This post is Part 1 of 2 re: “A Year of Learning.” Also see Part 2: “CA Farmer Survey: Preliminary Results & Invitation to Participate” posted October 4, 2015.
On January 21st, FarmsReach Community, Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), Center for Land-Based Learning (CLBL), ATTRA/National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), UC Cooperative Extension, Farmer Veteran Coalition, Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE), Rogue Farm Corps, Full Belly Farm, North Coast Opportunities (NCO), and Ag/Tech Mixing Bowl came together to design new, shared tools to more effectively serve small- and medium-scale California farmers and ranchers. The original context was educational curriculum for farmers, and MESA and FarmsReach had invited the primary organizations that offer these services in California.
In the months that followed, I met individually with many of the folks above as well as other agriculture organization leaders to dig deeper into obstacles and opportunities in our shared sustainable agriculture ‘movement’, specifically regarding farm technical and business assistance. Realizing there is no standard language to describe this farm focus, we started using the term “Farm Education & Support Services”.
A summary of the sobering results is below. Overall, there is consensus that many fundamental components for our collective success are lacking, resulting in a disconnect among farmers, organizations, and funders; duplication of effort; lack of strategic focus in fundraising and program development; insufficient organizational capacity; few explicitly shared metrics of success; and a general feeling of “dysfunction” among various organizations.
And yet, of all the groups in the convening above, all but two expressed a willingness to work together in some form of a collective impact framework to systemically improve our effectiveness and impact. (If your agriculture organizations is interested, please contact me.)
We are planning to review the results of our co-designed Farmer Survey before deciding on next steps. So, a lot more to come. (Please do share the Farmer Survey with your networks if you haven’t already. Later, we’ll post the results for everyone here.)
Sustainable Agriculture Movement ~ “Farm Education & Support Services” Goals: Results of January Convening
From literally hundreds of ideas to Improve Connections & Collaboration, Increase Quality & Quantity of Farmer Learning, and Improve Effectiveness & Impact, five distinct categories emerged.
Within each, I’ve summarized the group’s proposed areas for improvement.