Lettuce Stop Taking Access To Fresh Food For Granted

A Life Worth Living | Mar 4, 2022

Every Saturday I share a story about my life in a way that you can hopefully relate to. I believe we are all here to share our journey, both the highs and the lows, as this is how we collectively raise the consciousness of the planet. If anything resonates with you, please share! 🙏 (9 minute read)

The elevator door to my floor opened and as I stepped out, the person waiting to enter scanned my conference badge and said, "Are you Harry Duran of the Vertical Farming Podcast? I love your show!"

I returned this week from Indoor AgCon in Las Vegas. It's a conference focused on the indoor farming space, and they were celebrating their 10th year of operations. It was my second time attending.

Needless to say, it's always humbling to be 'recognized' for something you've been working on for years. And it's a helpful reminder for anyone podcasting about a niche topic of the importance of attending related in-person events. There's a good chance your listeners are there as well.

Since starting the Vertical Farming Podcast in 2020, I've learned so much about the industry and last year made the decision to attend my first industry conference. I had such a good experience I returned again this year.

I'll admit, when I first started the podcast, my initial interest was in learning about the innovations happening in this fast growing industry. From a business perspective it also made sense. Since the industry was growing so fast, I had a hunch that I'd be able to secure sponsorship for the show, which was quickly validated.

I've written about how the podcast came to be in a past letter and I highly encourage you to give that a read for the back story. I've also shared my sponsorship success on-stage at Podcast Movement. The team was generous enough to make my talk from this past June available for free on their YouTube channel.

Access to Fresh Produce is a Necessity

I can't believe that I'm closing in on 3 years of starting the show, time has flown by so fast!

I've now attended 4 conferences on indoor farming and have 2-3 more lined up this year, with 2 of them out of the USA.

By no means would I consider myself an expert in the space, but through my interviews, I've come to learn a lot about the possibilities and the challenges facing this industry.

While it's impressive to hear about the work being done by some of the larger companies like Plenty and Unfold, I also like hearing about the work being done to address the lack of access to fresh food in many poorer neighborhoods.

One new event which the organizers planned was a bus tour through the Las Vegas community, which provided a first-hand look at projects in the works to combat the food desert problem.

It was a great opportunity to go from the words being spoken on the stage to learning about the efforts being made to bring healthy food to all and meet some of the people on the ground working tirelessly to make it happen.

The people in these communities have a different grasp of food than most folks living their lives in thriving neighborhoods.

Food Deserts

To understand how these food deserts came to be would require a much longer letter, as it is an incredibly complicated issue, a good portion of it due to early redlining policies prevalent in this country in the early part of the last century.

What is a food desert? According to ActivateGood.org:

A food desert is an urban or rural area that lacks access to affordable, healthy, fresh food, such as affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and other foods that constitute a healthy diet.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, “food deserts are census tracts characterized by a poverty rate of 20% or greater, or a median family income at or below 80% of the statewide or metropolitan area median family income and with at least 33% of the population living more than 1 mile from a supermarket or large grocery store.”

Communities without adequate access to healthy foods are disproportionately impacted by obesity and diet-related diseases such as Type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer, as a result of poor diets.

Therefore, improved geographic access can reverse the trends of increasing rates of diet-related diseases, which is particularly necessary in extremely rural and urban areas, where the majority of food deserts are located.

For anyone who's grown up in a neighborhood with relatively easy access to fresh food, this may come across as a bit of shock, especially after having the opportunity to visit these sites first-hand.

One of the local farmers explained it to me like this. She said, "When you have a population of people who have no experience with local availability to fresh produce, they don't know what they don't know." She likened it to having a explain the concept of water to a fish.

We were able to visit a local grocery store. As we made our way to their 'produce section' it was shocking and saddening to see the entire section devoid of any actual fresh produce. All the bins we empty.

We did manage to find a few fruits and vegetables in a middle aisle, but it was clear that the premier shelf space was for some blue Sunkist concoction, tons of sugary processed foods and liquor.

Grassroots Efforts

It was inspiring to hear about the work being done on the ground by organizations like GreenSideUp, Freight to Plate and The Obodo Collective to bring awareness to this issue. On a panel hosted by past VFP guest Nona Yehia, CEO of Vertical Harvest, the group talked about the work they're doing to build local vertical farms that will provide these markets with access to fresh produce year-round.

As I continue my conversations with these founders and attend these conferences and listen to the speakers in this industry, I become more aware of not only the challenges, but also the potential for making disruptive change for good.

Yes, I'll be the first one to tell you that there is still a lot of hype and unnatural exuberance in this industry, but also potential. And that gives me hope.

Next time you're in the grocery store or supermarket, take a few extra minutes in the grocery aisle to read the labels of your favorite leafy greens or packaged salad. Where was it picked and how far did it travel to make it to your plate? You may be surprised at what you find.

I'm grateful for all the opportunities that the world of podcasting has made available to me, and I encourage you to dig deeper on your niche shows. Get out into the real world and begin building those bridges.

I've had a taste of the future and I'm excited and hopeful for the potential.

🙏 with gratitude,

Harry

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What I Created This Week

🎧 Vertical Farming Podcast (Season 7) sponsored by Cultivatd

I'm working through some ideas for my next course and polled followers on Twitter and LinkedIn for their preference. Would love your vote as well!

🙋‍♀️ P.S. When You're Ready...

Here are a few of ways I can help…

✡️ Download a free copy of my Conscious Voice Expansion Plan. The most powerful way to transmit and elevate your voice is with a podcast. This plan will outline for you the pillars of success needed prior to the launch of your show!

🎥 Watch my free video, 5 Key Pillars of a Profitable Podcast that every business owner needs to know prior to launching their show.

🎙️ Subscribe to Podcast Junkies + Vertical Farming Podcast to hear inspiring stories guaranteed to make you a better host.

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