Support of local food systems
As various iconic public lands all over the country closed due to COVID-19, many land trusts experienced increased traffic at their properties — as well as a renewed appreciation for conservation. For the Piedmont Environmental Council in Virginia, that meant increased recognition of the work the accredited land trust has been doing for years, especially in supporting local food systems.
“A lot of people are turning to the land they love most as a way of reassuring themselves about the future,” says Chris Miller, PEC president. “We’ve seen this as an opportunity to demonstrate several of the community functions we’ve filled over the years to restore and manage the land and maintain it as a source of food.”
PEC’s investment in food security has taken on heightened importance lately, particularly the work of its Buy Fresh Buy Local program to connect consumers with local food and farmers. PEC signed a contract with Loudon Valley HomeGrown Markets Cooperative to expand the capacity of a small weekend farmers market on a protected property that PEC owns. And PEC’s Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows grew hundreds of pounds of fresh greens this spring for delivery to a local food bank — part of 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of produce that will be donated during the growing season to families in need. PEC also supported the shipment of a ton of apples from cold storage to the local food bank, and recently received funding to help local food banks purchase local dairy products.
“Farms and food producers have become the center of the local response for those who have lost income or need support,” Miller says. “What we do now to build on the foundation of conservation we have laid down over the past 50 years may be the inspiration and hope for generations to come.”