Last week I was lucky enough to attend the ULI Food and Real Estate Forum in New Orleans. It rained the whole time, making it hard to sneak out of the hotel for late night beignets, but the dialogue made up for the inclement weather. The group discussions covered a wide range of topics about the role of food in our society; in the health of Americans; in real estate development; and the responsibility of the real estate community in finding ways to make healthy food available to our entire society.
The food we ate wasn’t bad either. Dinner the first night was by Chef John Besh, who cooked and served in the beautiful home of a local chapter member. We ate incredible food, in a beautiful old home, while talking about how food fits into our various developments and the ambitions we had for our projects. The group included farmers, food processors, health professionals, developers, and designers all of whom had a particular interest in how to imbed food into our communities in a more honest and healthful way.
Much discussion was had about different approaches to how to include healthy food in development. Many residential projects are including ways for residents to grow their own food, from community gardens to full-fledged farms like at Serenbe (an idea we are now working on including in one of our projects). EDENS has decided that food is such an important part of developing community that they have named Chef Richie Brandenburg as their Director of Culinary Strategy.
After dinner, Chef Besh talked passionately about his work helping rebuild not only his business, but the relationship between his restaurants and city residents after Hurricane Katrina. In addition to improving lives through culinary training, he and his staff have also been involved in rebuilding local food sources. From farms to fisheries, and even a slaughter house, Chef Besh and his team have been working to create a more sustainable food environment for the whole Gulf Coast.
It’s important to consider the connections between where we live and where our food comes from, and conferences like this allow us to continue creating better solutions for the environments in which we live.