Letter writer: Where’s the ‘action’ in city’s Food Action Plan?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

As I write this, it is exactly three years to the day since City Council voted 6-0 to adopt the Food Action Plan, which was drafted by the Asheville-Buncombe Food Policy Council [see “Despite city commitment, not much edible landscaping in Asheville” in this issue and “A Nourishing Policy: Asheville Adopts Food Action Plan,” Jan. 29, 2013, Xpress].  The plan outlines five “long-term food policy goals” as well as a series of 14 actionable items. The actionable items include things like removing barriers to community gardens, urban agriculture and farmers markets within city limits.

Item 7 states that the city will: “Include use of edible landscaping as a priority for public property such as parks, greenways and/or right of ways. In support of this, foster relationships with strong community partners who wish to access edible landscaping and/or use underutilized public land for food production.”

Since then, I have often seen the exact opposite in practice. As a designer, permaculture teacher, edible landscape professional and Asheville resident of 10 years, I have been directly and indirectly involved in a number of projects aiming to accomplish this “priority” directly in the form of public plantings of edible fruits, nuts and berries.

Time and time again, the city cites liability concerns (namely slip hazards, food allergies, bee allergies, and even a hypothetical “evil person” who might spray poisons on the fruits).  Parks and Recreation seems generally unwilling to cooperate with these endeavors.

Apparently, the Food Policy Council is having trouble getting edibles approved for the new greenway projects. Several times now, well-established public plantings, the result of hundreds of hours of volunteer labor and donated materials (installed with permission from authorities), have been thoughtlessly bulldozed or destroyed just when they were beginning to bear a yield.

The city is not only failing to “prioritize” edibles but is actively undoing the selfless work undertaken by thoughtful citizens. It often feels impossible to get almost anybody representing the city to cooperate in a meaningful way.

What is it going to take for the city to let us put the Food Action Plan into action?

— Dylan Ryals-Hamilton

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8 thoughts on “Letter writer: Where’s the ‘action’ in city’s Food Action Plan?

  1. Grant Milin

    How soon will Gary Jackson and Cathy Ball retire?

    This is a great time to hire top city managers with bigger, deeper sustainability strategy backgrounds. Yes, I know they were in place when the COA sustainability office opened. But its time for fresh perspective and a new start for Asheville.

  2. Yep

    Talk to Council person Gordon Smith…that was HIS creation. What about the new park downtown becoming an EDIBLES park ?
    Sounds like wonderland to me!

  3. boatrocker

    The sooner Asheville can create a food desert for wage slaves, the sooner said wage slaves can die off from malnutrition and the next expendable crop of wide eyed idealists can move here to take jobs in the food/bev biz without a living wage such that restaurant owners in town can build their own McMansions ™ in Weaverville far from the proles.

    Please refrain from using words such as permaculture, affordable, sustainable and health. That scares off the tourists.

    Food tyrants have been Laughing into their Seed for quite some time, and nowhere on this Earth will you be told access to healthy food is Fare, Better to feel Green with envy over others who have the Life of leisure to afford a $10 lunch every day for their affluenza-postive children.

    The poors can eat artisan cake from a gluten-free bakery.

  4. Policy is the responsibility of city council. Gary Jackson issued a economic forecast paper to city council in 2010 warning them of the unsustainability of progressive policy:

    And again in 2013:

    I’m looking forward to the next one.

  5. Henry

    There was only ever a scant chance of anything actually happening.

    This was all simply something Gordon passed so that Gordon would have something to talk about when needing to run for office. You’ll notice the Food Action Plan is plastered on Gordon’s website, even though as this letter writer points out, nothing’s ever actually been done by the city.

    This was done for the pure purpose of posturing.

    Here’s to hoping Coleman or Ferrara can actually move the ball at the county level.

    • Lulz

      LOL, yet the clown show known as Smith pats himself on the back lulz. Yet he hides like a coward when someone ask a question LOL.

  6. Dylan Ryals-Hamilton

    Seeing these comments a bit late, I nevertheless want to keep the record as straight as I possibly can. My primary issues have been with the city staff bureaucracy, SOME individual members of city staff, and SOME individual members from Parks and Rec. Council member Gordon Smith has worked VERY hard to get the A-B Food Policy Council going, and in my opinion he has done a LOT of things right. From the very beginning he sought to include the voices of ALL the stakeholders, including members from low-income communities and grassroots initiatives as well as business owners and organizations like the Asheville Independent Restraunts (AIR) who have a stake in tourism dollars. In my experience I have dealt with few politicians or public servants who have worked harder or been more effective at promoting a community-motivated effort than Gordon Smith has. The point of my letter is that the council made a policy decision and now it’s the job of city staff and parks & rec to enact the policy.

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