New county food coalition meets to discuss shared goals
By Nora Hertel | Sat, 02/04/2012 - 9:10pm
Carrie Edgar says she admired the Dane County food system even before she became a part of it.
“When I was in Illinois, we thought Dane County had it all figured out,” said Edgar, food systems educator for the county.
But as she connected with non-profits last summer, Edgar identified a flaw in the system. Local organizations with shared goals competed for grant money and created overlapping programs, because they did not know what neighboring groups were up to.
Edgar found that leaders in the community wanted to network with each other and identify common initiatives to strengthen the food system.
“There seemed to be this need to come together, to get to know each other, and to think about how we might work in a more collaborative way,” said Edgar.
The recently assembled Dane County Food Coalition aims to treat that need by coordinating the efforts of the groups in the local food system. The coalition assembled for the first time on January 19 at the University of Wisconsin-Extension offices.
Over twenty people attended the meeting, mostly representatives from non-profit groups like Slow Food UW, Sustain Dane, Madison Area CSA Coalition, Dane County Farmers' Market, and Community GroundWorks.
They met primarily to plan, brainstorm, and discuss the future of the coalition including meeting location and frequency, and overall agenda.
Kiera Mulvey from the Madison Area CSA Coalition saw the new coalition as a forum for big ideas. She presented the food system as a wheel with coalition members making up the spokes.
“[We’re] working on different pieces of the same vision – how do we elevate that vision?” said Mulvey.
Despite the common goals of the organizations involved, pinning down an agenda proved tricky. Members agreed they were not ready to summarize the coalition in a single statement, and discussion of collective action projects remained theoretical.
Members shared different ideas about what they hoped the coalition might achieve. Mark Voss of Voss Organics suggested that the coalition serve as a mouthpiece for the Madison-area food scene, and help draw young people to the county and the food system.
They also discussed who should be involved in the coalition. Larry Johnson, Market Manager of the Dane County Farmer’s Market, encouraged the group to include farmers and for-profit organizations in the coalition.
Most in attendance agreed that farmers would be welcome, as would anyone involved in or passionate about local food.
The group also agreed that communication of projects and ideas within the coalition might serve to unify the direction of the entire food system, while reducing competition for funds and duplication of projects.
Courtney Berner of the UW Center for Cooperatives suggested, “[members can] use this as a place to bounce ideas off of each other. What has your organization tried? What worked? What didn’t?”
Participants also agreed that the coalition would help them better understand each others’ mission and activities, so as to support each other and strengthen the entire system.
They also discussed mapping out resources and organizations. And they agreed to share links on their websites and “likes” on their Facebook pages.
While the participants agreed they were not ready to prepare a vision statement for the group, some mentioned they already share one goal.
Terrie Anderson, board member for the Northside Planning Council and Community GroundWorks, summed it up: “We all want more local food available to more people.”
The coalition will meet again on February 16, 8 - 9:30a.m. at the Goodman Community Center.
- Appalachian Ridge NA
- Glen Oak Hills
- Hill Farms
- Mendota Beach
- Midvale Heights
- Oakwood Village
- Old Middleton Greenway
- Parkwood Hills
- Parkwood Village
- Parkwood West
- Skyview Terrace
- Spring Harbor
- Stonefield Woods-Ridge
- Summit Woods
- University Hill Farms
- Wisconsin Co-op Housing
- Woodland Hills
- Woodlands Hills Condominum
- Wyndemere Condominum