From a common seed of discontent and passion, Bend will be home this weekend to both the Occupy Bend rally, a local outpost for the expanding national Occupy Wall Street movement, and the second-annual Real Food and Resistance Conference (RFRC) organized by Bend native, Casey Corcoran. While both events grapple with the fallout of economic problems and disenfranchisement, the RFRC is anchored in food.
Through a two-day series of lectures, films and open community discussions at the PoetHouse in downtown Bend, the RFRC is trying to work outside of the framework of preconceived political dogma and demands and the comforts of sugar-coated "buy local" campaigns to look at food as a means of re-localization and empowerment.
"Our focus is food," explained Corcoran, "because food is fundamental to everyone's daily life and it's intimately connected to all the other crises we are facing, it's the real crux."
Corcoran, cloaked in flannel, face framed with a heavy brown beard and stick-straight dirty blond hair, speaks with a humbled frankness.
"The consciousness of re-localizing food is catching like wildfire and this is actually one of the region's biggest gatherings looking at that," he says. "We choose to look at food because we feel that there are connections to many other things. Food is the economy, food is the healthcare system, food is ecological damage or restoration depending on how the food is grown."
RFRC brings together a diverse group of speakers, both local and from around the Northwest, with varying approaches to re-localization and a refreshingly broad look at food. Corcoran describes the viewpoints of the speakers as intentionally varied and even contradictory to spur a more honest discussion around commonly identified issues.
Speakers include Scott Duggan of DD Ranch (Terrebonne) on ecological grass farming, nutritionist Nora Gedgaudas on the connections between diet, healthcare and ecology, William H. Kotke on opportunities for re-localization amid economic and ecological crisis, and Dillon Thomson of Bellingham's activist group, Fertile Ground on the Deep Green Resistance movement.
RFRC will feature two documentary films and is proud to be hosting the first-ever public viewing of the new Northwest-made documentary film Fall & Winter accompanied by a presentation by the filmmaker. Space for open community dialogue is a priority for the organizer, with two community round-table discussions planned, focusing on re-localizing healthcare, food, the economy and discussing the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"Rather than having a conference where you just show up and listen to people talk, a big part of it is community involvement. It's an opportunity for the community to assemble and address surviving an economic disaster and all the things we're doing to help each other out," says Corcoran.
Inspiration for holding the first of what will now be an annual conference came from the need to address issues that were going unaddressed elsewhere. Corcoran describes the conference in contrast to the Occupy movement and local food organizing to the degree that the focus is on self-determination and action outside of the political sphere.
"We're not asking, we're not cajoling, we are saying this is what we are going to do to take care of ourselves," he says
Corcoran does, however, stress the important connections between various movements and approaches.
"I don't think that it's a coincidence that we are dealing with these issues at the same time that people are camped out down the street because they feel that they've been cut out from the society that they live in," says Corcoran, "This is a beautiful time that people are coming together and leaving their political dogmas behind and figuring out what they can do simply in their communities to take their lives back."
Saturday and Sunday, October 29 and 30. Begins at 10am each day. PoetHouse art, 55 NW Minnesota Ave. Free admission.