9 Resources, Readings and Organizations to Support in 2017

9 Resources, Readings and Organizations to Support in 2017

As 2016 winds down, we’ve put together a shortlist of resources and organizations working on key issues related to building and maintaining sustainable local food economies.

If you’re looking for some end of year reading, or if you’re still thinking about where to make your donations, here’s a cross section of organizations that address and educate us about some of the most significant challenges facing food, farming, and the environment. (in no particular order)

NRDC’s Priorities

No everyday decision has a bigger impact on our health—or the health of the planet—than what we eat. The Natural Resources Defense Council works to safeguard the earth – its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.

No Farms No Food: American Farmland Trust tackles the biggest threats to our nation’s farmland and family farmers.

The National Young Farmers Coalition supports practices and policies that will sustain young, independent and prosperous farmers now and in the future.

The Pollinator Partnership’s mission is to promote the health of pollinators, critical to food and ecosystems, through conservation, education, and research. Signature initiatives include the NAPPC (North American Pollinator Protection Campaign), National Pollinator Week, and the Ecoregional Planting Guides.


customlogoReFED is a collaboration of over thirty business, nonprofit, foundation and government leaders committed to reducing food waste in the United States. 27 SOLUTIONS TO FOOD WASTE


Farmworker Justice is a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower migrant and seasonal farmworkers to improve their living and working conditions, immigration status, health, occupational safety, and access to justice. We work with farmworkers and their organizations throughout the nation.

Holistic Management is a process of decision-making and planning that gives people the insights and management tools needed to understand nature: resulting in better, more informed decisions that balance key social, environmental, and financial considerations.


Food Politics
Marion Nestle is one of the sharpest and most astute writers at the intersection of nutrition, food safety and policy. She also offers this list of useful resources.


Civil Eats

Collaboration Outperforms Policy

Collaboration Outperforms Policy

image from http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/

image from http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/

I’m sharing my response to a recent thread on the National Good Food Network Food Hub Collaboration Discussion Group, started by a question:

We are wondering what policies (and how strict) have been put in place by other food hubs regarding individual producers making sales to existing food hub customers outside of the food hub. How have these policies worked? How have you enforced them? 

While there were replies about specific policies, of varying complexities, the best advice on this thread was the simplest: “We have talked openly with our producers about their concerns.”  

If a producer is selling elsewhere around the hub and competing against you, it could be that they don’t perceive enough value in your services, or the relationship needs to be further nurtured and differentiated from other sales channels.

As food hubs face increased competition from other distributors, understanding and refining your value proposition to both suppliers and buyers is critical.

Since your suppliers are also your customers, talking to them before constructing excessive policies and contracts is likely the best strategy. Through this discussion, you can both increase the producer’s understanding of your business needs and refine your approach to working together as collaborators – ensuring that you have more than a transactional relationship.

Collaboration outperforms policy – similar to Peter Drucker’s often cited “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Everyone working to build healthier, transparent, local supply chains is working to change entrenched legacy systems. The only way this will happen is by creating a culture of collaboration among partners.

Collaboration can be hard to manage in the flurry of day-to-day operations. But for food hubs and producers, developing a clear understanding of shared value – and working together to maintain it – ensures viability in the evolving food market.

A note: It’s generally good business for producers (and any business) to diversify their sales channels. This might take different forms – a farmers market or CSA alongside wholesale channels through a food hub, for example. It could be selling some products directly to processors/makers, and other products through food hub channels.

It’s important to understand whether your producers do have appropriate diversification to ensure their ongoing viability, and to demonstrate that you care about and will work with them to support this.

Related reading: Dan Hobbs of the Colorado Food Hub Network discusses competition and collaboration among food hubs in this interview we published in September.

Open Source Initiative Makes Food Safety Information Available to Everyone

Open Source Initiative Makes Food Safety Information Available to Everyone

food safety icons

We’re giving a shout-out to the Open Source Food Safety Initiative launched last week by the Underground Food Collective and Sarapis.

Open Source is often applied to technology, as we’ve discussed in previous Field Notes. It’s a simple concept: sharing knowledge and/or tools publicly and improving them through continued development and feedback, adding the power of multiple perspectives.

As the initiative’s partners note, “Starting a new food business or processing venture can be daunting, especially considering the proprietary nature of food safety plans and research results necessary to making our food system safe.

The goal of the Open Source Food Safety Initiative is to make food safety information available to everyone. Building on concepts first developed by the Open Source Software movement, we aim to make food safety plans and information freely shareable, modifiable, and usable. This website is designed to serve as a forum for sharing, discussing, and collaborating on food safety information.”

This resource could save money for small and emerging producers – without cutting corners that affect food safety.  If you’re a producer, or if you work with producers, we encourage you to check out the HACCP plans and contribute to the project.

As the Madison Cap Times writes“Sharing information could be something that’s really useful for the food economy, for small producers,” said Jonny Hunter. “It’s in everyone’s best interest.” 

“The creation of the new forum lets producers publish their plans, comment on what others have come up with, and look at other resources on food safety. The website part of a broader movement to make software and other resources “open source” — free to the public to use, redistribute and modify.”

“Adding good stuff is much harder than shrinking the bad.”

“Adding good stuff is much harder than shrinking the bad.”

Everyone who works to buy or sell local, sustainable food is reshaping the food system—and that’s no small task. Local Orbit works with large-scale buyers and small and mid-sized suppliers to streamline the work of sourcing, selling, and delivering local and sustainable food, and connecting regional food systems.  We’re singularly focused on enabling transparent, safe, and fair supply chains.

Food supply chains are complex. Changing entrenched systems is challenging work. And it requires skills, patience, and the development of infrastructure that’s not the sexy face of the farm-to-table story — but it’s work that drives real change, and it’s often behind the scenes.

Julia Belluz wrote a terrific analysis of a quiet, patient change-making endeavor in Vox:  How Michelle Obama quietly changed what Americans eat.  If you care about changing the way we eat, this is an excellent case study in implementing complex change among multiple stakeholders at a massive scale – with patience and grace. I’m sharing some highlights here, and I encourage you to read the full article.

What people don’t understand is just how hard change really is, how hard every right and every victory comes — particularly in this day and age, with Congress deadlocked and cynicism at all-time highs.

Shortly after President Obama was elected to the White House in 2008, first lady Michelle Obama divulged some sensitive, personal details: The Obama children, Malia and Sasha, were gaining weight.

In interviews and speeches, she described her worry about her family’s health and a pediatrician’s warning that her daughters’ body mass index (BMI) was creeping up.

“Even though I wasn’t exactly sure at that time what I was supposed to do with this information about my children’s BMI,” the first lady said in 2010, “I knew that I had to do something. I had to lead our family to a different way.”

That personal struggle became political. Obama has spent the bulk of her time in the White House doing something unprecedented for a “mom-in-chief”: pushing hard against childhood obesity. Today, her Let’s Move campaign is her highest-profile endeavor, far better known than her Joining Forces campaign to support service members and their families, or Let Girls Learn to advocate for girls’ education around the world.

But I have to admit something: I was skeptical of the influence Obama could have on the nation’s health…

She wanted to both “create a space that anybody who was serious about becoming a part of the solution had a seat at the table” and move past the gridlock and finger-pointing that characterized many public health food fights.

…I wasn’t confident that FLOTUS, with no legislative power, could make a dent.

Then I spoke with a dozen people who worked closely on her campaign, as well as the health and food policy researchers who studied it. (Despite repeated requests, Obama’s office did not grant an interview with the First Lady on childhood obesity — and she has demurred from discussing the details of this work with other members of the press as well.)

I learned that some of the very things that made Michelle Obama sometimes appear soft — the industry collaborations, the emphasis on exercise — were part of the shrewd strategy that made her effective. Through her leadership, the Obama administration seized on a moment when America started paying attention to food, and made fighting obesity a top priority — both symbolically and legislatively.

Obama planted a garden, waged snappy social media campaigns, and worked behind the scenes with researchers, lawmakers, heads of government departments, schools, and food giants to quietly change what Americans eat.

Even observers who previously worried about Obama’s food industry partnerships now called her advocacy “brilliant,” “unprecedented,” and a “godsend.”

 Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images Michelle Obama eating lunch with kids in Alexandria, Virginia, January 25, 2012.

They decided that rather than lambasting industry or criticizing industry, they should invite companies or the private sector to participate, and I think they made it clear the bar was going to be high in terms of what legitimate participation would look like.

“All that attention to the issue has really helped push the discussion forward,” said Kelly Brownell, a Duke University obesity researcher — and former critic. Observers said this administration — largely because of the first lady’s focus — will have more of an impact on obesity in this country than any other in recent history. (Obama is also the only modern FLOTUS after Hillary Clinton to have a major influence on policy initiatives.)

Marion Nestle, the longtime food policy researcher who was also previously skeptical of the first lady’s approach, is now among the impressed. “This was the first time in my life someone in the White House was interested in the same kinds of issues I’m interested in,” she recently told me. “We’re going to look back in 10, 20 years and wish she were still around.”

….So how did Michelle Obama manage such a contentious change?

Read the full article on Vox.  The story isn’t finished, but the trajectory is inspiring.

 Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images Former White House chef Sam Kass, pictured here with the first lady and schoolchildren, did a lot more than plant the White House garden.
Established and emerging supply chain technologies  in Ann Arbor collaborate to further field

Established and emerging supply chain technologies in Ann Arbor collaborate to further field


ANN ARBOR, Mich. (September 9, 2016) – Local Orbit, the supply chain platform for the new food economy, has moved into LLamasoft’s new office space in the McKinley Towne Centre building at 201 S. Division in downtown Ann Arbor.

“We’re incredibly fortunate to find space that can accommodate our growing team, with facilities and a location that are typically out of reach for start-ups as they move beyond co-working spaces. Our team is happy and productive, and it’s a boon for recruiting,” said Local Orbit Founder and CEO Erika Block.

“But even more important, being co-located with an established company that’s working on supply chain challenges provides opportunities for informal interaction between our teams, and access to the knowledge and mentorship of people that have gone down a similar path. It’s a tremendous resource that we’re starting to tap into after only a few weeks.”

Based in Ann Arbor since opening its doors in 1998, LLamasoft is a global leader in supply chain optimization software and solutions. Since moving its global headquarters to McKinley Towne Center in June, the company is working to foster collaboration and innovation with other technologies with Ann Arbor roots.

“LLamasoft knows that in order to continue to provide leading technology, we need to keep up with developing trends and the business challenges facing the supply chain industry today,” said President and CEO of LLamasoft Don Hicks. “By working with Local Orbit we look to foster engagement between our teams to continue to shine a light on innovative food supply chains and emerging disruptive technologies.”

Local Orbit will host a workshop for attendees from around the country at LLamasoft’s event space November 7-9, focused on the topic “Transparency, Collaboration & Shared Value in Local Food Economies.” LLamasoft Executive Vice President Toby Brzoznowski will participate in a discussion about the role of supply chain data in growing local food systems.

About LLamasoft, Inc.

LLamasoft supply chain design software helps organizations worldwide design and improve their supply chain operations. LLamasoft solutions enable companies across a wide range of industries to model, optimize and simulate their supply chain network, leading to major improvements in cost, service, sustainability and risk mitigation. Headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, LLamasoft is a leader in supply chain excellence and innovation, advancing technology focused on continuous improvement of enterprise supply chains for the world’s largest organizations.

Llamasoft Media Contact: Ginger Stegmier

About Local Orbit

Local Orbit is the supply chain platform for a new, connected food economy. Local Orbit enables high volume foodservice buyers to efficiently purchase from local suppliers, while maintaining complete supply chain transparency. By enabling efficient, decentralized supply chains that can meet consumer demand for food produced closer to where we live, Local Orbit helps people build stronger local food economies and healthier communities.

Local Orbit Media Contact: Erika Block

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