Collaborative Initiatives

Fresh Taste catalyzes and incubates learning communities and collaborative initiatives.

Work on regional food systems is rapidly evolving and context-dependent. It relies on people seeing opportunities, taking leadership, and mobilizing others to build alternatives. At times, Fresh Taste identifies a unique role that we can play to advance work in the field by incubating initiatives. This work is a “deep dive” that may include convening stakeholders over time, staffing a collaborative learning process, and securing resources for pilots.

Artisan Grain Collaborative
The Artisan Grain Collaborative (AGC) grew out of the Food:Land:Opportunity Food to Market Challenge in 2016.  Fresh Taste played a key role in assembling participants and writing an application for the $500,000 prize, for which the AGC was named one of the five finalists. (Watch the video!) The group of bakers, farmers, distributors, market developers, millers, educators, and researchers came together to market “the third plate” popularized by Chef Dan Barber—the rotation of wheat, corn, rye, oats, and beans essential to regenerative farm systems—as well as Kernza, the perennial wheat developed by The Land Institute. Following the F2M final pitch event, Fresh taste continued to convene bi-weekly meetings with the AGC, which has since grown into a strong, local initiative with increased partnerships. Grains are now a visible part of the conversation about local foods, and these top-notch organizations are working together to strengthen small grains’ role in the local food market.

The America Grows Here “Hubba Hubba” food hub crawl, Wisconsin, 2011

America Grows Here
Beginning in February, 2011, Fresh Taste convened a group of 14 food system enterprises, both nonprofit and for-profit, creating a learning community. Fresh Taste convened and facilitated their gatherings, which consisted of two day retreats and learning journeys.  Centered on the notion that “trust reduces transaction costs,” America Grows Here was an experiment in how fledgling businesses might help each other, rather than just compete with each other.  Participants have remained in close contact, seeking out and offering business opportunities to each other.  

Sustainable Local Food Investment Group
In March, 2010, Fresh Taste convened a group of 18 funders and investors to engage in a conversation with Woody Tasch, author of Slow Money: Investing As If Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered. Staff then organized a small working group of five investors, and over the next year, staffed their efforts to identify how best to finance local food work in the Chicago foodshed.  In March 2011, the investors launched Sustainable Local Food Investment Group (SLoFIG), an investor group that has adopted the Chicago foodshed as its priority region for investment. The group has grown to 30 investors as of 2017 and has invested nearly $1.85mm in 13 local food system enterprises. The Walter S. Mander Foundation, a member of Fresh Taste, is also a member of SLoFIG.  Read more about SLoFIG in Crain’s Chicago Business.



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