Recap: Northeast Food Movement Organizing

Meeting around a table

On February 1st, CFF partnered with Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF) to host an event titled Northeast Food Movement Organizing. Twenty participants gathered in-person and online to hear about new initiatives and opportunities to engage the leaders of state agriculture departments and help build a regional coalition of non-profits at the same time.

Virginia Clarke, Executive Director of SAFSF, explained how her organization has been purchasing a top sponsorship of the annual National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) meetings since 2014. Through this sponsorship SAFSF has been able to send a local cohort of sustainable agriculture advocates to the NASDA meeting that changes locations each year based on the home state of its current president. The 2018 NASDA meeting is happening in September in Hartford, CT, and then won’t be in our region again for at least another few years. These cohorts have brought a markedly different message to the meeting which is typically dominated by the likes of Monsanto and ADM, while at the same gaining valuable insight into state agriculture department’s decision making processes and cultivating relationships with their state leaders.

Next, we heard from a panel who attended last year’s annual meeting of the NASDA regional affiliate, the Northeast Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NEASDA). Following the advice and feedback of this cohort, and the success of SAFSF’s national initiative, CFF and the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) have launched an effort to coordinate a yearly presence of non-profit practitioners at the annual NEASDA meetings. Tracy Lerman, Executive Director of NESAWG, gave an update on these efforts to date, and a call to action for funders to get their grantees involved. The 2018 NEASDA meeting is happening in June in Newport, RI.

A strategic conversation followed the presentations, and the following items emerged as key take-aways:

  • With NASDA happening in our region, 2018 offers a unique opportunity for influence. Any inroads made at the June NEASDA meeting (RI) can then be capitalized on and leveraged at the September NASDA meeting (CT), before passing the torch to our colleagues in New Mexico (2019) and in the midwest (2020).
  • This is a pay to play system. But, our collective dollars will help bring our message of a fair and sustainable food system to the leaders who make key determinations on the future food and agriculture efforts.
  • Your help – in terms of dollars to cover the cost of sponsorship to both events – will allow us to bring our message for a fair and sustainable food system to the leaders who administer much of the $135B spent annually by the federal government on food and agriculture efforts.
  • We also hope you will help us in reaching more food system nonprofits to participate in the organizing efforts led by NESAWG. A sustained presence at the yearly NEASDA meeting not only lends the opportunity to develop meaningful partnerships with our state agriculture leaders, but also provides a structure around which to mobilize our region and build a strong unified coalition of practitioners and advocates.

To follow up on any of this, please reach out to Community Food Funders with any questions or comments.


More Info & A Call To Get Involved!

[UPDATE: Read a letter from partner John Merck Fund about recent 2018 efforts]

Every year the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) hosts an annual meeting and six regional meetings (including one Northeast) where state ag officials gather to discuss policies and learn about new agriculture initiatives. These state leaders, who administer much of $135 billion in federal agriculture funding, are critical decision-makers in the future of farm and food initiatives at the state level. In recent years, sustainable ag leaders from the funder and NGO community have participated in those meetings to connect with ag officials and educate them about important farm and food systems issues.

Since 2014, funders, led by the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders at the national level and Community Food Funders in the Northeast, have provided visibility-raising sponsorships to the meetings while funding sustainable ag leaders to attend and connect with ag commissioners and key staff.  Our participation has paid off – sustainable farming and food systems leaders have built relationships with state ag officials that are helping to clarify both areas of agreement and differences in perspective.  The more our community interacts with ag commissioners and their staff, the more we can demonstrate the power of our movement toward a healthier, more equitable and sustainable farm and food future as a counterpoint to the industrial, commodity-driven vision most often presented to NASDA members.

In June 2018, the Northeast regional meeting (NEASDA) will take place in Newport, RI. Three months later, in September, NASDA will come to Hartford, Connecticut. We have the opportunity to tell the story of sustainable farms and food in the Northeast to these powerful audiences—a kind of “two-fer” to raise the profile of the sustainable food systems movement in our region.

CFF is partnering with the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group on this effort—and we need your help to make this happen. Unfortunately, this is a pay to play system, with conference sponsorship and tickets the price of admission.  But our dollars will help bring our message of a fair and sustainable food system to the leaders who make key determinations on the future food and agriculture efforts.

Funds will be used to:

  • sponsor the conference, and raise visibility
  • fund sustainable ag leaders to attend (registration, travel, and accommodations)
  • if possible, fund low-level sponsors from sustainable ag NGOs

We urge you to join this strategic effort to cultivate our state ag commissioners as champions and build a Northeast regional food movement. Please contact Community Food Funders for more info or to get involved.

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