Brian Hurd is the Technical Assistance Program Manager for Rise Community Development, Inc. in St. Louis, Missouri. He is also an active member of the APA-FIG Communications and Outreach Working Group.
Andrea Petzel, member of the APA-FIG Leadership Committee, conducted this interview in October 2015. The following responses have been edited.
Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? I do not consider myself a food systems planner but rather I consider myself a housing and community development planner that connects the community development system to improving food access in low/moderate income communities and addressing barriers to food security and healthy eating.
What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work? My focus is looking at how the entire value chain can support and benefit urban core areas from urban agriculture production to consumption.
What is the biggest food systems planning-related hurdle your community/organization faced in recent years and how was it dealt with? We develop affordable and market-rate housing and help rebuild urban core neighborhoods with an economic mix, often in neighborhoods where there has not been a market of opportunity for some time. We are looking at ways to overcome barriers to healthy food access by supporting alternative channels for food distribution such as co-ops, farmers markets, CSA programs, etc.
Who has had the most influence on you as a planner? As a food systems planner? As a planner, I’ve been influenced by Wayne Oldroyd, Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Maryland Heights, Missouri. For the concentration of food systems planning, I have not identified a specific planner who has influenced me. My influence comes more for trying to improve the health of African-American and other minority communities. Advocacy and social justice issues are what influence me most.
Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems planning field? What skills make you successful as a planner? My advice is work to create social equity in food systems in ways that benefit all from the rural farmer to the urban farmer and urban consumer. I believe what makes me successful in my work is that I am seen by many as a community developer, an intermediary that brings the regional community development system together. The skills I use most are market data analyses and translating information in a way that is meaningful through community engagement of diverse groups of people where it is simplified and makes sense on the neighborhood level.
What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school? I received my Masters in Community Regional Planning from Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. I wish I has known about the subject of food systems planning, I never thought of food access as a traditional social justice issue.
Faces of Food Systems Planning is a series of interviews with practicing planners from across North America who are engaging in food systems planning and policy work. This series is part of APA-FIG’s efforts to highlight food systems planning as an important planning topic. Click here for more information.