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.
The exit interview: Ag Secretary Vilsack on Obama’s food legacy
Nathaniel Johnson, Grist
There is an ongoing and often inconclusive debate about Obama’s legacy in food and agriculture – whether or not the administration was too lenient towards corporate agribusiness, and whether or not First Lady’s partnership with big food in her war on obesity was effective. In this interview, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack highlights some positive trends over the past eight years including (1) working collaboratively rather than confrontationally for conservation, (2) stimulating rural economies, (3) making climate action part of USDA culture, and (4) improving healthy food access in poor communities.
As this interview points out, the incoming Trump administration has “pledged to roll back Obama’s actions on climate change and health care, [but] he hasn’t said what he’ll do on the food and ag front” and has yet to appoint a new agriculture secretary. Despite this ambiguity, an expected reinforcement of commodity crop and industrial meat production makes the mission of CFFP ever relevant and urgent to provide healthful alternatives.
Broken Promises of Genetically Modified Crops
Karl Russell and Danny Hakim, The New York Times
As CFFP seeks to enable local producers that implement alternative practices for a more sustainable food system, this evidence is important to bear in mind. Biodynamic practices such as crop rotation and organic growing have potential to meet if not exceed conventional yields. Combined with market evidence that demand for organic and non-GMO is ever rising, investing in non-GMO producers becomes an environmental and financial win.
Some of the top rationales for the use of genetically modified crops include the promise of increased crop yields and decreased use of artificial pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. The data, however, shows otherwise. We’ve learned that increases in crop yields in Western Europe, where GMOs are not permitted, are on par with – in some cases, better than – US yields over the last 20 years. What’s more, herbicide use in non-GMO countries like France has greatly decreased while use in the US has actually increased by 21 percent, especially use of glyphosate (the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup). A related article dives deeper on these trends.
CFFP was invited to present their reseach for the 2017 Cascadia Grain Conference. Below is Tim Crosby's presentation.
Holiday greetings from CFFP and Philanthropy Northwest!
We want to bring the local food system into our homes, gatherings, and celebrations this holiday season — both by buying local and also by supporting and volunteering with food-focused nonprofits in our communities.
Eat Local for the Holidays
Farmers Markets boast a cornucopia of great resources for holiday meals, gifts, and decorations. Hosting events from cheeseboard tastings to performing artists, local farmers markets are a great way to enjoy holiday shopping and support local producers. Browse below for locations, times, and holiday events:
Local Food Nonprofits for Holiday Volunteering and Giving
Use this holiday as an opportunity to support organizations in the food space that work towards our common goals of a healthy, thriving, local food economy and community. Even better, take the New Year as a chance to become a regular supporter or volunteer to one of these groups in your area.
Dirt Capital Seeds Financing for Ecological Farms
Kat Friedrich, Conservation Finance Network
Dirt Capital Partners provides one example of what a mission-driven investment fund can look like in food systems work. Dirt Capital has strategically addressed one of the largest barriers to new and beginning farmers in our country: cost of land. As CFFP brainstorms if, when, and how to structure a fund for food systems work in the Pacific Northwest, looking outward to innovative funds such as Dirt Capital provides us with great material for ruminating.
Dirt Capital Partners has organized eleven mission-oriented investors to purchase farmland in New England, New York, and New Jersey. The land will be leased to “good farmers” – or, farmers with both business acuity and ecologically sustainable practices. The fund is structured as an LLC with a business model similar to a small real estate private equity fund, providing structured sales to the farmer within 5 to 10 years in the form of rent.
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.
The Future of Food: Seeds of Resilience
Global Alliance for the Future of Food
As a place-based group of food systems impact investors, CFFP is in no way exempt from the urgent call to action presented in this report. In fact, CFFP members occupy unique positions of power near a city that articulates global health and development policies. Our ability to contribute to a culture that values local economies, local knowledge, and local resources has enormous potential to contribute to similar movements across the globe.
Seed diversity and genetic modification is a paramount issue for both agribusinesses and environmental and food justice activists around the world. This report provides a diversity of perspectives from prolific contributors ranging from indigenous activist Winona LaDuke to plant geneticist Jean-Louis Pham. Given these perspectives, the report asserts 3 proposals concerning the future of our global seed stock: 1) develop a coordinated advocacy strategy in support of community-based seed systems; 2) provide greater resources and support to community based seed systems, and 3) strengthen the central role women and indigenous farmers play in agricultural biodiversity.
50 Years Ago, Sugar Industry Quietly Paid Scientists To Point Blame At Fat
Camila Domonoske, NPR
The debate about sugars, fats, and human health has been long running, but NPR presents the information now at a public level. This article points to the immense sway that data and expertise have in policymaking – whether that data is truthful or not. As a research-based investment group, CFFP must clearly think through the implications of both approaches that surfaced from our research: enterprise success and systems change. As we see here, such implications can reach microscopic levels that determine human health outcomes.
As Americans, we have come to known fat as the enemy of good health. Overconsumption can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and more – what many in academic circles refer to as the “slow death” of poor nutrition. However, evidence has surfaced that shows our understanding of nutrition has been shaped by corporations, who influenced the nutritional research publication in the 1960’s. While the original scientific results emphasized the potential links between sugar consumption and nutritional diseases, the industry-funded Sugar Research Institute shaped research to emphasize the harmful effects of fat in its place. Many scientists are now calling for a re-evaluation of sugar and its health effects.
Seed: The Untold Story
This documentary, scheduled to release in fall of 2016, tells the story of struggles for food sovereignty around the globe. Indigenous farmers in the American Southwest fight to preserve heritage foods, women in rural India lose their breadwinning roles to industrial agriculture, and communities in Hawaii are sickened by nearby Agribusiness testing grounds; in all these scenarios, control over seeds is the central issue. The film explores the nature of these conflicts and activism to preserve seed diversity in the face of powerful obstacles. Watch the trailer here.
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.