Grist on the resurgence of local food in the South

In December, I posted about New York Times coverage of the desire of Southern farmers “to reclaim the agrarian roots of Southern cooking, restore its lost traditions and dignity.”

An interesting discussion of similar issues from this week: Blame it all on my roots: Local food sees a resurgence in the South.

From the piece, referring to the Alabama All-Star Food Festival:

Just 10 years ago it would have been impossible to draw 500 participants and over 30 food vendors and producers to an event focused on local, sustainable food. And the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network (ASAN) has a lot to do with the grassroots movement behind the change. For a decade the nonprofit has been gathering small-scale farmers and ranchers throughout the state in an effort to organize, educate, and network producers and consumers.

“Most of us are contrary farmers. We like to work independently,” says Tom Simpson, executive director of ASAN. “So asking them to participate in an association is difficult. We recognize that and we don’t want to be making edicts to farmers out of Montgomery.”

ASAN has created a food guide (soon to be available online) to connect people to healthy food in the Huntsville, Birmingham, and Mobile areas. They’ve also recently turned their efforts toward policy in the state capital of Montgomery.

“We’re trying to pass a bill that offers restaurants a 4 percent sales tax rebate when they buy food locally,” says Simpson. “We’d like Alabama to follow North Carolina and incentivize state institutions to buy 10 percent of their produce from state farmers.”

For those interested in the spread of local food, slow food, and other movements, the piece is well worth a read, especially for the discussion of public policy and economic benefits.