Fellow feedback requested: Food Systems

Posted by Hugh Hogan on Thursday, November 10 2011


Hugh Hogan

I am Hugh Hogan, the Executive Director of The North Star Fund in New York City and a Switzer Fellow ('98 New England and Switzer Leadership 2000-2003), writing to connect with folks who might be interested in more formally establishing a Fellows working group focused on food systems issues, and more specifically, how Fellows can understand and connect with the emerging network of regional funder groups focused on learning about and supporting the transition to regional, ecologically sound, equitable and sustainable local growing and distribution systems.

Along with Kolu Zigbi, the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Program Officer at the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, and colleagues from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Surdna Foundation and the Local Economies Project of the New World Foundation, we have launched the Community Food Funders group in the New York, northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut region.  We follow similar efforts in California (roots of change), Chicago (Fresh Taste) and Vermont (Vermont Food Funders) which are more established.  And there are similar efforts underway in the Philadelphia area, Baltimore, Minnesota, New England, Virginia and elsewhere.

Our goal in establishing the Fellows working group devoted to food systems transformation would be, as I said, 1) to help our network better understand how -- from our various vantage points as advocates, activists, non-profit leaders, policymakers and scientists -- philanthropy operates, and 2) how we as Fellows can both access philanthropic resources more effectively in support of our work, while also contributing our knowledge and expertise to a very exciting movement to transform our food system which involves an exciting array of intersecting issues that will hopefully break us out of the usual silos.

If you want to be part of this discussion, please email Lissa and me to express your interest.  Please give us a couple of sentences on what you do and how you are involved with food systems issues and the related fields of public health, community development, land conservation and the like.  Our current plan involves an introductory call sometime after the new year with those who respond, followed by a webinar featuring a conversation with Kolu and Virginia Clarke, the ED of the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders group, which is the national affinity group for food systems funders.  Eventually, we hope to support Fellows who already have connections with the food systems funders world, and then to connect those who do not have those connections to the food funders world and foster speaking engagements, field tours for funders and other ways to connect.

Sincerely, Hugh Hogan 

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Good idea to grow the network

Good idea to grow the network around sustainable agriculture, both geographically but hopefully topically as well. My interest comes from the ecological restoration connections. I work for the California Invasive Plant Council, which focuses on "wildland weeds" impacting ecological values of natural areas. This increasingly intersects with sustainable agriculture in interesting ways. Healthy native wildlands support diverse native pollinators for crops and productive range for livestock. I think there needs to be more discussion about the differences between routine pest management for agriculture and finite-term invasive species eradication projects, especially when it comes to the use of pesticides. Keep me posted, please!

Count me in

Hi, Hugh. Great idea, and I'm in. My sense is that a lot of things are going to have to go regional in the long run and, within regions, work more effectively across sector/discipline boundaries, geographic (urban/rural, particularly) boundaries, and a whole range of other differences. Food seems like it might be a strong place to start some of those conversations and some of that work. In addition to formalized Roots of Change in California, there is also an informal group of Bay Area food funders who meet fairly regularly to share ideas and problem solve together, so it might be useful to include that group in your thinking. Thanks! Jen

West Virginia report

Hi folks:My company (Downstream Strategies) has been getting more involved in this kind of work recently. We just completed a relevant report (http://www.downstreamstrategies.com/documents/reports_publication/greenbriervalleylocalfood_final.pdf)) centered on the Greenbrier Valley, a three-county region in West Virginia and we're now working on a longer-term project related to the food system for the entire state. Please include me in the discussion!Evan

Research and funding opportunities

Hi Hugh (and all), Excellent idea! As a former Switzer Fellow currently teaching at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, a PhD-granting research institution in upstate NY, I'd be especially interested in: i) identified research needs and interests among alternative food systems organizations; and ii) funding opportunities for cooperative research on alternative food systems. We are always looking for topics & funding for especially masters-level graduate research internships and projects, in Environmental Studies and Sciences. Thanks & kind regards, David Sonnenfeld '95

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