Gathering 2011 Breakout Session - Local Foods - CAN presentation on Emerging Local Food Systems


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  • Mention founding history and process of how and why CAN came about.
  • This map show a couple of different things. First, it shows the locations of the six CAN member organizations. It also shows, outlined in green, the subregions that we are working in to help develop local food systems. Of the CAN organizations, CEO and NCIF are the only two that work statewide. For this CAN project, though, CEO is focusing on a sub-region in the north central part of the state and is working with the WesMonTy RC&D council as a partner, and NCIF is concentrating on the Greenbrier valley region and is working with the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Authority and the Monroe Farm Market.
  • Even though we are talking about local food value chain development in this presentation, we want to make sure that you know that CAN member organizations approach development from a variety of strategies and work in many different sectors. For reasons I’ll talk about in a bit, we have chosen local food value chain development as a current focus for CAN. You can also see here that we are using the Wealth Creation Framework as an assessment, planning and measurement tool for this work. I’ll talk more about this in a bit, too.
  • But first, what is a local food value chain? (then read the slide)
  • OK, I’ve also just mentioned that we are working through a wealth creation framework. Some of you might have sat in on Shanna’s pre-conference workshop on the Wealth Creation Framework earlier today. For those of you who didn’t, the Ford Foundation and partners such Yellow Woods Associates have created this Framework as a systems approach to creating wealth that sticks in rural areas. The framework emphasizes local ownership and control of resources and it facilitates the development of multiple forms of wealth simultaneously.
  • These seven forms of wealth are:
  • As I mentioned, CAN chose to focus on local food system development for strategic reasons. First, the emphasis on healthy food, local food and local food systems is on the rise,and there are good reasons to believe these trends will continue. This refocus on local, sustainable agriculture is an issue of global importance and the Ford Foundation was particularly interested in CAN working in this sector. With concerns about food safety, energy costs, economic and environmental sustainability on the rise, building local healthy food systems could not be more important. And local food production is important because farming at some scale is at the roots of our Appalachian culture. We definitely may not be known as an agricultural region, but the tradition of family gardens and small produce markets gives us a basis from which to build. It makes sense to help develop this capacity as a means to improve our quality of life, help heal the land and create wealth for people.
  • So to take advantage of this interest in local food system development, in 2007, CAN made a commitment to a regional collaborative project to do just this. Our work on local food system development aligns with the individual missions of the CAN organizations, and also gives each organization and region flexibility to build on strengths and past work.
  • Regardless of each organizations’ approach, the core elements of our work in this project are to…. This…. and all of these elements are based on our past, collective experience in operating effective projects.
  • Within CAN, our organizations - and REGIONS,were – and still are – at different stages of development when it comes to local food. So with all of this in mind, we’re talking in this session about CAN’s experience with emerging local food systems. This is in contrast with more mature food systems that will be talked about by our CAN colleagues later today. As many of you know, several CAN partners have been very involved with incubators and aggregation/distribution facility development. By contrast, in West Virginia, both CEO and NCIF have beenworking statewide on a variety of initiatives and with local food systems very indirectly, and neither have had any plans to develop facilities. So again, we are going to be talking to you about CEO and NCIF’s experience in helping to develop an emerging local food value chain from this particular starting point.  To set the stage, you should know that when we started this project with CAN in 2007, in West Virginia there were pockets of activity and efforts that could be linked, but they weren’t connected as efficiently as they could have been. We at CEO had been developing a website called the Green Business, Green Jobs Accelerator that has a broad application to help connect people and entrepreneurs in many different business sectors, sustainable ag being just one of them. And NCIF had a broad-based sustainable investment portfolio and had been working with various value-adding food companies. Other Entities like the Collaborative for 21st Century Appalachia, the Monroe Farm Market, and the WVU Small Farm Center were also working on food-based initiatives. Public interest in local foods was also growing. Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution project was being launched in Huntington, WV, and all of this really helped focus media and public awareness on the connections between access to fresh foods and health and the economy. But it was CAN’s work and support of this focus on local food system development, thatwas critically important for several reasons.
  • This CAN project led us to inventory the infrastructure we did have which, led us to have conversations with people who were engaged in various aspects of the local food system. This was also helped by the first regional local food gathering that CAN hosted in April, 2009. At this meeting, the West Virginia attendees were eager to start working together – in part because they could see examples of more robust systems operating in our neighboring states. At this meeting, we focused on the need to bring together the players to talk about issues, opportunities and barriers ,and define methods to start building a local food system  This meeting led to a West Virginia Local Food Summit in November 2009. The steering committee included Mary Hunt Lieving of the Benedum Foundation, NCIF, CEO, and the Collaborative. For 21 Century Appalachia. Benedum provided funding for the event. At this convening,new and important connections were made to move the food system work forward.
  • So that’s a recap of the organizational process that we followed. Since then, we’ve been thoughtful about our work and about how to present it to others who may be where we were in terms of development back in 2007.To start, because both CEO and NCIF work statewide, we have encountered a diversity of issues, and have adopted a variety of approaches instead of a “one size fits all” solution. Many rural producers in WesMonTy, don’t have easy access to markets, are operating in areas where community food security and poverty are pressing issues and there is a need to develop more capacity in all aspects of the value chain. In the Greenbrier Valley, people are working with a different focus since a cluster of producers are working with established markets, have access to intermediaries such as the the Monroe Farm Market that sells direct to consumers, andare in the process expanding and increasing sales. So we can’t emphasize enough the importance of upfront work to get to know the lay of the land, and to truly understand where the producers are in terms of capacity,while also understanding the various markets and market potential. What we have found, though is that there are common issues of season extension, food safety, policy, need for investment and market development and how to connect them all into a workable system. But again, strategies for addressing even these “common denominator needs” will vary quite a bit.
  • Another thing, our work to develop an emerging local food system in West Virginia is distinctive because it has demanded partnerships outside of our organizations since neither CEO or NCIF are direct service providers.For instance, CEO works with WesMonTy as a support partner, and brings in resources and introduces them to other partners as needed. CEO actually hooked up with WesMonTY RC&D at the West Virginia Local Food Conference in November 2009. Most of the WesMonTy region is very low-wealth and faces major food security issues. They are a good partner because they share CEO and CAN’s focus on food system development and are interested in working with us to explore how to develop a system from – basically – scratch. We’ve been able to tap CAN’s resource pool for a $2,500 contract to do food policy research in their area, and CAN is also providing $20,000 for staff support. In the WesMonTY, we’ve pulled together a grower’s co-op which includes nearly 20 members that meet to share information, engage in joint purchasing opportunities, and are starting to sell to the local school. Two farmers markets in the sub-region have taken on the responsibility of being local food hubs by addressing three major issues in the local food system: distribution, supply and access. These two food hubs are showing the potential for accepting SNAP benefits at their markets, which addresses the issue of food access. Recently, WesMonTy helped 12 local producers get high tunnels to help with their season extension efforts. To help with creating market access we are working with the Department of Education to develop the local school systems as “patient markets” for produce. We know that the markets and the production have to grow and develop together, each with an understanding and appreciation for the challenges and realities of the other. And by the way…We’re planning a large regional/statewide farm-to-school conference and working with the National Farm to School Network to learn from the state’s that are farther down the road than we are. Why re-invent the wheel, right? In this region, with all of this activity, we are not just focusing on financial wealth creation, but are seeing tremendous growth in social and intellectual capital which we believe are pre-cursors to sustainable community development. Similarly, NCIF is working with Monroe County Farmers Market – a coop in the Greenbrier Valley.Monroe Farm Market Online storeis comprised of over 20 small and diverse farmers located in Monroe and surrounding counties who produce seasonal fruits and vegetables, meats and other value-added items. NCIF is targeting effort to the Monroe Farm Market and the local Economic Development Authority and supporting the development of a shared-use freezer/refrigeration facility to provide needed product storage and staging for food shipments out of the region. Additionally through CAN, $16,000 was invested to assist with business plan development for this. This CAN funding has also supported the development of a regional assessment of the agricultural economy and quantified food sales to be able to better gauge the economic potential in the region. This study can be replicated and is a good first step when a system is in the early stages of formation. An additional $15-$20,000 has been invested for staff support.
  • Because we’ve had to be flexible to cover broad geographic areas and adapt to different circumstances, and because we’ve had to reach out beyond our own organizations to cover the “work on the ground”, we’ve tightened our relationships with the Extension service, WVU, Dept of Ag.and other nonprofits. This is helping to build Social Capital which is so important to getting budding local food systems off the ground. By broadening the focus and developing stronger relationships, we have created issue salience that has “trickled up” to the various agencies: it’s much more of a grass roots effort than not. It’s also led to the leverage of investment, and has drawn different players to the table. We know and would advise others starting at the very beginning of a local food system project that developing social capital through slow and careful relationshipdevelopment is very important. This is sort of opposite of the top-down “if you build it, they will come” strategy that we’ve all so familiar with, but relationships seem to be a sound base from which to launch food system development in places where very little development exists.
  • So to summarize, we know that a lot of rural communities will be starting from places similar to us when it comes to local food system development. From our experience, the way you proceed is often determined by the outcome you want; if you are looking for food security and poverty alleviation, just know that developing a local food system is likely to be a very slow process and should begin with developing strong relationships and building social capital at all levels. But if you are looking to maximize financial wealth quickly then working in a target area with the most potential for success – one with markets and production already established – is the way to go. In either case, managing risk for both producers and the market is very important. I spoke about developing “patient markets” earlier. These are markets that understand that production may not be spot-on all the time, and that the producers are in some learning curve. It’s getting a balance. You don’t want to set producers for not being able to respond appropriately to the market – be it quality, packaging, quantity and you don’t want to set the market up to expect something that can’t be delivered. This is very important for the intermediaries involved in local food system development to understand, too. These systems are being designed to operate in the free market, so every step of the way, the “business check-in” can’t be over-emphasized – especially if the intermediary decides to step into a role that a for-profit business usually takes on. If you think about it, in a free market economy, and in a perfect world, businesses would be driving these local value chains to develop if the profit motive was strong enough. As non-profits, we often see it our mission to wade into these value chains to provide a “fix” be it capital, technical assistance, connections, or facilities or infrastructure of another sort to get the system up and operating. We see it as a good sign when for-profit companies, entrepreneurs, or other investors start moving in to take over the processes because that means that the viability of the value chain is being recognized. Or, if this doesn’t happen, then the nonprofit and its funders need to decide if there is enough value, or different forms of wealth being generated to make a long-term support of the project worth it. But no matter what, by involving so many partners and approaching local food value chain development as we have, we believe the value chains are being deeply embedded in the communities. None of the results are tied up with or dependent upon a single organization owning or controlling a facility or resources, and this makes impact hard to measure, but over the long term, we believe the it is worth the evaluation headaches to achieve results that are more sustainableand profound for the people we serve. And speaking of investors, we have to say, it would have been VERY difficult for either of our organizations to do this work without the support of CAN and the investment of CAN’s funders. This work takes a considerable amount of time and money. I know that we haven’t yet been able to secure the financial base that supports us to do the work we are truly capable of but we’re doing the best we can and hope it’s enough to attract more investment. And now, here’s Carrie Traud with MACED to talk about this from a policy perspective.
  • Gathering 2011 Breakout Session - Local Foods - CAN presentation on Emerging Local Food Systems

    1. 1. Central Appalachian Network<br />CAN is a network of six economic development organizations working to build a more just and sustainable Appalachia.<br />CAN works to advance the economic transition of the region by fostering the development of enterprises, organizations, and policies that promote and protect the health of our local economies, communities, and environment.<br />
    2. 2. CAN Member Organizations<br />CAN is led by a Steering Committee comprised of the six member organizations:<br /><ul><li>Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) Athens, OH
    3. 3. Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) Abingdon, VA
    4. 4. Center for Economic Options (CEO) Charleston, WV
    5. 5. Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) Berea, KY
    6. 6. Natural Capital Investment Fund (NCIF) Shepherdstown, WV
    7. 7. Rural Action, Trimble, OH</li></li></ul><li>CAN’s Current Sub-Regions of Focus<br />
    8. 8. CAN’s Local Food System Work<br />CAN member organizations approach sustainable economic development from a variety of sectors. <br />Our current focus as a network is on the development of local food value chains.<br />We use the wealth creation framework as an assessment, planning, and measurement tool for this work. <br />
    9. 9. What is a Local Food Value Chain?<br />A supply chain is a system of organizations, people, information, and resources involved in getting a product or service from the producer to the end consumer. <br />A value chain is a demand-driven supply chain infused with the triple bottom line values of social, environmental and economic benefit.<br />Members of a value chain work together for mutual benefit, and are often more closely connected than conventional supply chains. <br />
    10. 10. What is the Wealth Creation Framework?<br />A systems approach to creating wealth that sticks in rural areas. <br />Emphasizes local ownership and control of resources. <br />Facilitates the development of multiple forms of wealth simultaneously. <br />
    11. 11. The Seven Forms of Wealth<br />Individual<br />Social<br />Intellectual<br />Natural<br />Built<br />Political<br />Financial<br />
    12. 12. Emerging Local Food Systems<br />Local food is important to the region<br />It makes sense to develop this capacity as a means to improve our quality of life, help heal the land and create wealth for people. <br />
    13. 13. Emerging Local Food Systems<br />CAN committed to a regional collaborative project to strengthen local food systems.<br />Aligns with the missions of CAN organizations<br />Gives each organization flexibility<br />
    14. 14. Core Elements of our Work<br />Provide outreach, education, training and technical assistance.<br />Develop infrastructure to move farm products to market.<br />Connect local and regional food producers, processors and distributors to create functional local system.<br />Link to large market partners including grocers, retailers, and institutional buyers. <br />
    15. 15. Emerging Local Food Systems<br />Starting to connect the pieces<br />Pockets of activity<br />Early stages of work<br />Few connections<br />Growing interest<br />
    16. 16. Emerging Local Food Systems<br />Starting to connect the pieces<br />Inventoried the existing infrastructure<br />Hosted regional local food gathering<br />Began organizing work <br />
    17. 17. Emerging Local Food Systems<br />Observations…<br />One size does NOT fit all<br />Working with emerging local food systems requires a diversity of approaches and initial focus on issues<br />Season extension<br />Food safety<br />Policy <br />Investment<br />Market development<br />
    18. 18. Emerging Local Food Systems<br />Observations…<br />Our work with developing local food systems required partnerships with other organizations for the “on the ground” piece. <br />CEO and WesMonTy<br />NCIF -- Monroe Farm Market/Greenbrier Valley EDA<br />
    19. 19. Emerging Local Food Systems<br />Observations…<br />Social Capital is extremely important<br />
    20. 20. Emerging Local Food Systems<br />Key Learnings:<br /><ul><li>Creating Social Capital is imperative.
    21. 21. The system takes time to develop.
    22. 22. Managing risk for producers, markets and the intermediaries is crucial.
    23. 23. Embedding the value chains in the communities with the outcomes tied to no single stakeholder. </li></li></ul><li>Policy Priorities: Farm Bill Reauthorization<br /><ul><li>Working with National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
    24. 24. Huge budget cuts to critical programs
    25. 25. Beginning Farmer & Rancher Program
    26. 26. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education
    27. 27. Value-Added Producer Grants
    28. 28. Rural Micro-Entrepreneur Assistance Program
    29. 29. Rural Conservation & Development</li></li></ul><li>Policy Priorities: Outreach and Education<br /><ul><li> Webinars
    30. 30. Farm Bill
    31. 31. Food safety
    32. 32. Other topics of interest at the state/sub-regional level
    33. 33. Producer outreach and education at the sub-regional level</li></li></ul><li>Policy Actions: What You Can Do<br /><ul><li> Ensure Appalachian voices are heard
    34. 34. Advocate for programs to help small farmers, not agribusiness
    35. 35. Support local work</li></li></ul><li>Resources<br />Central Appalachian Network:<br />Center for Economic Options:<br />Natural Capital Investment Fund:<br />Mountain Association for Community Economic Development:<br />