If you are not aware of NWEI’s mission, it is Inspiring people to take responsibility for Earth. As a staff, we all try to keep this simple yet powerful goal in mind in our work, as we continually try to spread the message by starting more discussion courses.  

However, we hope that our efforts do not stop with only inspiration; the end which our discussion courses are the means for, is taking action on that responsibility–not just talking about it.  Last weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing this action in action.  Judy Alexander is a long-time NWEI volunteer in Port Townsend, Washington, and leads the NWEI Steering Committee there. Last fall, Judy was at a meeting of farmers at their local grange, and heard a message of “we need more local customers to support our small-scale organic farms if we are going to stay in business”.  This was the impetus for what has amounted to twenty NWEI Menu for the Future discussion groups forming over the last few months.

Judy knew that in order to get more residents to buy their food from local organic farms, people would need to be educated and inspired as to why they should do so.  And she knew that Menu for the Future would be an excellent and effective way to do so.  This was the beginning of an impressive, multi-step sustainable food system awareness effort.  The NWEI steering committee partnered with other local organizations to table outside of local Food Inc. showings, inviting viewers to attend a presentation on Menu for the Future, where attendees were encouraged to organize a discussion group.  As a way to strengthen relationships with local farmers and add a first-hand perspective, local farmers joined each discussion group, and the local Farmer’s Market association even donated course books for the farmers to use.  

Last Saturday was the Celebration event for participants from all twenty groups.  Crystie Kisler, co-owner and one of the farmer-participants, hosted the event at Finnriver Farm, an amazing organic farm in Chimacum.  Eighty course participants gathered together to partake in a local-foods potluck–highlighted by 100% local pizza (except for the yeast) made onsite in a cob oven–and enjoy tours of the farm.  However, the most incredible and inspiring part of the afternoon was when Judy invited everyone onto the hay bale “stump” to share the food-related projects they were working on.  These are just a few of the inspiring efforts:

  • Volunteering with a local Gleaners group, which delivers unharvested food from farms to food banks, which would otherwise be wasted
  • Working to get fresh farm food into local school lunchrooms
  • Providing education at the food bank, so that recipients will know how to prepare the food they receive, and how to start their own backyard gardens
  • Starting school gardens
  • Teaching canning, cheese-making, and other food preservation techniques

These are just a few of the actions that are partially a result of the Menu for the Future courses infiltrating Port Townsend and the rest of Jefferson County. Based on all of the projects I heard about on Saturday, Jefferson County is clearly on its way to realizing a sustainable food system.  And this is in part due to the heroic efforts Judy Alexander has put in to make this vision a reality. What are some of the actions that have happened as a result of your participation in Menu for the Future?  Write a comment below and share what you are doing to contribute to your local food system.  And thank you to Judy for your tireless work and support of NWEI.  You truly are a force to be reckoned with, and Jefferson County is lucky to have your shovel in the dirt.