There is an opportunity for small farms to come together to meet the growing demand for local food and to create a culture of food safety in local food systems. Through the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and food safety certifications like GAP and GroupGAP, the FDA and the USDA are providing a bridge between buyers and sellers to enable more trust, cooperation and commerce. Local food advocates already know that local food is fresh, delicious, sustainable and safe. As more small farms join forces to educate themselves and their customers, share ideas and support each other to comply with federal food safety standards and obtain third party certification, there is hope that the industry will be more inclusive to small, sustainable farms.
This is the first of two posts on how we work with the persistent stories that often shape the contours of the projects we faciliate. In this article, we look at the stories themselves. In our Spring Innovation Newswire we will look at how we work with them.
One of the most consistent challenges we face in working with stakeholders are concepts and stories that come to be accepted as 'givens'. These stories/concepts become the boundaries around which what is thought be possible must be constructed.
California's drought has surfaced multiple conflicting narratives--ag uses too much water, urban users waste water, or environmental interests are preventing solutions. When mixed together, these conflicting narratives can lead to only one place--gridlock.
Many of these narratives are stereotypes--generalizations about the character of other stakeholders that shape the way we think and feel about them. They tend to be based on our ideas about others and not direct experience.
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.
Ag Innovations is hiring a Project Manager to support the successful completion of a community engagement planning process for the Santa Barbara County Conservation Blueprint project. The Project Manager will support the completion of a Blueprint conservation assessment drawing on the expertise and aspirations of technical and community participants across Santa Barbara County. This is a part-time 12-18 month temporary position.
Every day, a growing number of people come to realize how the changing climate is affecting (and will affect) our lives, economy, health, and environment. Though our solutions must include bold steps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, we must also prepare for the coming crises - that preparation is called climate adaptation. Incidentally, that preparation also brings a host of other benefits that help our community, the natural world, and our society, thrive.
Evan Wiig of The Farmers Guild, a fiscally sponsored project of Ag Innovations, was interviewed about the Growing Our Farms forum in Sonoma County. Ag Innovations' project, the Sonoma County Food System Alliance helped produce the event and President, Joseph McIntyre facilitated.
Ag Innovations collaborated with local partners to produce the Hunger Forum, an event targeted to raise awareness, and create solutions for the hunger disparity in Sonoma County. Joseph McIntyre facilitated the event.