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Farm Fresh Green Washing: A Leadership Challenge

I stumbled across this article: “Farm to Fable: A Times investigation into Tampa Bay’s local food scene” in the Tampa Bay Times. The investigative article series begins with the line: “If you eat food, you are being lied to every day.”

Being in the green/sustainability world, this is a sad truth that we know all too well. Going green has become trendy and green-washing isn’t anything new and has spilled over into how we eat. Words like “organic” and “local” have become catch phrases to charge patrons higher prices.

This Farm to Fable article and reactions made me think of another issue that exists ~ without growing our urban local farming infrastructure, we will continue to hit a supply wall.

In South Florida, the urban population is over 6.6 million strong and growing, within an only 60 thousand square mile radius. By contrast, in Norway, a population of 5.2 million lives within 148 thousand square miles. Norway has also just approved a ban on all gas and diesel vehicles by 2025, and most homes have farms instead of lawns growing, with at least five items in a shared co-op model.

Increasingly, American consumers are highlighting their values by how they shop and choose to spend their money. Fresh and local might have been the founding principle behind the farm-to-table movement in Tampa (and numerous other cities across the country), but the plague of success without infrastructure is a community issue and not simply on the shoulders of the business owners.

Would you be even more upset if they had a limited menu and/or your favorite dish was no longer available? Business owners have to make tough decisions everyday.

Unfortunately, “green washing” by shipping items from China to fill supply gaps will keep happening if South Florida’s leading cities/regions (Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater) do not take a stance for sustainability. Change and market saturation requires political leadership and business leadership working together. Gambling on the market interests often misses the importance of supply.

Governor Scott has taken the first steps to diversify our economy by pushing for manufacturing subsidies and increasing the tech infrastructure across the state. It is also a good time for local, city and county leaders to create favorable environments for urban green innovations like vertical farms and green roof projects to address our urban density issues. Farm-to-Table will soon die off as a cool fad if systemic solutions-driven thinking does not prevail.

In the past on Earth Day, our team at EcoTech Visions built an aquaponic garden in Liberty City with the help of volunteers from FedEx. The garden has herbs and vegetables and is a way for us to be the change on numerous touch points of sustainability, including direct engagement of our community, eating healthy, and urban farm to table.

Next up in Miami’s Green Corridor, EcoTech Visions is launched the first Vertical Farm in the Gulf South region. The three story, 3,500 square foot farm is projected to produce five tons of food annually, focusing on specialty items like: truffles, flounder, and jumbo prawns to meet the Farm-to-Table growing demand. This will be a critical step in building South Florida’s urban farming capacity. And ensuring the community is actively involved and engaged in sustainable food supply, and helping to make farm-to-table a reality and not a fable.

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