Tory is the Director of Communications & Outreach and the Rural Development Coordinator at the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council. He has worked in multimedia production and marketing in various forms since 2007 and in community and economic development since 2014. Tory has a BS in Journalism from Bradley University and is currently pursuing his MA in Rural Community and Economic Development through Western Illinois University.
Local Food Systems Finally Get Their Day In Regional Economic Development Strategies
"Local food systems work can lead to real change in community economies and substantial improvements in peoples' lives"--Tory Dahlhoff,
We're talking about catalyzing a farm to food system vision for regenerating community health, wealth, resilience and well-being.
This segment of the Summit focuses on approaches to bring healthier food into local food systems.
In this interview, I am talking with Tory Dahlhoff, Director of Communications & Outreach and the Rural Development Coordinator at the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council--which serves a five county region surrounding Peoria, Illinois. Tory is leading the development of the Council's 5 year Community Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) and is for the first time ensuring that the local food system is featured prominently as a strategy both for strengthening the local economy but also ensuring the community has access to locally grown, nutritious foods in a system that is equitable for small and medium sized farmers and for eaters.
Tory explains that while agriculture was mentioned in previous regional economic development plans, it didn't have a specific strategy to strengthen it and often the local food system was considered a niche economic activity. Increasing food insecurity and chronic disease in rural communities has encouraged healthcare leaders to engage in local food system work, encouraging economic development professionals to join the conversation.
Tory's experience convening those interested in his regions food system has shown him that there is no one system focused on local farming and foods and no one right way to organize. It's messy, he says. But instead of trying to come up with one single approach, he has found that it is the diversity itself that creates strength and greater resilience. He has found that the most important role a food systems network can play is facilitating communications and connections so that everyone along the local supply chain from farmers to eaters can find their place and make meaningful connections from which can grow new opportunities that benefit the whole community.
Over the next five years, Tory hopes to see many pilots emerge and grow into scalable businesses that are profitable for local farmers and food businesses and produce nutritious foods that find their way into hospitals and schools, food pantries and groceries so that regardless of food budget, people in the region have access to locally grown, nutritious foods.
Tory encourages his economic development colleagues in other rural regions to connect with the local foods movement and bring this sector of the economic out of the niche realm and into the limelight to give it the serious support it deserves to benefit community health and resilience. This is a real opportunity to bring federal investments to rural economies.
Please enjoy my conversation with Tory to learn how we can catalyze and support a regenerative farming and food system that works for everyone.
Don't forget, I’ve created a special Our Food Is Our Future Facebook Group where you can join the conversation and share your reflections, questions and ideas about creating a healthier farming and food system.
Here's to a healthier farming and food system for us all,