Over the past year, a group of Upper Midwest funders has been exploring uniquely regional opportunities to promote resilient food systems decades into the future, given climate change and changing demographics. Two promising areas of focus have emerged: landscape-scale approaches to enhancing land and water health, and the potential for collective impact offered by the emergence of state food charters in the region. On June 22, we will explore these opportunities in depth. Please feel free to attend whether or not you have been involved in the conversation to date (and whether or not you’re able to attend the full SAFSF forum). For more information, visit this webpage.
The issue of race has been front and center in many dimensions in the past year: the killings of unarmed African American and Latino men and boys covered by the national news for months, the discussion of discrimination in Hollywood, and media coverage of the disproportionate numbers of people of color in our prison systems. These are only the starkest examples. Racial injustice happens throughout our society, including in the food system.
This workshop, building on plenaries and workshops at previous Forums, will give participants a chance to dig deeper into the structural racial inequities that limit access to land and healthy food for communities of color.
The intent of this session is to help deepen our analysis of how issues of our food system are connected to racial justice issues. Participants will discuss the ways that structural inequities have resulted in the creation of two Americas (and two food systems) depending on the community you live in and the color of your skin. Attendees will also explore how the food system can be used to address the need for more opportunities and resources for all communities and how food system philanthropy can help address the history of structural racism in the U.S.
We hope this session will serve as a lens through which to see your experiences on Wednesday’s site visits. These inequities exist everywhere, but sometimes it’s easier to see them outside your normal context. By examining these inequities in Chicago, you may be able to identify them more easily in your home town and granting regions.
Facilitator: Nikki Silvestri, chief executive officer, Silvestri Strategies, CA
The nexus between labor and food historically has been focused on wages, benefits, and working conditions. Only recently has the labor conversation in the food movement shifted to include business ownership, and this new addition to the dialogue is an important one. This workshop will provide an overview of the various forms of cooperatives and then focus in on worker-owned cooperatives. We will discuss why cooperatives are important to consider for business development, the ways they are financed, successful examples from around the country, the technical assistance and tools many co-ops need during the development phases, and why worker-owned co-ops are significantly underrepresented in the cooperative business landscape.
Facilitator: Mark Fick, director of lending and business development, NorthCountry Cooperative Development Fund; board president, Center for Workplace Democracy, IL
There has been an increase in the number of funders and investors supporting new “good food movement”-aligned businesses. At the same time, there is an acknowledgement that many of these new businesses need substantial assistance before they are “investment ready.” As a result, there is a desire to help find ways to provide the technical assistance necessary to support new food businesses. This Pre-Forum tour will highlight a group that has provided technical assistance to new businesses of all kinds for over 45 years. ICNC (Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago) owns and manages a 416,000 square-foot incubator center that provides affordable rent, business development assistance, support services, and a vibrant business community network to new and emerging companies. ICNC receives so many requests from manufacturing entrepreneurs—many of them food-related—that the center cannot meet demand and is exploring expansion. We will get a chance to tour the facility, meet with a few of the business tenants, and learn about what is most commonly needed to move businesses from the very risky early stage of development to a stable, thriving company.
Founded in 1972, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School (PACHS) is an alternative high school located in the Humboldt Park neighborhood—one of three food deserts in Chicago, according to a study by Mt. Sinai Urban Health Institute. The school empowers students to engage in critical thinking and social transformation, from the classroom to the Puerto Rican community. PACHS’s Urban Agriculture initiative is an example of how the school’s science curriculum connects students both to the skills needed to overcome the neighborhood’s status as a food desert and to the required content of the Illinois State Standards. On this excursion we will meet with students, staff, and community members to tour their state-of-the-art rooftop school greenhouse, visit their farming operations in Humboldt Park, discuss the importance of sustaining cultural identity in the face of neighborhood gentrification, and learn how schools can implement models of growing food to deal with serious health, access, and nutrition issues. If we are lucky, we’ll get to sample some of their organic produce and their own brand of sofrito, which students are taking from seed to distribution.
Food system change is about more than just food: it’s about health; it’s about community; it’s about equity; it’s about dignity. Continuing the conversations and learning about “building power” that took place during the 2014 SAFSF Policy Briefing, this opening plenary will highlight a few individuals and groups who are making big change through organizing. Their stories are inspirational: they remind us that those most impacted by a problem have the power to come together and create dynamic, meaningful, and lasting solutions. The plenary will also push us to see health impacts beyond the topics of obesity, diabetes, and access to fresh fruits and vegetables, to such issues as poor working conditions, repetitive stress injuries, sexual assault and harassment, lack of health care and paid sick days, and much more. These issues are big and daunting, but this plenary will show how it is possible to create economic, political, and/or cultural shifts quickly. (It might take longer than one grant cycle, but it doesn’t have to take a lifetime.)
How can funders help bridge the divide between leaders on the front lines of the broken food system and national advocates? Lessons from a three-year initiative, EAT4Health, help answer this question. The initiative was led by the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, with support from The Kresge Foundation, 11th Hour Project, Compton Foundation, New York Community Trust, The Sandy River Charitable Trust, and Lawson Valentine Foundation, as well as past support from the CSI, Surdna Foundation, and The Praxis Project. EAT4Health supplemented ongoing local food justice work by giving awards to policy fellows for engaging with DC-based advocacy peers in order to connect local and federal policy campaigns. We invite you to find out what we’ve accomplished, and where we stumbled. This conversation will expand your understanding of the complexity of structural racism and how it is being challenged as young people of color assume greater leadership within our food movement’s advocacy arenas. Participants will receive a copy of our four case studies, briefly hear about the initiative’s design, and then dialogue with two EAT4Health Fellows. We encourage you to consider how successful features of this initiative might be applied to your grant portfolio.
One of the few major pieces of legislation passed and signed into law during the 113th Congress, the 2014 Farm Bill avoided draconian cuts to SNAP and included new supports for the next generation of farmers and ranchers and the development of sustainable regional food systems. The bill also modified commodity and conservation programs and increased attention and support to crop insurance programs. This session will explain key provisions of the bill, analyze USDA’s progress 18 months into implementation, and discuss potential policy challenges and key funding opportunities during the next two years.
The session will begin with a broad overview of the 2014 bill, highlighting key provisions from farm production and resource conservation to credit, research, and rural development; from initiatives designed to improve access to nutritious produce by SNAP participants to linkages with regional production. Particular attention will be given to the new state of play on local and regional food systems and on crop and revenue insurance.
Attendees will then break into smaller groups for focused discussion of specific programs including farm and farmer-based programs; SNAP and the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program (FINI); Healthy Food Financing; and farmers’ markets, food hub development, and other local food system provisions. The focus will be on gaining a clear understanding of the current state of affairs on the implementation process, funding issues, and understanding strategic ways in which grantmakers can support positive engagement.
Today, we face an unprecedented change in farmland ownership, with 70% of farmland owned by those 65 and older. An estimated 400 million acres will change hands in the next 20 years—an area nearly the size of the Louisiana Purchase. Retiring farmers need to cash out, while new farmers struggle to buy in. Economists predict massive consolidation in ownership as a result. Is this a precarious moment for regional food systems, or a moment of opportunity to make land available for more, new, sustainable farms and community food security? What happens in the next few years will determine the course of the “ground game.”
The goals of this session are to: 1) raise the question of who will own our farmland in the coming generation; 2) survey the “state of the field” with thought leaders and land-transition professionals, laying out the terms of the land transition that lies ahead—particularly as it involves increased investment in farmland from foreign and absentee parties—and the implications for our sustainable food system; and 3) draw attention to innovative work on this area already underway, and ideas for how to make sure all farmland investment is benevolent.
This session will feature three grantmakers who are working in Native American communities around the country. They bring different perspectives from their organizations, but all agree that their work with Native American communities is vitally important. Their funding goes not only to organizations doing work in tribal communities, but specifically to Native-led organizations. Historically less than one half of one percent of philanthropic dollars nationally have gone to Native American causes, and according to a recent Foundation Center study the amount of those dollars is decreasing. We’ll hear from one tribal leader and two non-Native foundations about why they are making significant investments in Indian Country, lessons they have learned, and examples of their partners’ work. Their work with Native communities spans a range of issues including food systems and food sovereignty, infrastructure development, cultural preservation, entrepreneurship, tribal governance, and more.
The Upper Midwest is a region known for its leading agricultural producers, innovative food businesses, and the valuable natural ecosystem that is the Great Lakes. There is a huge opportunity for the region to meet growing demand for sustainably produced food while addressing complex issues facing the region: the devastating impacts of climate change, struggling with food insecurity, and preparing for retiring farmers.
The plenary will feature a diverse set of local voices in nine short presentations. Through the dynamic, fast-paced PechaKucha presentation style, you will hear and see about some of the exciting food system change happening in the region. A networking cocktail reception will follow.
Moderator: Alison Babb, senior project manager, Center for Prevention, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, MN
Pre-registration is required for themed dinners. Check your nametag to see which dinner, if any, you signed up for during registration.
No-host dinners: Finance & Investing; Food Hubs; School Food; Urban Agriculture; Food Justice; Federal Policy Change; Healthy Eating; and Organics.
Money in Politics:The Funder’s Committee for Civic Participation’s (FCCP) Money in Politics Working Group and the Piper Fund will host a dinner conversation about the connections between the food and ag movements and money-in-politics reform. We’ll dig into the latest on what’s happening in the democracy reform field and also how some environmental funders are engaging at the intersection of money in politics and the environment. We’ll also discuss the challenges and opportunities around better connecting the fight for healthy, sustainable food with the democracy reform and environmental/economic justice movements. Meet in lobby at 6:30 pm to take cabs to dinner location.
Developing a Coordinated Food Movement Strategy: It is a common observation that we need a more coordinated and focused food movement. In response, a group of leaders is working to develop a movement-based strategy to reshape the food system, beginning by recognizing that as a society we do not respond to threats that we cannot see, or which are so complex that we cannot comprehend. At this dinner, we’ll discuss this initiative to build a healthy and just future, invest in vibrant economies and improve the effectiveness of government by getting food right. Please join this dinner group to hear from Ricardo Salvador, Food and Environment director of Union of Concerned Scientists, and Navina Khanna, fellow at Movement Strategy Center. Co-hosted by 11th Hour Project; W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation; Thread Fund; Panta Rhea Foundation; GRACE Communications Foundation; and Agua Fund, Inc. Dinner starts at 7:00 pm, English Room, 5th Flr.
Less than an hour north of the Chicago city limits and in close proximity to some of the most successful corporations in the world, there are glimmers of hope for a local, agrarian, land-friendly economy and community. An emerging movement is bringing together sustainable farming, farmer training and incubation, food-immersed youth education, expanding farmland access initiatives, and land conservation in a quintessentially American landscape mix of rural towns, bustling suburbs, and struggling neighborhoods.
The Liberty Prairie Foundation and its partners will host a daylong tour of Lake and McHenry counties, where local food farming, innovation, land conservation, and non-traditional partnerships are beginning to put down roots and change the paradigm for this area’s future to one that values land and community. Throughout the day we’ll hear from experts, organizational leaders, elected officials, and farmers on their successes, failures, challenges, and opportunities in advancing both sustainable local food and conservation in the region.
We’ll first visit Casey Farm, situated within the 5,800-acre Liberty Prairie Reserve in Lake County. The farm demonstrates an innovative approach to providing long-term land access to a beginning food farmer on a combination of public and private land. A hike through the Liberty Prairie Reserve will allow us to see some of the over 3,400 acres of protected lands that form a mosaic of residential neighborhoods, agricultural lands, and natural landscapes, representing a true oasis in the middle of rapidly developing Lake County. A special farm-to-table lunch will feature produce grown at the nearby Prairie Crossing Farm, a 100-acre farm nestled in a nationally-renowned conservation community featured on Growing a Greener World. This farm produces more than just good food: through a farm incubator program supported by the USDA Beginning Farmer Rancher and Development Program, new commercial farm businesses are given the space and mentoring they need to eventually blossom into independent, successful farm operations. Through the Prairie Farm Corps, high school youth, many from disadvantaged areas of the county, are given the tools to learn how to raise food sustainably, cook with that food, operate a farmers’ market, and work closely and effectively with a wide diversity of team members.
After lunch, we’ll drive west to McHenry County, where we’ll meet with members of the McHenry County Conservation District (MCCD), charged with preserving, protecting, and managing open spaces and natural areas in a landscape defined by majestic oaks and beautiful waterways. The MCCD owns or manages over 25,000 acres of open land diverse with woodlands, prairies, wetlands, ponds, creeks, and rivers, including over 6,000 acres of agricultural lands. The MCCD has carried out an epic re-meandering of one of the iconic creeks that paddlers cherish. What does a conservation district like this with a fierce commitment to its ecological mission do with its farmland? You’ll have the chance to understand their frontline perspectives and challenges as they move in new directions while respecting the realities of rural farm economies and politics. You’ll also have the chance to learn about the exciting opportunities they see for better managing their lands for ecological health through farm policy changes and the use of more diversified agricultural practices.
The Grand Kankakee region straddles the Illinois-Indiana state line about 90 minutes south of downtown Chicago. An area rich in history, culture, and promise, it is also an area of stark contrasts. Once known as “the everglades of the north,” with 500,000 acres of riparian land along the Kankakee River, it constituted one of the great freshwater ecosystems of the world before the advent of agriculture and the conversion of wetland to farmland. Now, as with many places in the Midwest, it is known for acre after acre of row-crop commodity farms. However, the region also supports a large number of vegetable farmers and remains the top priority landscape for The Nature Conservancy in Illinois, especially due to its important Black Oak Savanna ecosystem.
The vegetable farms in the region are some of the most important retail and wholesale farms supplying Chicago schools, institutions, and farmers’ markets. One such farm is DeGroot’s Vegetable Farms, an oasis in the middle of row-crop country located in St. Anne, Illinois. Now under the leadership of the third and fourth generations, the DeGroot family has been growing potatoes and vegetables for retail and local markets since the 1930s and has evolved into a wholesale grower for vegetable processors and distributors. In addition to the Illinois farm, DeGroot’s has locations in Georgia and North Carolina and sources potatoes from other growing regions to maintain a year-round supply for the Midwest market. The farm is a success story in how to scale an operation, evolving from truck patch to wholesale grower.
The Grand Kankakee region is also home to the historic African American farming community in Pembroke Township. In 1863, Pap Tetter and his family of 18 children homesteaded what is now called Hopkins Park in the heart of Pembroke Township. Pembroke farmland now serves as a buffer between extensive commodity production found on the bottomland and the Black Oak Savanna. As occurred in many black-farming communities, agricultural industrialization devastated the limited-resource farmers of Pembroke Township, and hundreds of acres of land lay fallow for more than a generation. Yet some farmers held on. Today, Pembroke is experiencing a renaissance, with farmers linked to Chicago communities through two organizations: Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Living and Pembroke Farming Families. Both organizations, independently and in partnership, are building food value chains, training a new generation of African-American farmers, and creating a focus on sustainable development for the community.
This site visit will explore the relationships between urban and rural communities, the sometimes aligned and sometimes divergent needs for ecosystem protection and farmland preservation, and the ways that farmers from distinct communities have taken the initiative to grow their businesses and their communities.
Chicago has some excellent examples of training programs in this field, and this tour will give participants the opportunity to visit three such programs and do some volunteer work in the process.
The tour will start with a visit to Windy City Harvest, the urban agriculture education and jobs-training initiative of the Chicago Botanic Garden. Windy City Harvest serves low-income youth, adults, and communities through four program areas: Youth Farm, a program that focuses on youth development; the Apprenticeship program, a workforce training and job placement program accredited by the Illinois Community College Board; the Entrepreneur and Career program, which offers evening courses on industry-specific topics; and the Harvest Corps program, designed specifically for the formerly incarcerated, justice-involved youth, and others who have significant barriers to employment. Windy City Harvest uses organic methods throughout its programs and operates on eight acres at a dozen locations throughout Chicago and Lake County. Students annually grow approximately 100,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables, serving an estimated 143,000 people. Our visit will be to the farm located at City Colleges of Chicago’s Daley College, Arturo Velasquez Institute on the Near West Side of the city.
In America, in 2015, many people go hungry every day, and the number of people needing food assistance continues to rise. In Chicago the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD) is one of the regional groups providing food assistance to more than 812,000 people—one in six people in the county—through a network of partners. The tour will include a visit to the main warehouse and distribution facility, where we will put our own hands to work volunteering in whatever way is most needed. In addition to its food assistance work, the GCFD also runs a culinary job training program, Chicago’s Community Kitchens, which is a 14-week program aimed at prepping unemployed and underemployed adults for a career in foodservice. While training for their own future, program participants create nearly 2,500 meals a day that are delivered to Food Depository Kids Cafes and older adult meal programs. We’ll hear their stories, eat lunch together, and learn about this program and more.
We’ll end our day at Growing Home, a non-profit created in 2002 based on the belief that everyone deserves to have a good job and to eat well. By providing 25 hours per week of paid on-the-job experience and job-readiness training, plus the support to conquer issues like criminal records, medical needs, child care, and housing, the organization is changing the lives of workers and their families. While many graduates of the program continue to work in the food system, the program’s primary goal is meaningful employment in any field. The main farm is located in Englewood, a community on Chicago’s South Side that was once a bustling commercial hub, but has suffered from decades of disinvestment and de-population. Considered a food desert due to the lack of healthy foods available, Englewood’s ratio of fast food sources to fresh produce sources is greater than four to one. In addition to enrolling Englewood residents in the training program and helping them find jobs, Growing Home also encourages new food-based businesses in the community by partnering with like-minded community organizations through coalition-building.
This tour is limited to 35 participants and will begin with a presentation in the hotel.
Throughout the U.S., faith communities are at the frontline of hunger relief and food system advocacy, as evidenced by congregational support of community gardening, food cupboards and pantries, teachings that promote respect for nature and the environment, and simple daily efforts to ensure that no one in need will be turned away. SAFSF is excited to showcase some transformative community work taking place around healthy food system advocacy in many faith communities in and around the Chicago metropolitan area.
Start your day with an “attitude of gratitude” as we hear about and from Faith in Place, an organization that works with faith communities and religious leaders throughout Illinois to promote environmental sustainability. From the hotel we will head over to Mother Carr’s Organic Farm in Linwood, a community-based farm supported through the Vernon Park Church of God. The ten-acre farm, owned and operated by the church, was created with the help of Faith in Place and supports a CSA—”Congregationally Supported Agriculture.” Since 2012, they have grown and harvested over 35,000 pounds of produce, welcomed over 100 CSA members, and donated 5,000 pounds of food to local pantries. We’ll enjoy a tour of the farm and break bread together over lunch with members of the community and congregation.
We will spend the afternoon with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), founded by an inter-generational group of students, residents, and community leaders united around the need to address violence, poverty, and decay in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood on Chicago’s Southwest Side. We will break up into small groups and go on a “circuit tour” of their various facilities and programs: youth and arts, a free community health clinic, a transitional housing and green construction program, and an initiative to help corner store owners provide healthy food options in the neighborhood. The tour will take place during the month of Ramadan, when IMAN has an annual project called “Refresh the ‘Hood” to engage residents around healthy living, provide neighborhood corner stores with fresh organic produce and hand out free smoothies, and work to heal the tensions between store owners and community residents.
This tour is limited to 25 participants and will begin with a presentation in the hotel.
Planning departments have long had a role to play in food and agriculture policy. Planning dictates where people can grow food, how that food can be distributed, where the wholesale markets are located, and where community gardens are placed, among other things. Today, more local governments are getting involved with the good food movement. Having the ability to recognize and leverage city, county, or state-wide local food initiatives requires an open channel of communication between agency officials and the philanthropic sector. In Chicago, the nonprofit and foundation communities worked together with the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development to conceive of the urban agriculture zone.
In early 2014, the City of Chicago Plan Commission approved the Green Healthy Neighborhoods Plan (GHN), which authorized “productive landscapes” reserved for urban agriculture in a handful of city neighborhoods. Philanthropy took note and created Food:Land:Opportunity—Localizing the Chicago Foodshed, a multi-year initiative of the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust in partnership with Kinship Foundation. By acting on input from city planners they deployed philanthropic capital to support the city’s urban agriculture goals by increasing the number of people eligible and qualified to farm on land authorized by GHN.
Our learning journey will begin with a contextual overview at the hotel by Kathy Dickhut, Deputy Commissioner of the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development. Then we’ll head to Englewood for a first-hand look at an area designated as an urban agriculture zone by the GHN plan. In Englewood, participants will hear from Food:Land:Opportunity grantees Grow Greater Englewood, Angelic Organics Learning Center, and NeighborSpace.
After lunch, participants will travel to the Fulton-Randolph Market District for another in-depth look at city planning efforts currently underway. The proposed district is the oldest food marketing area in Chicago, with a variety of wholesale produce and meat packing businesses. Many of the buildings were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but the area started functioning as a food market zone well before the structures were in place. Today, the area is home to Green City Market and others selling locally, sustainably produced food to wholesale customers. In addition to the market discussion, participants will learn about the historic preservation aspects of this district and the opportunities for public-private partnerships.
Regional Food Network Leaders Breakfast (Location: Taste, 4th Flr.) hosted by SAFSF. For anyone who is leading a regional group of food funders, or who is considering starting a new regional group, come learn from and share with your peers.
We can’t see them, but billions of microbes are essential to healthy soil—and our bodies. New understandings of the interactions among microbes in our external and internal environments are changing the ways we think about connections between these ecosystems. For years organic agriculture practitioners and researchers have worked to support diverse microflora in the soil, while researchers have studied the impacts of their farms on soil, nutrition, economics, and more. Now, we’re beginning to hear terms like transformative agroecosystems and “the gut microbiome,” both ecosystems that can work with us and against us, often depending on how we treat them. What can we learn about the care of soil and our food crops from practitioners who are exploring how to tend these ecosystems. This plenary is a conversation between two people who have been thinking deeply about these connections for a number of years. They will explore questions related to the interplay between human health, agricultural health, and social health. What role does diversity play in the various systems? How do we work with or against nature in the ways we treat the soil and ourselves?
Join us to explore the relationship between the microbes, different forms of agriculture, human diets, and our deeply connected world.
Moderator: Karen Lehman, executive director, Fresh Taste; 2015 Forum Planning Committee, IL
Speakers: Daphne Miller, MD, family physician; visiting scholar, Berkeley Food Institute; associate clinical professor, University of California San Francisco; and author, CA John Reganold, regents professor of Soil Science & Agroecology, Washington State University, WA
Following the many discussions throughout the Forum that have touched on issues related to equity, diversity, inclusion, racial justice, and structural inequities, you may find yourself thinking, “As a grantmaker/investor, what can I DO with all this information?” The short answer is: A LOT! This workshop will help unpack the steps each of us can take regardless of our role within the funding world or within our organizations by learning directly from peers who have faced the same questions and challenges and have taken steps within their organization.
Moderator: Virginia Clarke, executive director, SAFSF, CA
Regardless of race or gender, if you are an adult in America, there is a greater than 30% chance that you are obese according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Getting up and moving is critically important when it comes to changing the current obesity trends and associated health complications. This workshop will highlight initiatives that are motivating people to be more active, changing community environments to support physical activity, and advancing local and state policy to make safe opportunities for physical activity more possible where people live, work, learn, and play.
Recognizing that black women are dying younger and at higher rates than any other group of women in the U.S. from preventable diseases like diabetes and heart disease, GirlTrek has inspired over 20,000 black women across the country to walk and organize. As stated so poetically on their website, “We are rallying an army of beautiful and healthy black women to take to the streets and fight for our health. We walk to heal our bodies, inspire our girls and reclaim the streets of our communities. We trek to live.”
The commitment of an individual is inspiring and critical, but understanding that behavior is shaped by factors at multiple levels of society, the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC), a 12-year old coalition of hundreds of diverse organizations, is leading strategies that improve environments for physical activity. Together they work to ensure that active lifestyles are possible for Chicagoans of all ages and backgrounds.
Join the conversation and then get walking with GirlTrek during the lunch break!
This workshop explores how foundations, non-profits, and academic institutions are key teachers and mentors in developing leaders who are equipped to work collectively to transform our global food system. The perspectives represented by the panelists are designed to spark robust discussion about ways we can increase innovative food system leadership, a necessary ingredient in achieving transformational change. This moderated discussion, combined with audience input and idea generation, will seek to distill the conversation into principles and strategies that participants can use in their work.
Over the course of three years, two foundations—Grassroots International and IDEX—came together to create a pipeline of learning, relationship building, and leadership development through learning exchanges among agroecology practitioners in the global south. This workshop will share the methodology and lessons learned for creating a movement-building lab among organizations at the frontlines of food sovereignty.
Via a regranting program with grassroots partners, these learning exchanges are successfully increasing the sustainability of local and marginalized farming communities—especially women farmers. The content of the exchanges emphasizes: the use of local renewable resources; expanding seed saving, seed banking, and seed diversity; increasing use of soil improvement practices; protecting and revitalizing indigenous knowledge systems and farming practices; and building up natural, human, social, financial, and physical capital in farming communities.
Learning exchanges play an important role for grassroots groups, grantmakers in the U.S., and research, advocacy, and policy organizations with a Global South focus to share strategies that promote agroecology from the ground up. They are also presenting themselves within the United States, such as the recent learning exchange hosted by the Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF). This panel will share the social and investment value of learning exchanges to protect and expand traditional, indigenous and peasant knowledge systems, and sustainable agricultural practices.
We have crossed a threshold. According to the recent IPCC Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report, “atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide… are unprecedented in at least 800,000 years” leading to “warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06] °C over the period 1880 to 2012…” We are currently on track to see warming of about 4°C by 2100—twice the recommended two degrees of warming that would avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Recognizing that emissions reductions are no longer enough, companies and governments are spending billions of dollars on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects. However, few are paying attention to the comparatively cheap, easy, scalable models of carbon capture within our agricultural soils. This session will begin with a soil scientist explaining the basics: how carbon gets in the soil and how this increases soil health. We will then explore the ways practitioners are already sequestering carbon in the soil right now, and finish by looking at the myriad benefits of sequestering carbon in the soil. Your questions and insights are encouraged as we explore this building block of civilization.
Moderator: Kevin Boyer, program associate, 11th Hour Project and California Soil Health Funders, CA
In 2014, we saw food companies flex their financial and political muscles to the detriment of the sustainable food and farm movement. At the state level, an avalanche of money poured into Oregon and Colorado to defeat GMO labeling initiatives. In Missouri, more than $1 million (with contributors like Cargill and Monsanto) was spent to pass a Right-to-Farm amendment, giving corporate agribusiness unknown protections in the Missouri Constitution. At the national level, agribusiness contributed $64 million to candidates, PACs, and outside political groups during the 2014 elections. This political and financial might reverberates in every issue affecting the food and farm system—from the U.S. Farm Bill, to trade negotiations, to food safety, to healthy school lunch programs, to support for sustainable farming. The political influence of these companies is the number one impediment to building a more just, sustainable, and healthy food system.
In this session, we will identify clear opportunities to get money out of politics and connect the sustainable food and farm movement with innovative strategies to involve citizens in political decision-making and restore our democracy—something that is essential for achieving our goals in so many areas on the ground.
Moderator: Hilde Steffey, program director, Farm Aid, MA
Is our soil rich and thriving with diverse microbes? Is my apple organic? Can I believe food labels? In the past, getting answers to such questions required a laboratory and a PhD. Today, “citizen scientists” combine miniature sensors and social media to get the answers.
This budding movement is bypassing FDA labs and universities with do-it-yourself monitoring of food and the environment. The vast sample-gathering happening through networks of citizens organizing around a common concern via the internet has the power to dramatically expand transparency in our food system.
New tools include the SCIO hand-held food detector, the Public Labs’ smart phone spectrometer, the HabitatMap personal air quality monitor, and the Lapka organic food detector. Successes include: Soil Food Web’s global network of labs that offer affordable evaluation of soil microbial health; the University of North Carolina’s testing of hair samples from 10,000 volunteers for mercury related to fish consumption; and Moms Across America’s collection of breast milk for screening for the herbicide glyphosate.
In this hands-on workshop, you will get to try new tools that measure soil health, food composition, and more, and you’ll learn about opportunities that exist to support tech developers, grassroots testing, and trusted labs to assist food and agriculture advocates.
Session participants will learn from an array of innovations that have been identified through two recently completed scans of community-based food systems development. The first was done by a team assembled by the Wallace Center and the second by a team from the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, both supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
These scans have compiled and analyzed the most innovative and promising community-based strategies and programs that are helping to create a significant shift in the way food is grown, produced, distributed, or consumed throughout the U.S. and First Nations. Examples of strategies highlighted include those that: emerge or are championed by the community along any segment of the supply chain; innovate local policy or local financing; and build community resilience, local capacity, local economies, and/or sustainable wealth.
This session will expand our common understanding of what is working and why, how innovation can be supported, and how philanthropic support is leading to systemic impact. We’ll explore the essential ingredients allowing innovators to flourish and gain insight into sustaining programs, scaling, and replication. We’ll have the chance to compare and contrast between tribal and non-tribal communities, which offers a rare opportunity to support better grantmaking in both places.
You won’t want to miss Thursday night’s closing reception hosted at the Chicago Illuminating Company, a beautifully restored historic building that once served as a power plant back in the early 1900s. We are excited to announce that Breezy Rodio will be performing with his band and giving us an authentic taste of legendary Chicago blues music! His newly released album, So Close To It, was at the top of the Roots Music Report for Chicago Blues. Food will be provided by Blue Plate. Come join us for a fun, lively evening as we celebrate the work we’ve accomplished and the deep connections we’ve made at the 2015 SAFSF Forum.