Nine years have passed since former Governor Brian Schweitzer convened his Governor’s Food and Ag Summit. At that time, one major topic was how more of the food grown and raised in Montana could be used in the state to benefit our communities. An incredible amount of work has happened on that front since Governor Schweitzer’s event. There is, however, plenty of work that still needs to be done.
Montanans caring about these issues will have another chance to come together, share information, and strategize about the next 10 years of local food systems work in the state. The Grow Montana Food Policy Coalition is working with other partners to plan the 2016 Governor’s Food and Agriculture Summit, which will be held October 28-29 in Bozeman.
The idea for the summit started at a June 2015 meeting of Grow Montana’s steering committee. Committee members talked about how numerous individuals and organizations had shown interest in convening another food and agriculture summit; however, attempts to pull an event together had petered out. Grow Montana decided to make sure another summit happened in 2016.
Since that meeting last June, Grow Montana has partnered with others groups, including the Montana Governor’s Office, Montana Department of Agriculture, and Montana State University, to form the summit’s planning committee. The summit is structured around topical tracks. Attendees will be asked to pick a track and stay with it for a good part of the summit, so they can take an in-depth look at the topics, identify challenges that exist, and brainstorm ways to address them. The tracks will be a mixture of panel presentations, small group discussions, and attendees prioritizing next steps. All of the tracks will report out their top recommendations at the summit’s conclusion.
The current tracks are:
- Challenges of Food and Agriculture Manufacturing, Processing, and Local Distribution
- Farm to Folk: Positive Economic and Health Benefits of Communities Becoming Markets for Local Food
- Who Is Your Farmer? Demographic Shifts Creating a New Generation of Farmers
- Resilience in Agriculture: Diversifying, Adapting and Planning for a Changing Environment
- Montana and Beyond: Marketing Montana Food and Agriculture to the World
Fred Kirschenmann, a Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, and economist Michael Shuman will provide keynote presentations during the two-day event. More information about the summit, including how to register, will be posted in the coming weeks at https://foodsummit.ncat.org/.