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WSU/UW to Host Joint Conference on the Regional Food System

SEATTLE, Wash. — The University of Washington Botanic Gardens and Washington State University Extension will host a two-day conference called “Cultivating Regional Food Security: Recent Research in Urban-Rural Food Systems.”The event will be held on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 4 and 5, at the UW Center for Urban Horticulture. The conference will present recent research findings related to food production in urban and rural settings and will explore the ways that greater collaboration among diverse partners can strengthen food security in our region.

The goal of the conference is to increase collaboration among community leaders and regional residents to bring about a more sustainable regional food system in terms of production, land use, and equitable access to food. Current research findings will provide opportunities for informed and thoughtful discussions.

The conference will bring together a diverse audience ranging from urban gardeners to gardening and agriculture organizations, as well as legislators who enact policy. To fully explore the complex rural-urban interdependence in the regional food system, speakers will present emerging research on topics ranging from public health, urban soils, food markets and urban-rural economic interdependence.

“There is an increasing demand for more information about urban food systems regionally,” says UW Botanic Gardens professor and education director Sarah Reichard. “Presenting this conference has been our priority since the idea emerged in 2008.”

Reichard teamed up with Brad Gaolach, county director for WSU Extension in Pierce and King counties, to advance the conference.

According to Gaolach, the conference provides the opportunity to tap the resources of both universities to help community residents and leaders in strengthening the western Washington food system.

“For several years, WSU has been a leader in addressing the complex interdependencies of urban food systems by supporting local producers, hosting Harvest Celebration farm tours and through larger initiatives such as Seattle’s Acting Food Policy Council and the Kellogg Food and Fitness Initiative,” Gaolach said. “The conference will bring that expertise together with the resources available at the UW.”

The King Conservation District (KCD) is the major sponsor of the conference. KCD provides a variety of programs and services to landowners and residents, and funding for district programs and services comes from a local special assessment and state grants.

According to Sara Hemphill, KCD interim executive director, the conference supports the district’s mission to promote the sustainable uses of natural resources through responsible stewardship.

“Without the shared value of protecting existing working lands our region has a diminished prospect for a healthy food system and food security,” she said.

The conference will feature three plenary sessions, 30 presenters, and work groups to outline post-conference initiatives.

Plenary speakers include Aaron Reardon, Snohomish County Executive, and Richard Conlin, President of the Seattle City Council. Reardon will speak Saturday morning on the regional linkages between food production and land use, and the need to support farmers and farmland while building local food security. Conlin will offer a brief history of Seattle’s Local Food Action Initiative, followed by a status update on the code changes adopted to support urban food production in August, and outline next steps.

Seating is limited. Registration for the two-day conference includes two lunches and an evening reception, along with conference materials. Early bird registration fees are $150 per person through Nov. 7 and $175 after that date. One-day registration is $100. Conference updates, online registration, scholarship and volunteer information are available at:

For more information, contact conference coordinator Karen Luetjen at 206-616-1569 or

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