Local Food in Charlottesville and Albemarle

This week, my family ate lettuce. And the little one liked it – because she helped to plant it, water it, grow it and pick it. This might not seem monumental, but growing something in my backyard has been a profound, humbling, frustrating and rewarding experience. This is a step towards educating my kids and myself about our food and our food system.

The more I delve into and learn about the food system, local food, where our food comes from, the more convinced I become that real estate – my chosen path – is a huge component to the food system. Real estate is about community, food, family … it’s local.

Update 7 May 2010 – I’m really happy now that we are growing our own lettuce:

RT @roanoketimes: Lettuce recalled in 23 states, including VA (Kroger “grab and go” salads affected) via AP: http://bit.ly/bPGza1 #Rkeless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

End Update

A couple of interesting stories this week, both from Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Albemarle loosens some key regulations :

A pair of zoning amendments adopted Wednesday by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will make it easier for farms and wineries to sell their products.

“The best way to preserve the rural character of Albemarle County is to make agriculture profitable,” said Matt Conrad of the Virginia Wine Council during a public hearing.

One of the amendments allows farmers to sell products at stands operated on land they do not own, something that had previously not been permitted.

The new language also allows farmers’ markets to be operated in more zoning districts throughout the county. Farms with their own stores can now be expanded to as much as 4,000 square feet, and owners are allowed to sell accessory products and non-local produce.

The other amendment gives wineries more opportunities to hold special events to attract customers. Previously, Albemarle restricted the amount of people allowed to attend events held at wineries to no more than 150 people, and restricted such events to no more than 12 a year.  

UVA Planning Students audit area food systems:

For each of the past five years, students in Tanya Denckla Cobb and Timothy Beatley’s class have examined different aspects of how this community obtains its food. This year the class analyzed the policies of Charlottesville and five surrounding counties to determine how they might be changed to promote the cultivation and distribution of local food.

“A resilient community is one that produces more food locally,” said Beatley. “We like to think that this is something that every community ought to be doing. Taking stock of how much we’re producing [and] how well we’re doing it.

Students in this planning course study everything involved in getting food from the farm to the dinner plate, according to Cobb. She said a community’s agriculture sector can grow if efforts are made to better plan how people eat. If major institutions can be encouraged to buy from local producers, the local economy can grow.

“We know that dollars spent in our community have a multiplier effect,” Cobb said.

“Children [in Nelson County] used to actually take two weeks off from school to harvest apples,” said student Sara Teaster. “The challenges of losing that food heritage is very difficult.”

Additionally, many of the groups said the Virginia Cooperative Extension should expand opportunities to assist local farmers connect with consumers. Convenience stores should be encouraged to carry fresh produce.

There are at least nine Farmers’ Markets in Charlottesville and Albemarle:

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