Growing community comes together at first food summit

West Michigan Growing Connections Food Summit
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West Michigan Growing Connections Food Summit
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Former Grand Valley professor Bill Bobier taught an organic gardening course and began a community garden project at Grand Valley in 1975. Bobier, now senior policy analyst for the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, spoke at Grand Valley’s first food summit May 7.

“Today, growing good, sustainable food is a permanent part of our culture,” Bobier said to a group of about 90 community gardeners, educators, local farmers and students at the West Michigan Growing Connections Food Summit in the Eberhard Center.

The half-day summit also featured presentations by Rachelle Boswick, head farmer of EarthKeeper Farm and founder of the West Michigan Growers Association; Anne Scott, specialist for the Center for Regional Food Systems at Michigan State; and Levi Gardner, manager of the Sustainable Agriculture Project at Grand Valley.

Boswick distributes produce grown on her certified-organic farm located in Kent City to local restaurants, grocery stores and farmers’ markets. “We’re a resource for others in our community,” she said, and noted that as a farmer, it’s important to build community and teach others.

Gardner said Michigan has the second most diverse ecological system in the country behind California. “At Grand Valley, we’re seeing more and more students wanting to become engaged with food systems, sustainable agriculture and their community,” he said.

Attendees discussed ideas and made connections with others in working group sessions that included topics such as education, food access, agriculture and business, and food systems and tourism. The event concluded with a locally sourced dinner.

The summit was organized by the Sustainable Community Development Initiative and sponsored by Grand Valley’s student Farm Club, Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Community and Public Service, Sustainable Community Development Initiative, Business Ethics Center, Frederik Meijer Honors College, Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence, Environmental Studies and the Office for Community Engagement.