The first Growing Health event was held in 2006 and since then has been held every two years. While the question “What do farms, food and health have in common?” was somewhat novel at that time, a community of practice has been evolving to consider how these relationships can be strengthened to help realize a triple bottom line of economic (viable farms and rural economies, living wages for farm & food system workers), environmental (sustainable & regenerative agricultural and food system practices), and social (health, community, etc.) benefits.
The interdisciplinary nature of this work is exciting, interesting and challenging. Food security and food justice advocates have much to contribute in ensuring that “good food” is accessible to all, and that farm and food workers earn living wages. The prevention side of public health practice has moved from focusing exclusively on nutrition education to facilitating systems, policy and environmental changes that support a healthy, accessible food system, the cornerstone of good nutrition. Farm to School and Farm to Institution initiatives are sourcing more food locally to improve the freshness and quality of food served to children, seniors, students and those recovering in hospitals. Health care and health insurance providers have joined with public health practitioners to support this work as an important component of obesity and chronic disease prevention. Farmers and those involved with rural and agricultural economic
development are engaged in strategic production changes and expanding value added food processing and production to meet increased demand for healthy, more locally produced food products. “Value chains,” aggregation and distribution systems, are emerging that make it easier for all customer types to access healthy, more locally- produced foods. Across New York State and the United States, this movement is resulting in increasing numbers of food policy, planning and practice councils and collaborations. And finally, organizations like Vermont FEED and Seeds of Solidarity are teaching real food education to the next generation.