Photo by Adam Detour
Nicola Williams is an instigator, a woman who not only discusses a better way to showcase local food, but makes it happen. Nine years ago, she organized the Boston Local Food Festival shortly after joining a committee of the Sustainable Business Network of Boston. This past September, the festival drew 50,000 to what she describes as “New England’s largest one-day farmers market” on the Greenway. An immigrant from Jamaica who moved to Boston for its “livability,” she describes herself as “super-involved from a young age,” and drawn to the cultural aspects of food.
“Healthy food for all” might be her motto, not just for foodies or the wealthy. Nicola, who is 55 and opened her own marketing agency in 1993 to work on projects that “make a difference,” has been involved in many social issues from anti-smoking to the environment. But food has become her mission, especially its cultural aspects. She talks about finding fish tea recently in Lowell, made with kale, collards, amaranth and whole local fish. “It’s a brothy green,” she explains, and a Caribbean favorite, on some islands made with green bananas and okra. Connecting a broad range of people to new cultural foods delights her.
The organizer of the Boston JerkFest, the Hyper-Local BrewFest, and the Local Craft Spirits Festival looks to a future where half of the food eaten in New England is grown locally, underutilized fish species are used and people know where their food comes from. “It’s my life’s work,” she says, “making relationships, connections. That is the type of work that gets me excited.”
This story appeared in the Winter 2019 issue.
ALISON ARNETT is a freelance writer, concentrating on food and agricultural topics. She was formerly the restaurant critic and food writer of the Boston Globe. She also teaches a Writing about Food class for Harvard Extension School.