Contributed by Kate Wright
In Gallatin Valley, where growth threatens agricultural lands at an unprecedented pace, a growing network of businesses, non-profits and individuals have built the foundation of a local food system. Now Open & Local – an emergent, cross-sector coalition – is poised to support this work by taking the public’s understanding of food
systems and people’s engagement with the local food economy to the next level.
Open & Local’s development has paralleled AERO’s Montana Food Economy Initiative. In 2016, as AERO staff and board developed the MFEI concept, a handful of Gallatin Valley residents asked, “is it worth bringing together the different sectors whose work touches our local food system for a celebration?” Thus began grassroots exploration into what opportunities and needs existed, and what a coalition – people working together – could do to strengthen community food systems in the Gallatin Valley region. The original rallying cry: “Open Land Feeds Us, ‘Belly & Soul’!”
Now, snap forward to 2019: this emergent coalition is poised to launch. Open & Local’s steering committee has approved bylaws that carefully knit together over two years of feedback. Open & Local’s vision focuses on food access and security, as well as strengthening relationships across the community. In April, Open & Local’s steering committee will consider a strategic plan to carry forward priorities and begin expanding the coalition’s capacity to (a) advocate for effective policy and practices; (b) facilitate networking and opportunities for learning, socializing, discussion and action; and (c) educate through creative, strategic communications and outreach.
AERO values the thoughtful, open and inclusive approach Open & Local has taken, and looks forward to collaborating as opportunities arise.