By MATTHEW WEAVER
SPOKANE -- The leader of Spokane's city council hopes to explore ways to increase the amount of locally produced food consumed in the region.
Registration is open for the Power of our Regional Food Economy Conference, beginning at 8 a.m. April 19 at 668 N. Riverpoint Blvd. in Spokane.
Ben Stuckart, president of the Spokane City Council, said by 2020 he would like to see 10 percent of the food used in the Spokane region be locally produced. Currently, less than 2 percent is produced locally, he said.
Stuckart believes economies should make an effort to localize.
"It's a lot cheaper for food to travel (to Spokane) from Walla Walla than it is to ship something from Florida," he said.
A food system is comprised of production, processing, shipping and retail. Stuckart believes there are holes to fill locally to increase use of locally produced food.
He hopes to set the stage at the conference for a regional, in-depth food audit at the conference. The conference includes discussions about public policy and finance in the overall system, Stuckart said.
He'd like to see Spokane develop an urban farming ordinance.
That would include changing the city limit of four animals and allowing hooved animals like goats within city limits. Stuckart would also examine residential zone restrictions.
"Just to make it a little more friendly for the person that lives inside the city to produce food," he said.
Keynote speaker Ken Meter, food system analyst with Crossroads Resource Center in Minneapolis, Minn., said large-scale farmers may have to consider devoting a small part of their acreage to the local effort. It would diversify their income, and help pass the land along to the next generation or provide new farmers with an entry opportunity, he said.
"You have farmers working very hard and producing immense quantities of commodities that get exported somewhere else, while local people who are looking for food from farms they recognize are forced to buy from far away," Meter said.