The concept of supporting local food systems is almost a given at this point for those of us who work in the food world. We either already understand or can easily grasp that buying locally-grown fruits, vegetables, and other food products as close to the source as possible helps put more dollars into local farmers’ hands. It’s a given that local food is fresher and often tastes better than food that has been shipped hundreds, or even thousands, of miles (if you can find out where your food comes from in the first place). It’s a given that food hubs and other local food-processing and distribution infrastructure facilities give local producers a way to streamline costs, add local jobs, and can contribute to a region’s food justice and food sovereignty. It’s a given that buying local food can be part of a larger strategy to help preserve farmland from development. Read more

“Crowdfunding? What’s that?” As many farmers and founders of food-based businesses have discovered, crowdfunding is a tool that can enable people to raise gift money from friends and complete strangers, in increments of anywhere from one dollar to thousands, for projects that might never have gotten off the ground otherwise. Wondering if it might work for you? I recently asked Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter, one of the most popular online crowdfunding platforms, to share his insights into what makes a Kickstarter Food project successful. Read more

Investor beware: The mutual funds in which you invest may support companies that are working against your sustainable food system values. ‘Tis the season to dump those stocks, in the form of year-end donations to causes you do support. This is a strategy I learned last December, and it helped one of my favorite nonprofits attract an unexpected $20,000 gift. Read more

More and more individuals, foundations, and other institutions are showing an interest in investing capital in food companies that address social and/or environmental issues, a phenomenon both mirrored and encouraged by a growing number of conferences, panels, workshops, and even entire organizations dedicated to the field. At first glance all this activity might seem like great news–but if we dig a little deeper, there are some hidden impacts that good food advocates would be wise to examine a little more closely. I challenge all of us to begin to recognize and acknowledge the differences inherent amongst food system investors, entrepreneurs, and the organizations, events, and capital tools that serve them) in an effort to make appropriate connections between them. Read more

In June of 2008, the Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Funders (SAFSF) Annual Forum featured a closing plenary session: Cultivating Economic Sustainability. Almost every participant of this multi-day conference stayed after hours to continue the conversation sparked by this session, which explored the various economic tools — in addition to grant-making — that foundations can use to promote food systems healthy for people and the environment. Read more