TEDxManhattan Heroes: Stephen Reily

Photograph courtesy of Stephen Reily

Leading up to TEDxManhattan 2015, we've asked this year's speakers to introduce themselves by answering a few questions. Stephen Reily is the founder and director of Seed Capital Kentucky, a non-profit supporting Kentucky's local food system. Stephen has a background in law, business, and social entrepreneurship, and most recently has focused his philanthropic energy on bolstering the local food economy in Louisville and securing a more sustainable future for Kentucky farmers.

What’s the topic you’ll be speaking about?

I’ll be speaking about using economic and community development tools to help meet unmet demand for local food.

Why is this important?

If we want more local food to reach more local people with more transparency, we can’t put all the pressure on farmers and consumers to make it happen themselves. We’re going to have to build places to help make it easier, and place-making is something that cities and regional economies actually know how to do.

If we want more local food to reach more local people with more transparency, we can’t put all the pressure on farmers and consumers to make it happen themselves.

Why is economic development important to the food movement?

The good (and bad) thing about food is that it is a giant industry that is connected to how we all make and spend money. The good (and bad) thing about the food movement is that it is sometimes driven more by passion than money. Finding big and sustainable solutions for the food movement should include (among all other work) traditional economic tools, including tools from economic and community development.

Are there other projects you’re also passionate about right now – either yours or someone else’s?

Of course, I am passionate about the West Louisville FoodPort and all the things our mayor and citizens are doing to build our local food economy. But I’m also passionate about how my birth hometown, New Orleans, is tackling these issues through workforce development, urban redevelopment, and startup incubation. The Baltimore Food Hub is another exciting economic development project, and DC Central Kitchen is tackling hunger as part of the food chain and food economy. There are lots of exciting incubator/economic development projects, including DC’s Union Kitchen to Dorchester’s Cropcircle Kitchen Pearl facility.

If you could do one thing to change the food system, what would it be?

I would have the mainstream food system (distribution, processing, retail) fully invest in the unmet public demand for more local food.

Where can more information about your project be found?

The Seed Capital Kentucky website.

TEDxManhattan, "Changing the Way We Eat," will take place March 7, 2015, at the TimesCenter in New York City. Interested in joining the day? You can apply to attend, or host or attend a viewing party.