The wide world of local and healthy food is coming together at the community level in many ways. A new guidebook explains how some towns are developing whole business districts around the synergy of community gardens, farmers markets, farm-to-table eateries, cottage food businesses and more.
“Food Innovation Districts: An Economic Gardening Tool” provides planning tools, economic development guidance, and examples from the field. The National Association of Development Organizations recently gave it a 2013 Innovation Award.
Regional Food Solutions LLC partnered on the project with Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Solutions and the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments with support from USDA Rural Development.
Food innovation districts feature warehousing and distribution activities, farmers’ markets, urban agriculture, and community kitchens. They can help communities create jobs, support businesses, grow their local and regional food systems, and build their sense of place. The guidebook is a package of “how-to” information and examples that can help local governments and other stakeholders engage in and benefit from the growing market for local and regional food.
Food = jobs. Local food is a major and durable trend that is now opening employment and business opportunities from agricultural production through processing and distribution to retail outlets and waste recovery/composting.
Food = health. Expanding healthy food access and awareness is a leading strategy across the nation for reducing the critically high personal, community, and economic costs of diet-related chronic diseases.
Food = place. Food and farming are essential components of building a sense of place, a key ingredient for community success in the 21st century economy in which people and businesses put quality of life first.
Food innovation districts are much like well-known business acceleration zones for high-tech companies. They build on business synergies that occur when related enterprises locate in close proximity; share resources, information, and ideas; and grow investment and jobs with business development support.
Learn more about the project and download a PDF copy here: http://www.nwm.org/planning/planning-policy/food-systems-and-food-innovation-districts/
Check out the Michigan Planner article covering the highlights: http://www.planningmi.org/downloads/michigan_planner_magazine_june_2013.pdf
Finally, here’s a sampling of district activities and attributes
Producer-oriented elements: • Production, gardening • Retail and farmers markets • Washing, grading, sorting • Packaging and promotion • Wholesale commerce • Loading docks and truck access • Post-harvest storage, processing • Business incubation facilities, service
Community-oriented elements: • Restaurants and eateries • Community ovens, kitchens • Education and nutrition outreach • Social services • Open space, gardens • Harvest gleaning, food pantries
Place-oriented elements: • Festivals, fairs and events • Sidewalks and bike lanes • Benches and bike racks • Plazas and public art• Pedestrian scale entryways.