Four years ago, the Sonoma County Healthy & Sustainable Food Action Plan (FAP) was issued as a call to action to answer this and many other food and farming related questions. Last month, Ag Innovations, in partnership with the Sonoma County Food System Alliance, published a status report featuring an implementation overview, inventory of local food and farming initiatives, and updated indicators.
On May 24, a coalition of Santa Barbara organizations announced the release of the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan. The plan represents a milestone for both Santa Barbara County in reflecting community consensus on how to build a more resilient food system and for the food change efforts more generally in its focus on a postive agenda that stands outside of traditional political divides.
It’s been four years since Sonoma County’s landmark Healthy & Sustainable Food Action Plan (FAP) became the Sonoma County Food System Alliance's shared vision for the local food system. Last month, over 200 food, farming, and community leaders came together to celebrate the progress made since the adoption of the FAP, and to shape the next phase of action and implementation.
Ask anyone on the street if they can name at least two types of tomatoes, and they'd probably throw out "Roma" and "cherry" without missing a beat. Can they list two different market classes or varieties of wheat? Are there even different varieties of wheat? In a way they'd be correct in thinking that there isn’t much diversity. The reason for this is in large part due to the success of the globalized, industrialized food system. It has caused the disappearance of many of the local mills, grain dryers, and other infrastructure that is needed to bring a new variety to the local marketplace. So even once a purple wheat variety is released and grown by a farmer, the road from the field to the oven will be an arduous one. That’s why collaboration is the single-most important ingredient in growing the local food system. We need spaces where the farmer can meet with the baker and the crop breeder and the lender and the policymaker. Because not only do we need to grow new crops, but we also need to grow new relationships and a new business ecosystem.
Taking a More Holistic Approach to Food Hub Feasibility: Measuring the Impact of Value Chain Coordination
In this 3-part series, Ag Innovations is examining food hub feasibility in a non-traditional way. This series weaves together insights from a growing body of food systems research and past experience in food hub development. In our first post, Efficacy of Food Hubs, we agreed on the USDA’s current definition of a food hub, then called for practitioners to expand their thinking about how their projects affect other parts of the food system. In our second post, we called on practitioners to build collaborative processes into their planning phases to reduce risk and create thriving partnerships. This final blog in our series shines a spotlight on the importance of value chain coordinators (also known as market facilitators) in food hub development and operation, and illustrates the need to measure the impact of their efforts.
Last month, over 70 leaders from diverse sectors came together to co-create recommendations on the enhancement of California’s working lands - its farms, ranches and forests. The day-long Summit built on a decade-long history of the California Roundtable on Agriculture & the Environment (CRAE), a statewide forum convened by Ag Innovations where leaders come together to talk about what matters and how to solve key problems at the intersection of agriculture and the environment.
Taking A More Holistic Approach to Food Hub Feasibility: Reducing Risk Through Collaborative Process
In this 3-part series, Ag Innovations is examining food hub feasibility in a non-traditional way. This series weaves together insights from a growing body of food systems research and experience in food hub development. In our first post Efficacy of Food Hubs, we shared the USDA’s current definition of a food hub, and then we called for practitioners to expand their thinking about feasibility to include a more holistic assessment to consider how food hub projects affect the entirety of a food system in a specific area. In this second post in this 3-part series, we examine how incorporating collaborative process into food hub planning development can reduce business risk.
Evidence shows food hubs can play a role in solving complex problems in our food system. Food hubs are relatively new on the scene – we’ve only been studying, experimenting, and talking about them for less than a decade – which means they present a lot of opportunity for creating resilient regional food systems. Building sustainable models and understanding a food hub’s true viability requires a feasibility study that takes a holistic approach.
Ag Innovations is pleased to announce that Lucy Norris has joined our team as our Regional Food Systems Program Director. Lucy joins us after eight years in Seattle where she was most recently the Director of Marketing for Northwest Agriculture Business Center. She collaborated with farmers, businesses, and partner organizations to develop the Puget Sound Food Hub to increase farm sales, reduce costs and waste, address regulatory requirements, improve food safety standards, and increase access to locally produced foods.
Growing Our Farms brought together 150 diverse food and farming interests to share resources and forge new partnerships between landowners, land seekers, and support organizations working to improve land availability and affordability for local food production in Sonoma County.
- We're Hiring! Seeking a Talented Senior Facilitator to round out our team!
- We're Hiring: Senior Facilitator
- Current Ag Innovations Roundtables and Projects:
- Systems Thinking for Intractable Problems: From Problem-Solving to Emergence-Seeking
- From Forests to Farms: a Learning Journey with California Water Action Collaborative (CWAC)
- When Water Works with Fire: FireSmart Lake Sonoma
Impact Area: Local Food
Communities across the country are looking at strategies to strengthen local farms, improve access to local food, and build more resilient local economies. Our work building effective collaborations and leadership makes local food systems more viable. From food system assessments, to facilitating county-based working groups that make policy shift happen, we seek to engage with organizations and leaders that are committed to effecting change.
Example Projects: Local Food More Projects »
California Food System Alliance Project
The Alliance project has been Ag Innovations' main project since the founding of the original county Alliance in Ventura County in 1999. At one time or another, as many as 12 different counties in California have had a local Alliance organized and facilitated by Ag Innovations.
San Mateo County Food System Alliance
Founded in 2006, the San Mateo County Food System Alliance (SMFSA) is a collaboration of community leaders focused on creating a better future for farms, people, and the environment in San Mateo County.
San Diego Community Food Project
Ag Innovations served as an evaluation consultant for the Community Food Project of the International Rescue Committee in San Diego in 2011-2012, assisting in evaluation efforts and supporting integration of participant feedback.
Example Results More Results »
Sonoma County Food System Alliance: Growing Our Farms Forum
Growing Our Farms brought together 150 diverse food and farming interests to share resources and forge working partnerships between landowners, land seekers, and support organizations working to improve land availibility and affordability for local food production in Sonoma County. Throughout the day, participants explored creative land leasing and innovative financing models, and expanded their relationships throughout the local ag and foodscape.
2014 Salon Series: Finding Higher Ground
Joseph McIntyre, President of Ag Innovations, discusses how to move collaborations to action. Part of Ag Innovations' 'Salon Series' targeted to bring resources to leaders and food system advocates.
2014 Salon Series: Food Action Plans
Is your community or organization working to create a unified vision for your county's food system? Join Ag Innovations as we divulge the details of our Sonoma County Food Action Plan, a product of the Sonoma County Food System Alliance. The plan is one of few of its kind in the country, providing a roadmap for a more sustainable food system across sectors.