Nearly 60 people, including representatives from all seven local food networks in the region, attended a Triad Regional Food Network Gathering to build relationships across various counties and sectors in efforts to build a thriving, resilient local food economy.
View the short two-page summary report here or read more details about the event below.
- Connection to Piedmont Together
- Food Council Happenings
- Regional Visioning Exercise
- County Farm & Food Profiles
- Next Steps
This regional gathering is one of six regional gatherings that were coordinated in response to positive feedback from a statewide Food Issues Forum for food councils in 2014. More than 150 people attended that 2014 statewide gathering and shared that networking and learning together in this face-to-face context was beneficial, energizing, and mobilizing. Upon hearing this, Community Food Strategies and the Local Food Council of North Carolina (LFCNC) decided to partner with other organizations across the state to host this series of regional gatherings at a smaller scale to again facilitate continued networking and peer-to-peer learning.
The Triad Piedmont Food Network Gathering was the fifth of six regional gatherings held in 2016. The Piedmont Triad Regional Council co-hosted this event with Community Food Strategies (CFS) and LFCNC as an opportunity to further food and farm initiatives in the Piedmont Together Sustainability Plan. Review the summaries of other regional gatherings.
Connection to Piedmont Together
The Piedmont Triad Regional Council (PTRC) was a perfect regional partner in this endeavor, as they took the lead on developing the Piedmont Triad Sustainability Plan called Piedmont Together, which highlighted several opportunities to build economic opportunities for farmers and improve access to healthy food options. PTRC and their partners conducted research and interviews with hundreds of residents to create this comprehensive plan designed to build a resilient, prosperous economy and a better quality of life for Piedmont Triad residents.
This gathering helped build awareness of neighboring county and community initiatives already happening and of the Piedmont Together strategies. PTRC hopes that strong community leaders and organizations will take ownership and seek funding for implementing specific strategies that resonate with them.
“Piedmont Together provides a wide range of strategic investments to help guide communities across our 12-county region in becoming more sustainable economically, environmentally and socially. Building a strong regional food network is a key component of this strategy. This gathering, bringing together a broad cross section of communities and interests, serves as an exciting first step toward building a regional food network designed to strengthen our local economy, support local farmers, preserve farmland, enhance wildlife habitat, increase access to locally grown food, and improve the health of our citizens.” Paul Kron, Foothills Planning + Design, PLLC
Food Council Happenings
Davidson County Local Food Network
This relatively new council is spearheaded by Thomasville residents, Grace and Cary Kanoy, with support from others in public health, local government, and the farming community. They are focused on increasing visibility of the network, building cross sector relationships, establishing credibility in the community, and increasing awareness of the economic and community impact of strong local food systems.
Joseph Peele, Catalyst for the Healthy Eating and Active Living Program in Rockingham County, along with strong partner support is beginning conversations to reinvigorate the Rockingham County Local Food Coalition with new partners, community leaders, and energy in the context of a cross sector food council.
Alamance Food Collaborative
The Alamance Food Collaborative, an initiative of Healthy Alamance and Impact Alamance, focuses on policy, networks, and support for food access. They’ve worked on a baseline assessment and supporting area farmers markets. Their strong partnership with the local hospital opened opportunities to create a farmers market in a food desert.
Greater High Point Food Alliance
With a mission to alleviate hunger in an extremely diverse community, Greater High Point Food Alliance works directly with the community, asking for and listening to their needs. Their active action teams and high attendance at their annual Food Summits exemplify their focus on building relationships within the community. Some of their challenges, like most food councils, include community education and funding.
Forsyth Community Food Consortium
In 2013, Forsyth Community Food Consortium merged as a council from a community baseline assessment. They are integrating a dynamic governance structure into organizational operations while organizing as a community-driven “planning” cooperative and launching a membership campaign to generate more community engagement through results-oriented action teams.
Guilford Food Council
In October of 2013, interested Guilford County stakeholders drew in more than 85 people to a public meeting to initiate the Guilford Food Council. After going through the process of deciding how to organize and exploring different ways of convening, they have now worked on many projects including a Local Food Storm, Guilford Local Foods Week, and a Hackathon, which created a resource assessment map of the community.
“It was really great to listen and learn about the work the various food councils are doing, their ongoing needs, and how they define success. This information is very useful as we figure out how the state level Local Food Council of NC can support these efforts. It was wonderful to learn about the great initiatives going on across the Triad region!” noted Nancy Creamer, LFCNC representative and Director of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.
Regional Visioning Exercise
After these presentations, three smaller groups worked through a regional visioning exercise based on a Results Based Accountability (RBA) process. This exercise relies on everyone’s experiences to gain a better understanding of the region’s assets and needs and can help local communities and organizations assess their resources and determine how to best contribute to common regional goals. The groups separately went through this process of:
- Defining the experience of a shared result or goal (a thriving, sustainable community-based food system in every county);
- Listing measurable indicators that would track a shift toward that result;
- Sharing what was already happening in their community; and
- Brainstorming what could make a greater impact in reaching the stated result.
*You can review all of the raw RBA data collected at this meeting.
The three groups ranked their list of indicators to choose the three to five most important indicators to track a shift toward the shared result. The Community Food Strategies team reviewed the list and combined similar indicators to reach the following top indicators for the Triad Piedmont region.
- Distance low-income residents are to grocery store
- % of local institutions sourcing local foods
- % of population with diabetes or hypertension
- # of favorable policies supporting local foods
- % of population that is food secure
As part of this “group think” process, each group also began brainstorming various partnerships, actions, or resources that would continue to advance this work. The lists of “what we could do more of to make greater impact” have been insightful about next steps and what synergies could occur between organizations. These lists, along with the event summaries, are being shared with the LFCNC to inform their own strategies.
County Local Farm and Food Profiles
Over a locally sourced lunch provided by Providence Catering, Laura Lauffer, Local Food & Farm Program Coordinator at NC Agriculture & Technical State University (NC A&T), described newly released County Local Farm and Food Profiles which show the percent change from 2007 to 2012 USDA Agriculture Census data within each county. Piedmont Grown, NC A&T, and PTRC all collaborated on this project to provide a tool in talking with economic developers and community decision makers about the impact and trends of local food and farms.
These graphics are one in a set of tools being developed as data to help shape conversations about opportunities to drive the local food economy. If a county is showing a positive trend in agritourism, how can farms serve as educational or economic resources? If your county’s farmers’ market sales are declining and a neighboring county’s market sales are increasing, what could you learn from them to improve those numbers?
Comparing these trends across counties is one way to inspire more cross-county and sector collaboration. Some counties may not have data, and food councils could encourage better reporting of agriculture census data for a more accurate picture of agriculture trends.
At the close of the day, individual councils or counties brainstormed next steps. We hope you all will act on at least one of those next steps created. Community Food Strategies works to help local food councils build on the new connections and ideas created here and will continue to explore more opportunities for future gatherings.
In the meantime, we’ve listed some potential next steps below:
- Report back to your council/organization on this regional gathering. Some questions to consider with your council/network:
- Do the experiences and indicators resonate in your local community?
- What are the metrics for these indicators in your county?
- What is the council/organization doing to shift these indicators?
- How could you use the County Local Farm & Food Profiles?
- Send the Summary Report to your local government officials, county commissioners, and city council members. Suggest a meeting to share your work.
- Build relationships with your local media contacts. Call the local newspaper and share the brief summary report or other information about your council/network.
- Call on the Community Food Strategies team for support. We can help with strategic planning, refining regional or county indicators, troubleshooting council development or exploring greater ways to have impact.
- Invite neighboring councils to join your meetings to continue collaboration.
- Connect with us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/communityfoodstrategies to keep informed of future networking opportunities.
Event Presentations & Resources
- Piedmont Together
- Farm & Food Initiatives in Piedmont Together
- NC Food Council Network
- Triad Region – Local Food Council/Network Websites & Presentations
- County Local Farm & Food Profiles, Laura Lauffer’s presentation
- A Government Guide to Building Local Food Economies, a publication by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems
- Local Foods Economic Impact Webinars