Spokane is a city that challenges assumptions. It is a vibrant economic hub for the Inland Northwest with ties that reach around the globe. Located 280 miles from Seattle, 18 miles from the Idaho border, and only 110 miles from Canada, Spokane sits among miles upon miles of gentle rolling hills covered by wheat fields. It is named after the Spokane Tribe, who–along with many other members of the Interior Salish group, including the Kalispel, Colville, and Coeur d’Alene Tribal nations–lived on and respected millions of acres of land for thousands of years. Today the city, and indeed the entire northwest, is predominantly white. The so-called Cascade Curtain is purported to divide Washington State culturally, politically, and economically, but the depth and quality of those divides is up for debate.
Connecting a patchwork of disparate but complementary strategies toward healthier and more sustainable food systems requires continually re-evaluating our assumptions and untangling the vastly complicated drivers of those systems. As such, many of the topics explored at the 2018 Forum boil down to power. Racial equity, tribal sovereignty, industry consolidation, land use, and policy all play out in the relative health of people, land, water, climate, and animals.
This complex and tenuous political moment requires urgent action, but does not allow for many missteps. In order to get where we want to go, our understanding of the context surrounding the problems we seek to affect must be at once deep and broad. With little time to spare, we must learn as we go, continually reorienting as we seek and navigate pathways to impact in the food system.