Heather Adelman

Friday, November 11, 2016

Heather AdelmanInterview by:Sophie Davis,September 25, 2015

Heather is the liaison to the Education and Local Land and Agriculture Committees. She is also working on projects related to waste and material flows, with the goal of zero waste throughout the community. Previous to her work with the Oberlin Project, Heather served as the Supervisor of the Tribal Solid Waste and Green Building Team at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), working directly with tribal nations in Arizona, California, and Nevada on a variety of recycling, composting, green housing and casino, pollution prevention, green purchasing, and hazardous and solid waste reduction initiatives. She also served as president of a California nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental outreach/education and worked at the City of San Jose's Environmental Services Department. She has been awarded several prestigious national EPA honors for her work with communities.

Sophie: So the first question I wanted to ask was what work are you engaged in that relates to helping the environment, the local economy, and other aspects of peoples well being?

"Oberlin Project has a bold goal of 70% local food utilization in the community by 2050."

Heather: The project thats currently taking most of my time and that Im most excited about is the development of a local food hub. The Oberlin Project has a bold goal of 70% local food utilization in the community by 2050. To do that in a climate such as ours is a pretty aggressive goal. We need a lot of ways to get local food into local mouths during the winter and off-season times. So, over the course of the last four years weve done a lot of thinking and a lot of research into the local food scene. Weve discovered that there is a lot of food being grown, and there is a lot of demand from local buyers that want it, but whats missing is the transportation and the sort of logistics side. If youre a restaurant or youre Oberlin College, or you are another large wholesale buyer, if you want local food, for the most part it means that you need to work individually with farmers. You may work with 10-15 different farmers to get 10-15 different products. So you may be working with a local chicken farmer for eggs, you might be working with someone else to get honey, and maybe theres one person who can aggregate some of it, go to different farms but in general its a very labor intensive process. So what we have been working on is the development of a hub which is an aggregation and distribution warehouse where local farmers can sell to and local wholesale buyers can buy from, one stop shopping for local goodies. We will have an online ordering system that will list everything that is available in real time . Well buy bulk from farmers to get a better price than if a local restaurant were to go and get one bushel of apples versus well be buying ten bushels or twenty or thirty and then reselling it to all the wholesale buyers.

Sophie: Wow, thats really exciting.

Heather: Yeah, it is exciting.

Sophie: Do you know where it will be located?

Heather: Yes, we will be located on Artino Street at the Industrial Park in Oberlin. We will be using the warehouse space for the storage and repacking of hyper local vegetables and fruits. We will also have a shared-use commercial kitchen for both the hub to use to do some processing of produce and eventually an incubator space for local food entrepreneurs. so a lot of school districts for example want carrots but they want them peeled and diced for example, or they want green beans but they want the ends chopped off or something some very light processing and you can only do that in a certified kitchen. So the hub will use it to do value-added processing, but it will also be open for rent for any entrepreneur in town that wants to work on a food-based business. So if you make an amazing jelly and you want to make that and sell it to grocery stores or the farmers market you can now do that in a certified kitchen.

Sophie: Thats very cool.

Heather: Yeah, so well start operations this month with sort of a just-in-time model, so not the full scale, sort of a pilot, and then starting next spring when all the food is back it will be all products for all buyers.

Sophie: Thats exciting

Heather: Yeah!

Sophie: Do you feel that Oberlin has a strong identity, and how would you describe it?

Heather: Oberlin is a really amazing place to live. I moved here from the San Francisco Bay area and there are a lot of similarities I think in the passion people have for things and the innovativeness, is that a word? Whatever! Its a word now. Its a really involved community. Ive always been really inspired by places that its citizens want to be involved with the day to do life, you know? And you watch city council meetings on TV or you go to commission meetings, citizens are there and theyre involved and thats really inspiring to me. What was the question exactly?

Sophie: Do you feel that Oberlin has a strong identity and how would you describe it?

Heather: Yeah, I think the citys motto live, learn, lead is pretty powerful. I think that the citizens, including students here really make this an amazing place to be.

Sophie: How do you think attitudes towards the environment have changed over time in Oberlin, and has your own attitude changed since you moved here?

Heather: Ive only lived here for four and a half years so I feel like I really came in the prime of all of this great action. City council had passed the Climate Action Plan right around that same time, the Oberlin Project came to be right around that time, and since then I would say that the general populous understanding of the environment or sustainability has grown you know, particularly with recent awards that the city, or recognitions the White House climate I dont remember what it was called some sort of climate action champion for lack of a better word, youd have to look that up if youre going to use that. And the Georgetown Energy Prize, were a finalist in that, and the city passed a zero waste plan last year and got new hybrid recycling trucks, so its an exciting time to be here.

Sophie: Yeah, great! So, what do you think the younger generation can learn from the history of this community?

"Im kind of blown away by the history of Oberlin"

Heather: Im kind of blown away by the history of Oberlin, Oberlin College and the community. I dont know if youve read the book, The Town that Started the Civil War, , but it is about the Oberlin/Wellington rescue of a gentleman who had escaped slavery and was living in Oberlin I just started reading it and its really powerful. I think there is a lot to learn in Oberlins history about Oberlinians doing the right thing and being on the right side of history. How Oberlin College was the first university to accept women and people of color in the United States. We all have so much to be proud of as Oberlin residents. I hope we can remember that particularly when there are differences between town and gown

Sophie: Okay, and one last question. Is there anything you would like to tell other community members regarding care for the environment and sustainable living?

Heather: Just to get involved, to be informed.I know this phrase is overused a lot but its incredibly inspiring to me. Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. by Margaret Mead,

"I really do believe that one person can make a difference, particularly in a small community like this"

Heather: I know I border on cheesy when I get talking about this stuff, but I really do believe that one person can make a difference, particularly in a small community like this. You know if you feel passionately about something and come in and are excited about it and ready to work, things can happen. You know when I first moved to Oberlin, I was appointed by city council to be on the Resource Conservation Recovery Commission which a group of volunteer citizens that help the city think about recycling, composting, and waste management. I joined that committee about four years ago right after I moved here and we were talking about zero waste and how we could get that happening. It was a new concept for some and some had heard of it, but three years later we have a zero-waste plan. I believe we are the first city in the state of Ohio to have a plan like that.

Sophie: Thats amazing.

Heather: So you know, we can all do stuff like that as corny as that sounds, and I guess I would just want people to realize that that they all have power and a voice here.

Sophie: Thats really powerful Thank you so much.

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