For the past three years, CFSA has been researching and testing a model of organizing at the local level. The project began with funding from the Triangle Community Foundation and was called SALaD (Sustainable Agriculture Leadership and development.) After a series of meetings with local food activists, farmers and organizers, we have distilled key lessons for doing local food organizing in the Carolinas. This web-based tutorial includes these key lessons, actions steps, inspirational success stories and resources.
DOWNLOAD NOW: How to Advocate Locally to Support Sustainable Food and Farms: A How-to Manual
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Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION: A Recipe for Success
OVERVIEW OF THE PROCESS: The Basics
Part One: Getting Prepared
Step 1: Support Local Food & Farmers
Step 2: Learn About the Food System & Power Holders
Step 3: Hone Your Negotiating Skills
Step 4: Keep Up With Sustainable Farming
Part Two: Take Action
Project & Program Examples
Stories of Community Advocates
How to Advocate Locally for Sustainable Food and Farms
Let’s talk local. In the Carolinas, CFSA wants every county, city and town to have the programs, projects, corporate and budgetary support that are needed for local foods and sustainable farming. While CFSA does a lot of work at the state and federal level, changes at the local level are where the rubber really meets the road.
In some cases, good things at the local level just seem to fall into our laps. We should celebrate that. But usually change comes from the hard work of dedicated people pushing for a better way. Organizing at the local level can be tough. There can be lots of obstacles to seeing change happen — not least of which is that change may threaten the existing power structure. What happens when the low-hanging fruit is gone and we hit a brick wall to make deeper changes? How do we make progress when the going is tough?
For the past three years, CFSA has been researching and testing a model of organizing at the local level. The project began with funding from the Triangle Community Foundation and was called SALaD (Sustainable Agriculture Leadership and Development.) After a series of meetings with local food activists, farmers and organizers, we have distilled key lessons for doing local food organizing in the Carolinas. This Spring we are launching a web-based tutorial with these key lessons, actions steps and resources.
The over-arching message of the tutorial is that STRATEGY is very important in our efforts. The problem is often not that we lack inspiration or many case examples from other places. What we lack is strategy. Without a clear and appropriate strategy, we miss opportunities, under-perform on the progress we make and can easily be out-foxed by those who may oppose changes. No one has ever accused our movement of lacking passion or, these days, of lacking numbers. We are a popular movement. But how strategic are we in our endeavors?
The tutorial proposes that we need to do four key things to make maximum progress. First, we must walk the talk, by personally supporting local food and sustainable farms. This gives us authenticity as well as stories to tell. Second, we must analyze what programs, policies and power structures are in place. Who are the decision-makers in the public and private sector and what influences them? Then, what specifically do we want to change, add, beef up? This step should in most cases be done behind the scenes, like organizing a political run for office. Showing your cards too early is a mistake.
Third, we must become skilled at negotiation. This is vital. We should ask for more than we expect to get and know how to nail down agreements that don’t disappear later. We should focus on mutual interests with established decision-makers. Is it jobs or public health? What brings people together? There is a long-established method for negotiation (“Getting to Yes” is one example) and we should use those tactics. The other side is not going to just roll over.
Fourth, we must know enough about local foods and sustainable farming to be seen as credible “experts” or resource people. We may not have all the answers, but should know where to find them. We should at least know a lot more about sustainable food and farming than the established decision-makers in the traditional farm/food system. This knowledge can come from personal experience farming and gardening, and/or from reading, movies and going to some of the wonderful trainings on offer.
The tutorial also includes profiles of important trail-blazers and the work they have done. To inspire you, we profile and interview farming expert Gerry Cohn, local farmer and activist Kathryn Spann, sustainable business leader Eric Henry and farmer and eco-builder Harvey Harman. In addition, we offer two fictional case studies of local activism and a resource library of projects and programs.
CFSA believes that local activists with good skills can be virtually unstoppable. As Margaret Mead famously said, “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” We hope you will check out our new tutorial. Let us know your questions, comments and suggestions. If the information is helpful to you, we’d like to know. We will be doing additional training on this topic in the coming months.
Questions? Please email Jared Cates, CFSA’s Community Organizer at jared@.