Celebrating a Food Culture That Brings Us Together

I love a theme party. Cooler weather, shorter
days and greyish purple skies are motivators for spending time indoors with friends. Last year was a “makeup, mac and cheese and martinis” party—a trifecta of frivolity for my pals of both genders. This year I’m hatching an 8-hour Godfather marathon—I and II only, don’t get me started on III—which will of course include oranges, cannoli and sauce.

While these gatherings are adult playtime, by the end of the night I feel closer to my friends, and there’s always a moment when someone says something that helps me see something in a new way. Gathering and playing are more weighty activities than they get credit for.

“Gather” has many meanings for the Tilth Community: an assemblage of people, ideas or things; to pick or harvest; to prepare by mustering strength; and to draw conclusions through intuition or inferences. Our ancestors are described as hunter-gatherers, foraging for sustenance for most of human history. Agriculture displaced the need to forage, but growers still go to the fields to pick our food at just the right time determined by weather, the qualities of the fields, and past experience; shoppers gather produce each week at the market, and cooks gather ingredients and tools to set the mise en place before starting a recipe.

We gather in solidarity and to debate, to celebrate and grieve. We gather to cook and converse, in the kitchen (even when it’s just a corner of a studio apartment) and around the dinner table for holiday feasts.

It was at a gathering more than 40 years ago that Tilth was born. Folks from urban and rural areas—consumers and farmers alike—met in Ellensburg for an urgent discussion on the importance of building a better local food and agriculture movement in the Northwest. Coming together, they were gathering strength to create the bountiful harvests we benefit from today.

The Tilth Community continues to gather together. Later this month, producers, researchers and food system professionals will gather at the annual Tilth Conference to learn from peers; and thousands of neighbors, students, elders and others will gather throughout the year to learn about agriculture, life sciences, cooking and nutrition as we re-open the 10-acre Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands in southeast Seattle. Hear from some of our founders here.

There’s a reason sustainable agriculture is the newest topic of conversation among social venture investors. They’re discovering what we’ve known for decades. Together we expand beyond ourselves and become capable of so much more than we could have achieved on our own. Our ideas and experiences intermingle to form new ideas and possibilities, our shared values are strengthened, and we can celebrate a kind of food culture that has the power to bring us together.

How does gathering help you participate in a sustainable food future? I’d love to hear from you: email me at leesaschandel@tilthalliance.org.

Leesa Marie Schandel
Interim Executive Director and Proud Tilth Alliance Donor

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