Looking Back for Our Future at the 8th Annual Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference
On October 25-26, the 8th Annual Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference is taking place on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. This announcement is a celebration of the fact that Indigenous History Month collides with Ontario’s Local Food Week, from June 4-10.
A unique partnership between the Aboriginal Labour Force Development Circle and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has brought this celebration of local food to the Territory. The conference will take place at the Mohawk Community Centre on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.
The theme of this year’s conference, Looking Back for our Future, hints that the conference will chart a path to the future of local food by looking to the past.
“Local Food Week in Ontario has always shone a light on the incredible food produced in the province. In October we will be taking a rare opportunity to look at sovereignty, sustainability and food, hearing important messages that our Indigenous neighbours have to share. These lessons from the past and today will help us to build a stronger local food system for the future.” Glenda `Sam` Maracle, Aboriginal Labour Force Development Circle
In keeping with this theme, the agenda will focus on the importance of applying historical traditions and insights to growing our local food system for the future. The Conference will explore how we can create and build authenticity in our local food systems, as well as how we can assess and develop new and emerging opportunities, being mindful of retaining those powerful and informative connections to our past. As always, the topics presented will provide participants with best practices, tools, resources and networking opportunities.
The keynote speaker for the Conference will deliver a powerful message. Tom Porter is best described as a keeper of oral traditions, a storyteller whose words are at times funny , at other times deeply philosophical, and at all times filled with messages that we human beings need to hear.
“With the Mohawk people, wisdom is how you live and how you interpret what your mother and father, what your grandmothers and grandfathers have told you about this world – and then how you interpret that into the fact of living every day.” Tom Porter, Mohawk
Few people are as respected as Tom is by the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee—or Native American and other indigenous people in general throughout the world. It is no wonder that his Mohawk name Sakokwenionkwas means “The One Who Wins.” A director and a teacher at the Akwesasne Freedom School, he held the title of chief for 21 years among his Akwesasne people before moving to the Mohawk Community of Kanatsioharkeke, that he established in 1993 on 332 riverfront acres near Fonda, New York. Even before his adult years, it has been said, people would come to listen to this boy who spoke like an elder.
Tom will share his voice and his wisdom as to why it is so important to look to the ways and teachings of our past in order to guide us in to the future. Food is a common element amongst all peoples. The linkages between healthy food and healthy communities can’t be denied. In order for us to truly be sovereign, and to maintain healthy communities, we must find ways to successfully grow and sustain our local food systems in ways that resonate for all people.
This year’s Conference will take place over two days, with a new format that reflects the host community and unique theme of the conference. The first day includes sessions that are focused on building our understanding of the links to our past, identifying what our local food menu looks like, identifying and participating in demonstrations of the traditional Haudenosaunee food system, and how these principles might apply to identifying and assessing emerging opportunities. As always, discussions of business opportunity and innovation will be a part of the program.
The first day of the conference will also showcase sponsors and supporters of the Eastern Ontario Local Food Conference, and will include service providers, government and indigenous business supporters.
Day Two of the conference features a very practical workshop to support food entrepreneurs as they sell their food products from farm gate to retail shelves. The workshop will answer the questions, as a producer, what do I need to know about selling my product through the different marketing channels? How do I price my product so that I can make a profit? And how do I enter the retail selling market? In these sessions participants will hear from several experts and entrepreneurs will share their success stories, including practical tips from a buyer of local product for a national grocery store chain.
Rounding out Day two, Joe Pitawanakwat from Creator’s Garden will lead participants in a traditional medicine gathering. Joe’s work is focused, first and foremost, on teaching the legitimacy of plant based medicine. He teaches people the intricacies of how to sustainably harvest and use every part of the beautiful plants found in nature.
The conference & trade show attract over 200 participants representing various sectors of Eastern Ontario’s local food economy. Growers, processors, retailers and consumers, as well as organizations and initiatives supporting local food, will all be there. For event and registration information, www.eastontlocalfood.com. Follow us on Twitter @EOLocalFood and FB at www.facebook.com/EastOntLocalFood .
For more information, please contact Conference Co-Chairs:
Glenda “Sam” Maracle, Executive Director, Aboriginal Labour Force Development Circle
firstname.lastname@example.org 613 771 1627
Karen Fischer, Economic Development Advisor, East Region, OMAFRA
Karen.email@example.com 613 475 4908