Local Food, Whidbey-Style, and the Clinton Community Food Lab

Posted in Culinary, More Stories

BY VICKI ROBIN
April 28, 2014

Are “foodies” just culinary artists? Or are we all foodies because we all eat, most of us cook and everyone these days thinks hard about food, diet, health, GMOs, the ills of industrial farming and even food security?

And we all love living here on Whidbey for the natural beauty… oh, except for that trip up the hill from the ferry, which is ever more sad-looking with businesses closed. It’s almost like a bit of Highway 99 escaped and came over to the island.

Put food and Clinton together and what do you see? Not much. Cozy’s. The Food Mart. But now—thanks to CLEO (Clinton Local Eats Opportunity), Clinton Progressive Association and the Clinton Chamber/Clinton Thursday Market—food might be an engine of revitalization for our gateway to Whidbey Island.

That’s what the Clinton Community Food Lab—on Monday evening, May 5 and all day Tuesday, May 6— is all about. And the buzz has started. (Sessions are from from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday evening  and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday.) Everyone who cares about food on Whidbey, whether you live in Clinton or not, is welcome: farmers, chefs, non-profit leaders, educators, processors, distributors, policy makers and concerned eaters.

Together we will explore how food might be an engine of prosperity for Clinton, and discover how each of us can participate. We will also have a few special guests from off-island and local author Vicki Robin will be the keynote speaker.

What is a Food Lab?
A Community Food Lab is a structured sequence of group conversations and exercises that creates a current map of local strengths, gaps and opportunities in our local food system.

Monday evening we’ll hear from local leaders about what’s happening; we’ll map the food resources we have and dream together about what could be. Pre-registration is not required and admission is free, with donations welcome. (Feel free to bring a dessert to share).

Tuesday will be a fast-paced, facilitated workshop with the intention of seeing the gaps in our food system as opportunities for new businesses and projects and then helping people and groups with budding ideas to concretize their projects and identify next steps.

Registration is required for Tuesday, as space is limited. RSVP to info@clintonthursdaymarket.com.

Together, we will explore:
• what’s working,
• what’s missing,
• what’s ultimately possible,
• what’s currently feasible and
• what’s next—for farmers and processors, other businesses, alliances, service organizations, funding sources, policy makers…and the all-important consumers.

Your ideas, experience and love for our Whidbey Community will make a real difference. It’s time for us to stop depending on food from afar for over 90% of our diet; it’s time for us to reclaim our local food system—once vibrant and vibrant again in the future.

Why in Clinton, why now?
We learned a great deal about our community at the Clinton Future Search Conference in January 2012. And we have made great strides since then:
• The Clinton Thursday Market is preparing for its third season at its new location at the Clinton Community Hall,
• The Clinton Community Council is actively working with the County and State on many issues of concern to us (e.g., clearing brush and trenching on the walkway up from the ferry)
• And we are in the process of building new websites for the Market, the Council and the Progressive Association.

Now it’s time to focus the question and see if food can be one of the keys to building a thriving Clinton.

Continuing to foster Economic Development
It’s easy these days, with more shuttered businesses, to think of Clinton as a dying town, cut in two by a river of cars heading up island. An alternative is to see those empty storefronts as a canvas on which we’ll paint a new picture. As we all approach this process with an attitude of discovery, putting aside our negative assumptions, more opportunities and ideas are revealed.

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