability is generally considered the largest barrier to accessing local food. We will seek to identify the specific factors that impact affordability and work to identify concrete “actionable” next steps to tackle the affordability question. The outcome will be a short document outlining key people, partnerships, government agencies, and community based organizations best able to come together to tackle this. Additionally, we will begin the process of outlining a process for future work and collaborations.
3. Realizing the Economic Benefits of a Local Food System
One of the central dilemmas in creating a local food system is articulating and understanding the economic benefits. In this session, we will briefly review key existing knowledge on the economic benefits of local food followed by a facilitated discussion to identify the specific next steps and key participants to realize those benefits. We will use Denver as a case example with the expectation that the process will be applicable to other locals and regions.
4. How Can We Significantly Increase Local Food Production?
There is an abundance of barriers to local food production but also a host of opportunities. In this session, we will identify the key barriers and the specific steps and participants necessary to turn them into opportunities. We will create a prioritized list of next steps and the actions and people, organizations, and agencies that need to be involved.
5. Resource Implications: Reclaimed Water for Crops
One of the largest single ongoing costs for agriculture in the arid west is water–a limited and valuable resource. With Colorado’s population estimated to double by 2050, it is essential we learn how to make the most of this finite resource. In this session you will learn about the exciting potential to use reclaimed water for edible crops in Colorado as well as understand how reclaimed water is currently being used throughout the world as well as parts of the United States. Additionally, we will examine the potential short- and long-term impacts of reclaimed water for Colorado agriculture.
Results from these discussions will be posted on the Wiki section of the Colorado Food Guild website (www.coloradofoodguild.org)
The Convening Council continues to meet to define processes and activities arising from these discussions.