By Laini Abraham
On Tuesday night I attended the annual meeting of the Sustainable Business Network of the Lehigh Valley. The theme was “Going Local: A Toolbox for Benefiting a Local Economy” and it featured a panel discussion featuring Kim Kmetz, manager of the Easton Main Street Initiative; Lou Cinquino, SUN*LV (Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley; and John Pettegrew, Lehigh University professor and Co-Director of the South Side Initiative. In attendance were over 20 local business owners and the conversation was as progressive as many of the members, who included Lux – the Eco-Friendly Salon, Cosmic Cup Coffee Co., Shuze, and UnderWired Boutique.
While some of the discussion centered around how to promote the unique shopping and dining experience of an actual town vs. the more synthetic, homogenized one of Anywhere Suburbia/Big Box Store, USA, a large part of the discussion was about food. Yes, food. And not just what we eat, but how and where it’s grown. For anyone who has not seen Food, Inc. (and this I recommend highly, because if you aren’t already thinking about where your food comes from, you will be after you watch this Academy Award-nominated documentary. You can view it on Netflix, or watch the trailer at www.foodincmovie.com). The discussion enlightened me about some things I didn’t know were happening… or should I say, growing, right here in the Valley.
As a result of the Slow/Local Food movements, people are starting to really care about where their food comes from and are shopping for it accordingly. Farmers’ markets like the Easton Farmers’ Market are experiencing exponential growth every season, seeing as many as 3,000 visitors a week! There are also gardens which are being planted throughout our communities, in neighborhoods, in parks, on top of school buildings (!), and through our colleges. These things have the potential to not only change the way our bodies look, feel and function; they can also transform our neighborhoods and eventually our local economy. This is really exciting stuff!
I’m so excited about it, I called one of my favorite writing/photography teams… Michelle Pittman and Michael Buck. Michelle and Michael will be contributing a regular feature to this site about all things local food. (Michelle was the editor of laini’s little pocket guide to Bethlehem. I’m so happy to be working with her again!) As the publishers of the “real life cooking” blog, Feaston, Michelle and Michael are the perfect people to share with us their food-gathering adventures and to educate us all about what our local farms are growing! So stay tuned. The Farmers’ Markets will be opening soon!
In them mean time, if you’d like to read more about some local farms, check out the “How to be a Locavore”.