Food for thought

GVSU to host local food, global perspective lecture

By Ellie Phillips | 10/6/13 6:25pm

Grand Valley State University will host Timothy Young, president of Food For Thought Inc., to discuss
how his company is working with local food companies to support local organic agriculture and
farmland preservation. Established in 1995, Food For Thought is located on an organic farm and a
green building that Young built on the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

“We have the Sustainable Agriculture Project and courses on agriculture and food at Grand Valley, so I
think it’s a topic of real interest to the students,” said James Penn, assistant professor in the
department of geography and planning at GVSU. “I teach courses on agriculture, food culture and
globalization and feel that my students, as well as many here at GVSU, would find this of interest and
learn much from this event.”

Young and Food For Thought support and promote organic farming practices and fair trade products,
which ensure fair and just payment to farmers worldwide. Both areas create a more sustainable world,
agriculturally and socially.

“While I am no means an expert, Food for Thought appears to be a model that is replicable in so many
places, especially (the) Grand Rapids area,” said Youssef Darwich, president of the GVSU Farm Club.
“Building local systems supporting initiatives, especially concerning agriculture, is one of the most
important things for our overall sustainability. It is always a good idea to take note of the successes
others are having so we can apply that in our own lives.”

Young has received several awards for his work, including Environmentalist of the Year and
Environmental Business of the Year. He was named both “Best Local Hero” by a reader’s poll in the
Northern Express Magazine and also a “Green Pioneer” by the Traverse Business News. His company
was featured on Food Network in 2008, has won the “Benzie County Business of the Year” award, and
was listed by the Edward Lowe Foundation as one of the 50 Michigan Companies to Watch.

Although based in Northern Michigan, the company also works globally promoting sustainable
agriculture in Ethiopia, Mexico and the Middle East by digging wells, building schools and even
planting olive trees in Palestine. The company’s mission is to raise awareness of just and sustainable
food systems and to model alternatives to the global industrial food system, according to its website.

“They do these runs, I guess you could call them marathons, across Ethiopia through coffee country to
raise money for new schools in coffee farming areas,” Penn said, noting that the coffee farming
industry is failing. Of the money spent on a can of coffee in America, only a few cents make it back to
the farmers.

Even though these issues take place on the other side of the globe, GVSU takes an interest in trying to
solve them.

“Our department is very international, since we’re the department of geography and planning,” Penn
said. “We look at development, and we look at the problems of developing countries—the problems
and challenges that farmers face in developing countries.”

Young’s presentation is free and open to the public, with an anticipated attendance of 80 to 100
individuals. The lecture will take place Oct. 9 at 6 p.m. in 123 Manitou Hall.

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