Renowned authors visit Vashon to discuss ‘greening’ the local economy

Vashon’s local farmers, nursery owners and “green” entrepreneurs have diverse ideas and products, but could be even more powerful if they worked together, say a group of Islanders hoping to strengthen the Island’s local food system and green economy.

From produce and plant starts to jam and cheese, the Island’s edible economy is thriving — and Vashon’s food system working group hopes to increase collaboration among each venture for the good of all.

To this end, two renowned authors and activists are coming to Vashon to take a look at the Island’s food production output and potential. Ben Hewitt and Kevin Danaher will share their informed perspectives on the Island’s unique food system in the hopes that Vashon farmers and businesspeople can work together in the future to best use all the Island’s resources — including each others’ talents and wares.

Hewitt, the author of “The Town That Food Saved,” explored the small former mining town of Hardwick, Vt., which had an agricultural revival thanks to a few visionaries there. Hewitt spoke to the “agrepreneurs” of the town and compiled their stories and wisdom into the popular book.

And Danaher, the cofounder of human rights nonprofit Global Exchange, will discuss his recently released tome, “Building the Green Economy.” Through his work at Global Exchange and his prolific writing and editing career, Danaher has seen the actions of many people and communities working to protect and enhance their local food and water systems.

Thanks to local pilot Al Paxhia, Danaher will be treated to an aerial tour of the Island, featuring its food production hotspots and potential centers for food-based activity. Armed with insights from his tour, Danaher will join with Hewitt to discuss Vashon’s unique food system and its potential for growth and improvement.

“The issue of local food is more nuanced than you might think, and (Hewitt) puts that into a good focus,” said Merilee Runyan, a board member for Vashon Island Growers Association, a sponsor of the speaker event. “And (Danaher’s) book shares the story of a variety of people working to make a change — the complexities of working toward a more locally based economy.”

The effort to fortify Vashon’s edible economy is a result of the Vashon Food Summit, held in March, when Islanders gathered to discuss the local food economy.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to bring together these networks of people working on various aspects of the green economy, both the food and the tech end,” said food activist and Islander Mark Musick.

“Vashon has a long and deep agrarian history and a history of home-based enterprises,” he added. “This is just an opportunity to showcase what we’re doing on the Island and also get perspective from Ben and his experience in Hardwick, Vermont, and Kevin and his experience with Global Exchange.”

From “bio-cycling” of food waste on Vashon to converting gas-powered cars to electric so they can transport Vashon’s farmers and their wares in a more environmentally responsible way, the Island’s green economy has much potential for growth, said those involved.

“Our Island has immeasurable tangible and intangible assets,” said Bill Moyer, executive director of the Backbone Campaign, a sponsor of the speaker event. “We’re interested in celebrating the richness of our community and our assets and finding ways that those things can enrich our economy in a more coordinated fashion.”

Meet author and activist Kevin Danaher at the Open Space for Arts & Community at 3 p.m. Monday, June 7. Hear Danaher and fellow author Ben Hewitt discuss Vashon’s green economy from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, June 7, at the Vashon High School theater.

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