It Takes a Region Conference - 2015

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Keynote Speaker Shirley Sherrod
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Session 1 | Session 2

workshop session 1 — Friday, November 13, 9:45–11:15 a.m.

Securing the Supply of Fresh, Local Food by Conserving the Regional Foodshed
Fresh, local food improves our health, sustains our economy, feeds our culture and increases our resiliency.  New York City’s annual unmet demand for regionally-produced food is almost $1 billion.  To narrow this gap, it's essential to protect the city's regional "foodshed." A recent University of California study determined that farmland within 100 miles of New York City has the potential to provide 30% of its food supply.  Yet nearly 89% of the valley's farmland—a dependable supplier of local food to NYC and the region’s farmers markets, restaurants, CSA's and food pantries—is at risk of development. This session will focus on Scenic Hudson’s “Foodshed Conservation Plan,” which provides a blueprint for the city, state, federal and philanthropic stakeholders to collaborate to protect the farmland supplying the city and region with local food, while infusing critical investment capital into the agricultural economy. This keeps farmland available for agriculture, enables farmers to expand their operations and increase productivity, and makes farmland more affordable for the next generation of farmers.
Presenter: Steve Rosenberg, Scenic Hudson

Who Holds the Key to the Land?
Land access and transfer are key to a sustainable food system, and among the greatest challenges. This workshop will examine the barriers to--and strategies to improve--equitable, affordable and secure access to farms and farmland.  In this session, we will look at unique issues around heirs property, farmers without successors, shared land ownership and more.
Moderator: Karen A. Spiller, NESAWG Steering Committee, KAS Consulting, & Food Solutions New England
Presenters: Shirley Sherrod, NESAWG 2015 Keynote Speaker & Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education; Kathy Ruhf, NESAWG Senior Fellow & Land for Good; Jerry Cosgrove, Farm Transfer & Agricultural Development Consultant

Farm Worker and Farmer Realities: Common Ground, Complex Challenges — How Can We Move Toward Sustainable Relations for All?
Common ground and interdependency among farmers and farm workers is not hard to see: Farm workers make food production, especially at medium and large scale farms, possible. Farmers provide the farm, land, tools, training, history, and connection to the marketplace that makes employing farm workers possible. But many factors, both external and on-farm, put pressure on these relationships.  When resources are constrained, prices go down, and global competition is fierce, everyone suffers and the whole system is squeezed. It’s an old story, and a complex dynamic. To improve conditions for farm workers in the Northeast, small and mid-sized farms must be economically viable, and external factors like immigration policy must be addressed. This session will present some of the realities that farm workers and farmers experience, and open a discussion about how to move toward making these relationships more sustainable for all.
Moderator: Liz Henderson, NOFA-NY
Presenters: Lazaro Alvarez Andrade, Farm Worker; Peter Ten Eyck, Indian Ladder Farm; Sue Futrell, Red Tomato
Translator:  Carly Fox, Worker Justice Center of New York

Making the Invisible Visible: Levels of Racism in Our Food System
Though slavery was outlawed over 150 years ago, racism continues to operate in different ways and at different levels in our American food system. This interactive session builds upon Dr. Camara Jones’ hope that, beyond acknowledging that racism exists, people are able to name and understand how it operates so that we can more effectively address it. By introducing fundamental concepts and exploring “levels of racism," this session is designed to build a greater understanding and capacity for dialogue, discussion and action focused on increased racial equity in our food system. Workshop presenters are Food Solutions New England Racial Equity Team Leaders.
Presenters: Curtis Ogden, Interaction Institute for Social Change; Joanne Burke, University of New Hampshire Sustainability Institute; Karen A. Spiller, NESAWG Steering Committee & KAS Consulting

Farm to Institution — Incorporating Social Values in Food Service Management Operations
Food service management companies (FSMC’s) operate a significant percentage of institutional dining operations in the US. Advocates working to integrate social values into food service operations often find it difficult to understand the decision making processes at these companies, and thus influence change. In turn, the business community often feels unfairly criticized by food system advocates who they feel don’t understand the complexities of their operations. This session will provide an interactive opportunity to explore perspectives of various stakeholders involved in this process. Short presentations will be made on several current initiatives to foster greater transparency and collaboration among advocates and the FSMC’s. Presenters will then lead role plays and discussion. Farm to Institution New England will present findings from recent research into the business operations at FSMC’s and an ongoing effort to influence the University of Maine System’s RFP for new food service vendors. The Food Chain Workers Alliance will discuss strategies to engage businesses around their Good Food Policy. Sodexo will discuss recent efforts in their Vermont First initiative to make local food a core part of their operating model.
Moderator: Peter Allison, Farm to Institution New England
Presenters: Abbie Nelson, NOFA-VT & VT FEED; Riley Neugebauer, Farm to Institution New England; Diana Robinson, Food Chain Workers Alliance; Annie Rowell, Sodexo

MyPlate — Northeast: A Tool for Promoting 'Sustainable Diets'?
This session focuses on ways that Cornell’s regional MyPlate – Northeast food guide can promote ‘sustainable diets’, defined by FAO as “those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations.” ‘Sustainable diets’ connect intersecting socio-cultural, environmental, public health, and economic dimensions of sustainability to food consumption. What types of guidance will best help professionals advise the public on eating a more sustainable regional diet? An important element here is food justice and food access – assuring that all Northeasterners can enjoy a regionally-focused, healthy, fair, just, and sustainable food system. We encourage attendance by food, health, and nutrition professionals. Following  an introduction to MyPlate – Northeast and to Tufts’ Sustainable Diets Project, session leaders will brainstorm with attendees on these issues. The discussion will generate constructive input towards a sustainable diets guidance framework, and for further development of MyPlate – Northeast.
Presenters: Kate Clancy, Food Systems Consultant; Jennifer Wilkins, Syracuse University; Hugh Joseph, Tufts University

Non-GMO Collaborations for Northeast Seed and Feed Supply Chains
Companies that develop GMO seeds are telling us that farmers can use whatever kind of seed or feed they want.  They choose GMO seed because they want it; it's a free market.  In reality, many Northeast livestock farmers have been trying to source non-GMO seed and feed and sometimes have difficulty doing so.  This is an issue of choice.  We have a right to unadulterated food that does not require herbicides that poison our soils and create superweeds.  For both consumers and farmers this is an issue of equity and food security as well; we must preserve our right to save and experiment with seeds. Non-GMO Project verification is now the fastest growing label in the natural food sector. In 2014, independent studies show that 57% of consumers in the US reported purchasing a non-GMO product, up from 37% in 2012.  Many are now responding to consumer demand, sustainability concerns and a commitment to good business practices. Over the past three years, dozens of companies and organizations have been collaborating to design non-GMO dairy, meat, grain, and feed supply chains to meet this growing market opportunity as well as address broader sustainability issues in our food and farm system. Participants in this workshop will learn about current national and regional collaborations; transition support programs for farmers and cooperatives; messaging for stakeholders; verification standards and process; and the infrastructure supporting a robust non-GMO seed and feed supply in the Northeast. Presenters from food brands, NCAT and Green America will share how this collaboration is creating opportunities and shaping sustainable agriculture in the Northeast.
Presenters: Norm Conrad, National Center for Appropriate Technology; Andy Barker, Ben & Jerry’s Company

Food Policy Councils — Engaging the Community and Building Diversity
This workshop will develop the capacity of food policy practitioners, such as members of food policy councils, to engage a diverse community in food system and food policy work. People of color and lower income groups typically experience more food insecurity and diet-related health problems, but these same groups are typically under-represented on food policy councils. Drawing on its own review of lessons from across the country, the Center for a Livable Future will present its findings. These will be supplemented by presentations by representatives of two to three food policy councils from the Northeast Region. The format will be interactive. Breakout groups will enable participants to process the information and devise their own strategies to promote engagement and inclusivity. These groups will present back to the whole group. CLF will compile the results for distribution on its resource database at
Presenters: Mark Winne & Anne Palmer, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

workshop session 2 — Friday, November 13, 3:45–5:15 p.M.

Food Hubs: Curbside Consulting
Grab some one-on-one time with food hub experts. Starting on Thursday, conference attendees will have the opportunity to sign up for 15-minute session to talk with one or more of the Discussion & Work Group leaders. Topics of expertise include federal support (funding and resources); general resources and food hub models; fundraising; value chain coordination; and food hub operations.
Presenters: James Barham, USDA Rural Development Jeff Farbman & John Fisk, Wallace Center at Winrock & International; Ann Karlen, Fair Food Philly

What is the Food Movement? And What is Your Next Move?
What IS the food movement? How can we most effectively mobilize everyone who has a stake in the food system? It's not just about 'voting with your fork.' Drawing from social movement theory and practice this workshop will explore the strengths and challenges—including inequities—of "our movement." We'll get into what you and your organization can do to advance food systems change at all levels.
Presenters: Kathy Ruhf, NESAWG Senior Fellow, & Land for Good; Ali Berlow, author and founder, Island Grown Initiative

Theory of Change: Not Just Theory
A Theory of Change is a tool for building organizational effectiveness. It surfaces previously unspoken assumptions about what an organization does and why, and the intended impacts of the organizational activities, both in the long and short-term. In this workshop we will demystify what Theories of Change are and why they are beneficial. We will explore different models for developing Theories of Change and learn from three NESAWG member organizations about their models and how they use their Theory of Change in practice.
Presenters: Curtis Ogden, Interaction Institute for Social Change; Ora Grodsky, Just Works Consulting; Caitlin Salemi, Local Economies Project; Tom Kelly, University of New Hampshire Sustainability Institute & Food Solutions New England; Laura Edwards-Orr, Red Tomato

Inclusive Economics
States as diverse as Maine, South Carolina, Alaska, and Mississippi are importing well over 90% of the food they eat, despite holding proud heritage in agriculture. At the same time, immigrant farmers and native hunters in each state are struggling to fashion or preserve livelihoods. Yet the typical discussion of economic impacts often marginalizes the very groups that are building local food production. How do we move more inclusive economic models to the forefront? What is the importance of social networks and local economic linkages in creating support for farms, nodes, and hubs?
Presenter: Ken Meter, Crossroads Resource Center

Enhancing Food Security with Regional Food Systems — Projects News
The Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast with Regional Food Systems project explores the role and potential of regional food systems to improve food security in low-income rural and urban communities. Presenters will share the activities, highlights, and findings from research on production, distribution and consumption across 12 states, including how researchers engaged with supply chain players, grocery store owners and communities. Hear about this ground-breaking five-year multi-disciplinary initiative that explores how both research and regional approaches can help address food system inequities and improve food self-reliance.  
Presenters: Kate Clancy, Food Systems Consultant; Linda Berlin, University of Vermont Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Clare Hinrichs & Sarah Rocker, Penn State University

Land Grant Extension Listening Session
Cooperative Extension provides non-formal education to rural and urban communities, emphasizing the practical application of research-based knowledge to create positive change. Extension programs address food system issues through their focus on agriculture, community development, environment, nutrition and more. This session is intended to collect your feedback on Extension’s work, now and in the future. After a brief introduction to Extension’s structure and goals, we’ll discuss: Which programs are working well, which are not? How can more diverse audiences be engaged? What areas should be the priorities for future programming and hiring, given limited budgets and the wide range of issues needing attention?
Presenter: Vern Grubinger, University of Vermont Extension, and USDA-NE SARE Program

Sustaining Farm Bill Wins and Preparing for Future Federal Advocacy Opportunities
Working to get the Farm Bill passed is exciting, but some of the most important work happens during the time in between legislative campaigns.  Join a DC policy advocate and continue to build your advocacy toolbox through this discussion of current actions Northeast advocates can take to ensure proper implementation of farm bill programs and get your voices heard with federal policymakers in anticipation of the next farm bill.  Specific advocacy strategies will be discussed, particularly within the context of the appropriations process, where we are in the farm bill cycle, and the upcoming presidential election.  Advocates of all knowledge and experience levels are encouraged to participate. 
Presenter: Sophia Kruszewski, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Catalyzing Change: Restructuring the Vermont Farm to School Network for Action
Farm to School is a complicated system. There are many ways to intervene and create change, but some work better than others. Since 2009, the Vermont Farm to School Network has had an ambitious vision of farm to school in every Vermont community. Yet if the Network was to realize its vision, we needed to act strategically and coordinate dozens of players, organizations, and stakeholders to move together towards a common goal. So Vermont FEED, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, and the Vermont Farm to School Network convened a strategic systems mapping process. We came together with more than 60 diverse food system leaders to understand how we can collaborate and take action to spark the growth and change we want. The presentation will touch on how we identified key levers of change in the system and how we evolved into a self-organizing network to take action. We are now sharing our lessons learned among other Networks and states.  Discussion will focus on sharing lessons learned about striving for inclusivity and broad perspectives, and other opportunities and challenges in our work.
Presenter: Betsy Rosenbluth, Vermont FEED

NOTE: A previously posted workshop, Measuring Farm Profitability and Success, is now featured as part of the Research & Assessment Discussion & Work Group