Minneapolis is looking to build on its large network of farmers markets with a new organization that aims to improve the local food industry.
Starting Monday, Minneapolis is looking for applicants to serve on the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council. The council will develop policies and advise city officials on ways to create a healthier, more sustainable and local food industry in the city.
The city is looking for 14 residents who have experience working in the Minneapolis food system or people who have a strong interest in making the food system more healthy, sustainable and local. Applications are open Monday through Oct. 21 and can be found on the city website.
Ken Meter, president of the Crossroads Resource Center — a nonprofit organization that studies local economies — said that the initiative is one of the most aggressive efforts from any city in the U.S. to make the food industry more sustainable.
“Minneapolis has a 40-year history of people addressing local food and that foundation is much more important than the initiative, but it’s really true that the initiative helps make that [movement] more visible and helps focus the city political leadership attention on this amazing movement we have with people wanting more locally sourced food,” Meter said.
Although the local food industry makes up a small portion of the Twin Cities’ total food market, it has been growing at an “incredible rate,” Meter said.
City Councilman Cam Gordon would like to see the new food council promote even more growth. He was a big proponent of the new council, which was passed by the City Council Sept. 2.
“I want to see it build on the momentum we already have for the Homegrown Minneapolis initiative,” Gordon said.
Gordon compared it to the city’s recent creation of better bicycle infrastructure.
“Just like with biking, [the city council is] constantly playing catch-up with what people want,” Gordon said. “There’s a whole group of [supporters] out there who really want to see us on the cutting edge, and I think the food council can show us how we can play more of a role and make that happen or just get out of the way,” Gordon said.
The city has already implemented several policies to improve the local food industry, like updating zoning codes to allow citizens more opportunities to grow and sell their own food in the city, and has conducted studies looking at ways it can expand and promote sustainability within the industry.
June Mathiowetz, a member of the initiative’s implementation task force, said that the city performed a land assessment to find where land can be used for agriculture.
While certain products will undoubtedly have to come from outside of the state, Mathiowetz said that Minnesota can produce more food locally and be much more sustainable.
“As long as we can continue doing good development practices where we’re not paving over everything and we’re reducing building footprints, the report is suggesting that we have all that we need here,” Mathiowetz said.
She added that having a strong local food economy will have a large impact on the city’s overall sustainability by reducing pollution and petroleum usage which would normally be used for transporting and processing food.
Bud Markhart, a professor of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota, said he believes the food council will definitely help promote the local food industry.
“Anybody that grows their own food acquires a taste for quality food, they know what something fresh and grown locally tastes like, and if they can’t grow it themselves they’re more likely to support people that do,” Markhart said.