On September 9, 2016, UC SAREP and FarmsReach co-hosted the inaugural CA Farmer Education & Support Services Summit in Sacramento.
Over 30 farm education organizations of California were represented in the day-long strategic meeting. With the help of facilitators Gigantic Idea Studios, participants collectively identified priorities and key action items to improve collaboration and efficacy across the California sustainable agriculture sector. (The Summit built on outcomes from the 2015 strategy meeting co-hosted by FarmsReach and MESA.)
A white paper will be released in the coming months summarizing details of the inaugural Summit. In the meantime, below are key resources and priorities that were identified.
Resources: Who’s Who
- Directory of Organizations - including mission, programs & activities, regions served, contact information.
- Ecosystem Map - where organizations are based and serve in CA.
- Ecosystem Chart - types of offerings organizations provide in each program area.
Note: These are “living documents.” You can always access the latest versions in our shared Google drive.
If you would like to add your organization to the Directory, Map or Chart, please complete the Farmer Educator Network survey. UC SAREP and FarmsReach will periodically post updated versions of these resources at the links above.
New Google Group
In a Communication Survey conducted during the Summit, participants expressed a desire for a shared list-serve, so we have set up a Google group for Summit participants. Other California organizations that would like to join the conversation are welcome to request to join!
In-Person Regional Networks
The strongest need we heard – whether for program impact or collaborative fundraising – was for stronger in-person regional connections among organizations.
Top 15 Priority Focus Areas Identified
These priorities can also be viewed in a separate 15 Priority Focus Areas document.
A) Build capacity for the collective movement.
- Create a “backbone team” to coordinate strategies we together prioritize.
- Broaden stakeholders governing the movement and bring NEW and minority voices to the table and/or go to them directly.
- Strategically communicate/translate diverse values (and impact metrics) to funders, policy-makers and farmers themselves.
B) Build capacity for measuring collective impact.
- Explore common metrics of impact that balance economic, social, cultural and political factors.
- Share data collection online tools.
- Establish participant-driven metrics of success.
C) Foster relationships, communication and collaboration (prevent duplication of effort & reinventing the wheel).
- Coordinate more in-person regional meetings among organizations.
- Continue state-wide strategy sessions, possibly: Expand FEN meeting at EcoFarm, schedule pre/post-CA Small Farm Conference meeting, and/or continue annual Summits each year.
- Include funders in discussions.
D) Build capacity for organizations’ INTERNAL operations.
- Get training in cultural competency and outreach.
- Share organizational personnel for operations that can be done remotely (e.g., accounting, bookkeeping, etc.)
- Take time to hire and train more diverse staff and boards of directors.
E) Build capacity for organizations’ EXTERNAL operations (strategic, high-impact farm education & support services).
- Create more/better programs for non-English speaking farmers.
- Share best practices in delivering technical assistance, especially culturally appropriate assistance.
- Establish a shared online platform to connect geographically isolated farmers and to post/archive farmer training materials for CA.
Additional Priorities Identified
- Identify opportunities for political advocacy and change.
- Research and analyze fundamental farm viability for different farm sizes and diverse markets.
- Help farmers to self-organize.
- Create new programs to prepare farmers for larger-scale operations.
- Identify strategies to influence large-scale operations to adopt more sustainable practices.
Collaborative Fundraising Strategies
Below is a synthesis so you can take action in your region as soon as you’re ready!
- Engaging farmer feedback throughout the process. Ideally, farmers’ needs guide programs, which then guide where to access funding.
- Funders are educated on meaningful metrics; there’s a common language and straight-talk among farmers, organizations and funders.
- Reflect honestly on your own organization’s strategy, capacity, core competencies.
- Have regular in-person meetings with other regional organizations (can switch to phone later). Need for in-person, authentic relationships among organizations to build trust.
- Reach out to and include complementary organizations outside of ag to fill gaps and provide professional development (e.g., economic and community development organizations, local food policy councils).
- Reflect as a group about roles and core competencies. Could be done with a survey, followed by discussion. Make adjustments and re-alignments as necessary.
- Divide load of researching funding opportunities via “fund-seeking team” or committee. Consider potential for more capacity grants (e.g., for shared HR, research or identifying best practices), targeting new audiences (e.g., socially disadvantaged farmers), or reaching larger/different funders or grants when applying as a group.
- Co-develop the grant proposals from the start (not last minute!). Allow time for collaborative thinking. Place realistic value on service you provide.
- Develop new collaborative fundraising strategies from new sources:
- specific, local donors to serve specific, local farmers
- commodity boards, industry groups, private sector (while not compromising values)
- collaborative online/physical fundraising day or month (like Big Day of Giving)
- retail stores for e-script
- fundraising from farmers market shoppers
- new NGO-for-profit partnerships
Many thanks to all who participated in the Summit! Stay tuned for the upcoming white paper with more details.
If your CA farmer organization hasn’t already done so, please fill out the Farmer Educator Network survey. UC SAREP and FarmsReach will periodically post updated versions of these resources at the links below.