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The Local Food Lab

Thanks to all engaged in the production of healthy food!


Local Food Lab An innovative way to catalyze your local community’s creativity, collaboration and connections for greater local food prosperity and abundance


The Local Food Lab

A Local Food Lab unites eaters, producers, processors, distributors, restaurants and markets in collaborative process to increase quality and quantity of local food available in their community.

Motivations participants bring to a Local Food Lab may vary – food security, food sovereignty, food justice, professional, community or business development, growing or cooking food, academics and more – but all participants understand that the outcomes will be open, shared knowledge, all seek to accelerate their work through collaboration and all have a passion for the goal of increasing the prosperity and abundance of their foodshed. Mapping one’s foodshed – the producers and distributors, the chefs, restaurants and markets, the organizations concerned with food, the barriers and opportunities – is a core action of a food lab. Finding, cooking and eating local food is also a core action. Reporting progress – obstacles surmounted, strategies that work and failures – is all part of the game. The process, event and goals feel both rigorous and nourishing.

The Local Food Lab is thus an event and a process. The event reveals and connects the food system elements. The process is embodied in the ingredients below – the preparation, event and follow up that are stepping-stones in the long path of community resilience. The larger purpose is to enable communities everywhere to take back the power we’ve given to the global food system to feed us because we want to be intimate with our sources of food and want local fresh, safe, healthy and affordable food for our community . Sinal do Vale hosted the first Local Food Lab with the intention of committing this 160 acre retreat center near Rio to the deep work of revitalizing their immediate food system and the broad work of developing models, trainings and conferences to support community leaders in mapping and energizing their food systems.

First Local Food Lab realized at SINAL do Vale - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil - 2013


The Local Food Lab

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Local Food Lab As the name lab implies, the Local Food Lab is designed as collaborative research into the web of relationships that brings food to our tables with an eye to exploring our personal food choices while exploring the linkages, gaps and opportunities in our hyper-local food system. The first Local Food Lab at Sinal near Rio served as a design charrette to discover the key ingredients for people who care about food,

place and community to creatively explore their sources of nourishment and the systems that feed them. We offer these as a beta design and invite others to use it as designed to help us refine the process, amplify the positive effects and develop a “Local Food Lab Game� others can play in their communities for lasting effects.


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The Local Food Lab

Preparation Your place:

A Food Lab is not abstract. It happens in a community (human and natural). The community could be a town, an island, a foodshed, a county, several communities linked by a body of water or a topography – to name just a few natural food communities.

The anchor institution:

A Food Lab catalyzes a process and needs an institution that will hold, deepen and amplify the learning and experimentation over time. Sinal’s commitment to being a hub for resilience and local food makes it an ideal anchor for the local food process. Sinal intends to develop food networks, discover and support the actors in the food web, train and inform leaders and at the same time develop the property to be a food forest and farm in the Atlantic Rainforest near Rio in Brazil. Many powerful conferences disappear once the last participant rolls their bag onto the plane. A Local Food Lab is designed to last – a daily process punctuated by generative gatherings.

Your team:

A Food Lab needs a small diverse team of people who each has a commitment to their place on earth. Ideally among them are the skills of participatory conference design, systems thinking, project management, research, documentation and leadership as well as a personal commitment to conscious eating, organic food and sustainability. They will be drawn to co-creating a Local Food Lab as an expression of their commitments to transitioning their community to a thriving and resilient future.

First Local Food Lab realized at SINAL do Vale - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil - 2013


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The Local Food Lab

The Planning The meals:

Serving a local food diet is core to a Local Food Lab. In this, the Sinal boys (strapping young men working there for a year) used Vicki Robin’s 10-mile diet on Whidbey Island, Washingtonas a template, adapted to the Atlantic rainforest and to being on the outskirts of Rio. They chose a 52-kilometer circle, the distance from Sinal to the center of Rio. They selected their 4 exotics – oil, salt, sugar and flour. Then they went on the treasure hunt for a complete diet and delicious menu, touring the largest produce market in Rio to find who grows what in their circle, hunting in the surroundings of Sinal for producers, going to Petropolis to an organic vegetable farm terraced on a hillside, getting food from other local communities and, of course, harvesting wild and cultivated fruits and vegetables from Sinal’s 160 acres. Through following leads, they even found a man who grows, roasts and grinds coffee. This local food hunt is essential for grasping the bounty and limits of one’s foodshed and also illusion of bounty the global systems gives us.

First Local Food Lab realized at SINAL do Vale - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil - 2013


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The Local Food Lab

The Planning The meals:

Learning to cook local foods is another essential ingredient – discovering tastes, combinations, flavoring… and the very hard work of cooking from scratch. This practice takes “local food” from complacency to competency. It takes it out of the realm of concept and occasional lifestyle choice if the price is right and the quality if perfect, and into the skills and satisfactions that come from committing to one’s place on earth. 10-miles and 52-kilometers are simply measures that made sense on Whidbey Island and in the outskirts of Rio. Each Local Food Lab will define its own territory based on their geography and community. The limit is a measure of relationship, not an arbitrary distance.

First Local Food Lab realized at SINAL do Vale - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil - 2013


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The Local Food Lab

The Planning The invitation: Identify the actors in your food system you want in the Lab. These may be roles or it may be specific individuals. Producers may be too busy to take a day away from their operation, though a few may see the benefit of collaboration and attend. It takes a community to feed a village. Anyone who cares about the wholesomeness of their food, about the affordability, abundance, safety and quality of their community’s food and sees “local food” as part of their work (educators, activist, government officials, procurement officers and more) can enhance the creativity of the lab. Here is our invitation: Everyone eats. Because of this, food is a uniting focus for sustainability. In Brazil food is now a constitutional right – but how that food gets to our tables is largely invisible to us and controlled by corporations. How can we-the-eaters participate in restoring our regional food systems in a way that builds community, prosperity and health? How can eating be an act of relationship? This is a task for all of us – eaters, farmers, distributors, cooks, markets, public officials, NGO’s, corporations, parents and educators. We are putting out a call to everyone who shares this vision of relational eating and restored regional food systems. Let us learn from one another and work together and be a community of system transformers. First Local Food Lab realized at SINAL do Vale - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil - 2013


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The Local Food Lab

The Planning

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First night: Introductions

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Day two: Frameworks of the State of the Food System and Open space

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Day three: Transformations and Tools for Change

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Your involvement with food and food systems, something about food in your childhood, what you hope to get out of the course.

How does the Industrial Food System work? What would a healthy food system be? What do we each know that can help all of us be food system transformers? Participant announce a session they would like to lead.

What do we know about “traditions and change� that can help in changing the food system? Where can we each start? What are the barriers and opportunities in our place? What do you want to change for greater local food security? What tools and innovations have proven effective for revitalizing regional food systems?

Day Four: Commitments Closing Circle: what we are taking away and what will change because of being with one another. How do we want to spread local food through Food Labs? Who would like to host another Food Lab in their place?

First Local Food Lab realized at SINAL do Vale - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil - 2013


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The Local Food Lab

The Planning Vision of the Local Food Lab Local food is the new rising food trend. People want whole, real, seasonal food as fresh from the farm as possible. We want to know our food is safe, free of toxic chemicals. We want to give our families the best nourishment possible. We also want our food to be good for the earth, restoring fertility to the soils, assuring purity for our waters and even reversing climate change. And we want our food to be good for our farmers, not just agribusiness. A century ago, most of our food was grown locally – that was normal. Half a century of industrial agriculture, though, has all but wiped out thriving local food systems around the world.

How can we reverse the trend in our own communities? We take back our power as eaters by recognizing that everyone has a role in reversing this loss of agricultural diversity and revitalizing the food systems of their region. We can choose what we eat, where we shop, how we cook, who we support with our dollars. We also learn to grow food, if only a few herbs, inform ourselves about how food gets from distant farms to our tables. We discover how the food system works, and how we can influence change at every juncture of that chain. We also want to create a learning network – to continue to share what we learn and to grow the network.

First Local Food Lab realized at SINAL do Vale - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil - 2013


The Local Food Lab

t n e Local Food Lab ev The agenda: A flexible agenda that allows for the meaning of “sinal” – synchronicity, innovations and alegria – is essential. The ingredients we found essential to the magic were:


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The Local Food Lab

The agenda Connecting and creating a Questions in the beginning: field of trust, curiosity and draw out the questions people have that the oracle of the food lab may learning: help to answer. These may reflect use preferred ways for participants participant’s hopes, stuck points, to meet one another both in their so- aspirations, despair, desire for rigor cial/economic roles and as individu- and more. als with life stories and dreams.

A framework:

offer a framework for a shared understanding of:

a) what a food system is, b) who the many food system actors are – from producers to middle people to agencies to eaters to the natural world, c) how mapping the natural, agricultural and human systems that bring us food reveals linkages, gaps and opportunities and d) case studies of community transformation through the lens of food.

First Local Food Lab realized at SINAL do Vale - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil - 2013


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The Local Food Lab

The agenda Drawing out the knowledge of the group through participant presentations

discovering the resourceful and creative projects group members are already developing and implementing.

Sense making

pauses for small and large group conversation to surface the inklings, inspirations and confusions people have to that point.

Co-coaching

in pairs, in small or large groups each participant has a chance to hone their ideas/projects/perspectives with both the witness and advice of others.

First Local Food Lab realized at SINAL do Vale - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil - 2013


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The Local Food Lab

The agenda Sharing resources

websites, projects, recipes via a Facebook page or a blog or a private listserve.

Fun and games

walks, naps, conversations, beer, improv games, videos, story-telling.

Eating local food

walks, naps, conversations, beer, improv games, videos, story-telling.

Final reflection and commitments

Review in whatever way suits the group what happened, what it meant to each and all and what each person in now inspired to do.

First Local Food Lab realized at SINAL do Vale - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil - 2013


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The Local Food Lab

The agenda

Note There are many forms of engagement for collaborative learning and action. Some known to organizers are the World CafĂŠ, the Conversation CafĂŠ, Circle practice, Open Space, Future Search, Appreciative Inquiry. Local Food Lab hosts will select the methods best suited to their community. There are also many many initiatives to encourage local food, sustainable food systems, policy development and activism. The Local Food Lab is a container to bring together eaters and food system amateurs and professionals into a safe collaborative learning process that can encourage cooperation, mutual support, synergies, and innovations.

First Local Food Lab realized at SINAL do Vale - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil - 2013


The Local Food Lab

After the Food Lab Pay it forward

A Food Lab is an iterative learning process that should deepen in the region as well as inspire other communities to do their own Local Food Labs. Gather the intelligence of the Lab – the insights, the local food treasure hunt/foods/ recipes, the photos, the innovations that enhanced the magic. Sinal has volunteered to integrate the learning into the basic Local Food Lab Innovation template and be responsible for developing the learning community.

Keep gathering and learning

Develop ways your community can celebrate, align, learn, inspire, and coach to keep increasing the abundance and prosperity of your region’s food system. A regularly scheduled gathering. Tours. A website (though many local producers may not even have internet!). A newsletter.

Host events

People will be curious. Host food events – local food hunts, cooking and eating – as a context for sharing what you learned and expanding the community.


The Local Food Lab

After the Food Lab Enrich your map

Keep identifying local food resources, put them “on the map”, make the map available to others. Some may want to form a food network that looks for gaps and opportunities and helps local people start and grow food businesses.

Finances

Money for land, seeds, tools, equipment is crucial; a team may form to identify or develop sources of funds.

Spread Food Labs

Some who have successfully hosted a Local Food Lab and helped it grow the abundance and prosperity of a local food system may want to help other Local Food Labs through Lab design, facilitation, training, and technology assistance. The spirit of the Local Food Lab is generosity and integrity: sharing what works while understanding we are collaboratively developing the most elegant, replicate-able form possible to catalyze connections and actions in other communities. It is love and it is science. Love in that it’s a game we can all play. Science in that it’s designing an engine of change that works.


The Local Food Lab

Final reflections

Local Food Labs are designed to help communities kick-start or continue their engagement with their local food system: to build capacity, increase productivity and connect eaters with their sources of nourishment - while increasing the vibrancy and fun of local culture and connections. Relational eating encompasses all of this, and restores our sense of place and our sense of belonging. It shifts our safety, security and sovereignty from reliance on money and global supply chains and lets us relax into a real

place and real people and a human and ecological community. A Local Food Lab doesn’t DO this. It catalyzes it, and once motivated the people continue as they choose. The necessity for relocalization as well as the appeal of relational eating will continue to motivate people and communities to use tools like the Local Food Lab to change together and with a sense of curiosity, adventure, innovation, synchronicity and fun.

First Local Food Lab realized at SINAL do Vale - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil - 2013


The Local Food Lab

Final reflections

We recognize that many communities are already catalyzing resilience through local food – Slow Food, Thriving and Resilient Food Collaboratory, regional Food Networks and Food Policy Councils, many farming and gardening organizations – and we welcome collaboration in a spirit They remain committed to refining of learning together and working tothe Local Food Lab ingredients to a wards a shared goal of sustainable lominimal set with maximal results, and cal food systems. request that others use this tool box of ingredients as presented (but with their own flair and local flavor) to test the power and simplicity of this form. The core team of Thais Corral at Sinal, Vicki Robin as author of Blessing the Hands that Feed Us (Viking 2014) and Zaida Amaral of Transition Towns designed and conducted the first Local Food Lab in a spirit of love, adventure and commitment.

First Local Food Lab realized at SINAL do Vale - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil - 2013


Local Food Lab THANKS TO: Core team: Thais Corral, Vicki Robin, Zaida Amaral Participants:

Alba Corral, Andre Melman, Claudison Rodrigues, Gabriela Monteiro, Leonora Zoninsein, Renato Waru, Sara Worl, Neuza de Faria Arboz ( Saphire), Gabriele Valente, Maria Rita Villela , Ryan Vasseur, Fernando Calello, Zach Watson, Mike o’Sullivan Graphic Design by waru.com.br


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