8 Rural and Small Town Trends for 2017
Becky McCray, Small Business Trends
A few trends for rural and small towns for 2017:
Three of CFFP’s core guiding principles are rural community resilience, social equity, and family wage job creation. Understanding business trends in the rural communities where we engage is crucial in realizing these goals and making sure that rural communities do not get left behind. The trends listed above point to an expansion of markets for local and differentiated foods, which is encouraging for the investments we’re pursuing.
Sustainable Farm Partners, LLP and Crop Diversification: Real change through innovative investment in Iowa
Sustainable Farm Partners, LLP
Sustainable Farm Partnerships in Iowa provides another example of a mission-driven investment fund from which CFFP can learn. Working at the intersection of environment, economy, and society, this private equity partnership acquires high quality conventional farmland and converts it to sustainable, organic farms. While creating systems change in a state known for its conventional, GM commodity crops, their program is also designed to deliver stable income to investment partners. As seen in the next article, efforts like those of Sustainable Farm Partners contribute to a movement towards diversified, resilient, and sustainable agriculture on a local level.
Iowa Farmers Planting Fruits, Vegetables over Corn, Soybeans
Christopher Doering, The Des Moines Register
When we talk about healthy food affordability, one root cause that continues to surface around high fruit and vegetables prices is national subsidies for corn and soy. These subsidies are a double-edged sword for both consumer and producer, as farmers who mono-crop corn and soy live at the whim of shifting market commodity prices. For CFFP, investment in farm crop diversification is an investment in both consumer health, and the resilience and viability of farm businesses.
Farmers in Iowa are shifting away from the staple commodities of their state of corn, soy, and hog operations towards more diversified farming businesses. Mixed vegetable operations generate higher and more stable revenues, thrive on smaller land plots, and do not require large or expensive equipment. On the other hand, they are more labor intensive, require knowledge of diverse farming practices, and are more difficult to distribute and market for the farmer. Young and beginning farmers in Iowa are willing to take on this challenge and reap the potential benefits.
Organic Economics In A World of Industrial Agriculture: Applying the Power of Nature
Harn Soper, Green Money
Not all of us at CFFP consider food to be our primary world of work, but we have a hunger to learn more. For many members, the Market Research process revealed the benefits of diving deep on certain topics and exploring “how things work”. In this article, author and founder of Sustainable Farm Partners Harn Soper gives a rapid-fire history of America’s journey to Industrial Agriculture, essentially answering the question: “How did we get here?” As we seek to change the inequities of that system, it is important to understand the history behind it.
From pre-WWII local food systems, to wartime rations and high-volume production, to post-war agriculture policies, the industrial agricultural system we see today was created intentionally – with unintentional side effects. Namely, deterioration of soil and potential human health threats continue to erode our faith in the current system. The author proposes a return to organic family farms, and not without justification. From his own farming experience, Soper even shows the economic benefits of sticking out the transition to organic and works to help others do the same.
To Make a Difference, Family Philanthropy Must Take More Risks
Katherine Lorenz, The National Center for Family Philanthropy
CFFP seeks to create both systems change and support enterprise success. As our Market Research suggests, food systems change is the more involved and risky of the two endeavors. And, as this article suggests, philanthropy alone has small resources to address large and complex issues, making food systems change all the more daunting. However, while CFFP may not single handedly create food systems change, the risks we take will set a precedent for others to get involved. Our innovations and learnings can provide a way for governments, other nonprofits, and individuals to join in tackling the complex issue of food systems improvement.
“Philanthropy is trying to address the world’s most entrenched social issues. If it were easy to solve these problems, they would be solved already.” Clearly, the problems remain unsolved. The author suggests a pivot in philanthropic strategy is required: complex problems require innovative solutions, and innovative solutions require risk. The words “philanthropy” and “risk” are seldom paired together. At the same time, family philanthropies are uniquely positioned to test out solutions that can be adapted, scaled, and implemented by larger bodies with more resources.
Cascadia Foodshed Financing Project works at nexus of food, financing, and philanthropy. This space is where Impact Investing resides, a term that is as well defined as the term ‘sustainability.’
Our research has revealed further definition of the impact investing space to separate Venture Philanthropy from Impact Investing. Venture Philanthropy is a nebulous term used to describe alternative funding approaches that produce both social impact and financial return on investment. As noted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, there is no one strategy for Venture Philanthropy but rather a set of common characteristics that help to define work in the field. Some groups may highlight the use of blended finance including investment and grant making in tandem. Others may emphasize the additional use of skill sharing and other forms of nonfinancial support. Still others might emphasize the importance of systems change over the success of individual deals.
As CFFP seeks to build the regional food system of the Pacific Northwest through impact investing and venture philanthropy, we strive to stay abreast of the work of others. Our recently released Market Research explores new paths for the role of venture philanthropy within our own focus of food and place.
Here, we’ve gathered a starter pack of resources that provide a lay of the land surrounding venture philanthropy – both the intellectual development of the field and its manifestations on the ground:
New Book Challenges “Magic Carrot Approach” to Food Justice
Joanna Mercuri, Fordham News
In his new book, Garret M. Broad, PhD, argues that with the advancement of food systems work comes the advancement of a food gap in which wealthier groups experience unprecedented choice while marginalized groups continue to struggle. As we move forward with research and towards fund development, we must seek partnerships with producers that understand the complexities and nuances of our food system, particularly for the marginalized consumer as described below.
Garret M. Broad’s new book, More Than Just Food: Food Justice and Community Change (University of California Press, 2016) unpacks the complexities of our food system as it relates to social and health equity. Our mainstream impression of food justice is often limited to access and availability. As a result, interventionists are often stumped: if healthy food is made available to a community, why don’t community health outcomes change? Why aren’t community members making the “carrot over cheeto” choice, now that they have it? Broad reveals a whole network of forces that influence that choice for the consumer, combating narratives of behavioral blame. These forces include local culture, historical marginalization, socioeconomic status, education, and more.
"Kresge Arts & Culture, Health teams launch food-oriented grant opportunity"
The Kresge Foundation recently launched this initiative that uses food oriented development to address equity and health issues in economically distressed neighborhoods. This aligns with many of the CFFP goals, and creates an opportunity to engage other funders working in our region.
“Throughout history, food has been inextricably tied to social cohesion, health, culture and entrepreneurship,” said David Fukuzawa, managing director of Kresge’s Health Program. “This initiative recognizes both the direct positive impacts of healthy, local food and the overarching role that food can play in neighborhood revitalization.
Site link: USDA New Farmers
A declining agricultural workforce is evidence of lack of profitability in the sector, resulting in social inequity and a lack of family wage jobs among farmers. The resilience of rural communities can be greatly impacted by investments and policy change that support new farmers.
The majority of farmers in the United States are near or past age of retirement, and there are no new farmers to fill their shoes. The number of beginning farmers decreased by 20% from 2007 to 2012 (USDA Census of Agriculture). Local programs in the PNW have provided training, technical assistance, and incubator programs to beginning farmers for years. The USDA has launched an site for new farmers – with particular focus on youth and women – that walks through expectations, stories from other new farmers, planning, resources, and making connections.
As part of its own research, CFFP regularly illuminates educative research, media, and resources related to our work. This page contains public versions of our synopses.