Fresh Taste convenes stakeholders to build the regional food system field. Fresh Taste partners with public, private and nonprofit organizations to convene meetings intended to deepen knowledge about important food system issues and create opportunities for networking, as a precursor to deeper collaborative work. Examples include:
Exploring Food Waste Solutions in the Chicago Region, 2016-2017
Fresh Taste, in collaboration with Seven Generations Ahead, Illinois Food Scrap Coalition, and the Greater Chicago Food Depositary, convened a group of nearly forty Chicago-area practitioners and funders to explore initiatives in the Chicago region that promote food recovery and eliminate wasted food, with a goal of exploring opportunities for collaboration. From this meeting, a small working group emerged which is interested in bridging the food recovery and food scrap poles of the food waste spectrum, with the intent to craft a comprehensive food waste strategy for the Chicago region.
Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food 2012-2016
Over the last several years Fresh Taste has worked with USDA and Illinois Farm Bureau to organize annual convenings focused on USDA programs and policies. These convenings give diverse stakeholders the opportunity to acquire in-depth knowledge on the role that USDA plays in supporting local food systems. Topics covered thus far include: successful local food system models, USDA grant programs, and key Farm Bill provisions.
You Get What You Measure® workshops 2014
Fresh Taste facilitated a two-part workshop for Illinois Farmers Market Association (IFMA) board members, demonstrating the Yellow Wood Associates’ You Get What You Measure® method of strategic planning. Participants learned how to create goals; identify conditions that indicate progress toward a goal; establish measures for tracking goals; and develop action plans – an approach that IFMA continues to use in its effort to more tightly-coordinate activity statewide.
Chicago Urban Agriculture Practitioners, 2009 and 2010
Fresh Taste partnered with urban agriculture groups to convene several meetings of urban agriculture practitioners in 2009 and 2010 to explore opportunities for greater collaboration. Fresh Taste provided support for a strategic planning consultant who helped Advocates for Urban Agriculture develop an organizational structure for a steering committee and working committees which it still uses to manage the 2300+ member association.
Illinois Farm to School, 2009
In collaboration with Seven Generations Ahead, the Healthy Schools Campaign, and the National Farm to School Network, Fresh Taste convened twenty-five farm-to-school advocates in Bloomington, Illinois to initiate exploration of interest, capacity and purpose for statewide farm to school organizing in Illinois. Participants looked at examples of other statewide organizing models and discussed the assets and challenges of farm to school coordination our own state. The meeting resulted in identification of a National Farm to School lead, Julia Govis, who was subsequently housed in University of Illinois Extension.
University and community colleges, 2009
At the Allerton Park Retreat Center, twenty-seven representatives of community college and state universities came together to focus on how higher education can play a role in supporting local food systems. At that time, it was clear that each system had significant assets to offer local food practitioners, but that these assets were not connected. People who attended and co-convened this gathering were later instrumental in developing the successful funding strategy for the Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN) which was a significant initiative in the Illinois’ community college system.
Farmer training and land protection, 2008
Fresh Taste organized two meetings to bring farmer training and land protection practitioners together, the first more from the perspective of farmer training, and the second, from the perspective of land protection. Each session was centered on some core questions: What would a seamless approach to farmer training and land tenure look like? What tools are available? What doesn’t exist yet? What are the assets we’re working with? Subsequent to these conversations:
- The Liberty Prairie Foundation and Angelic Organics Learning Center joined with the Michael Fields Sustainable Agriculture Institute in a successful proposal for a USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Training Grant.
- Openlands made a greater commitment to incorporating local food in its land conservation work
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