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Q&A with Jonah Fertig

Food Solutions New England is hosting the 6th in a series of Regional Food Summits in Bridgeport, CT on June 8–9, 2016.  

This two-day event will feature more than 180 delegates from the six New England states working across the food system. Planners, farmers and farm workers, chefs, funders, government officials, and students will come together for discussions on topics including food recovery, policy, healthy, food chain workers, and more. 

Food Solutions New England (FSNE) heard from Jonah Fertig, a member of the Maine Delegation to the 2016 Summit.Jonah Fertig

FSNE: What inspired you to get involved in food?

Jonah Fertig (JF): I love to eat and ever since I was little I loved to cook.  My first job was working in a restaurant and I have always worked in the food industry.  After getting involved in environmental, social justice and economic activism in my early 20s, I shifted my focus to food organizing because I saw the power of food to connect people together.  Eating local food has the ability to affect social, economic and ecological change, while bringing people together in community. 

FSNE: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to help advance A New England Food Vision​? 

JF: Eat more local food each week and build a relationship with a producer that grows or provides your food.

FSNE: What’s one issue within the food system you’d like to see completely solved for the next generation?

JF: I want to see all people in the food system to earn a living wage and be respected for their work to feed our communities.  

FSNE: What food system issue would you like for the next president of the United States to immediately address?​

JF: Break up the big agribusiness monopolies. 

FSNE: How does your work connect with the Food Solutions New England network?​

JF: I work to increase the ability for food system workers to own their work through the development of worker and producer owned cooperatives.  This can build greater financial compensation for food system workers, increase the local ownership of our food infrastructure and result in increased local food production. 

FSNE: What are you looking forward to about the New England Food Summit?​

JF: Connecting with people across the region that are working on similar issues and exploring ways that we can collaborate to increase our impact regionally.

FSNE: What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved within the food system? 

JF: Transferring of existing farmland into the hands of new and beginning farmers, particularly New American, women and veteran farmers.   

FSNE: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?

JF: Our institutions have incredible purchasing power and they need to increase the amount of local food they purchase and the amount they are willing for local foods so that we can continue to grow the local foods market.

FSNE: What innovations in the food system are you most excited about?

JF: I’m excited to see more formalized networks and cooperatives that are expanding ownership in our food system. 

FSNE: What’s the biggest problem within the food system our parents and grandparents didn't have to deal with? 

JF: The impacts of climate change are huge and unpredictable.

FSNE: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you?

JF: My friends and mentors Carol Dove and Michael Vernon started the Victory Gardens Project in Athens, Maine back in mid 1990s.  They worked to connect urban and rural communities together to grow food in support of the liberation of US Political Prisoners.  As a young activist and cook, they inspired me to combine my love of food with my activism and create projects that both fed people and worked to create a better world. 

FSNE: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?

JF: I want everyone to have access to good food, good jobs, a beautiful environment and strong communities. 

Jonah Fertig is a Cooperative Food System Developer with the Cooperative Development Institute and has been involved in the Maine food system for 15 years in a variety of capacities including starting a worker-owned local foods restaurant, farming, teaching local foods cooking, and starting the Nation’s first farm and sea to institution foods service management cooperative.

To find out more about the New England Food Summit and view past Summit details, please click HERE

Want to see photos from last year's Food Summit? Please click HERE

Join the discussion using #FSNE16 on Facebook and twitter!

Featured image of UMass Amherst Dining courtesy of the Henry P. Kendall Foundation.