Saturday, January 31, 2015

NH Food Strategy update

Sharing this great stuff from the NH Food Strategy:

Clarifying Terminology: What do we mean by Strategy, Network, and Network Process?

Here is a brief explanation of terminology we consistently use. These definitions are also available on our website along with additional details about the Process.

NH Food Strategy: This is a 'product' that we are currently developing with the help of the Network (YOU), which will identify leverage points and action priorities for strengthening our food system. The format for the NH Food Strategy is still being developed, and feedback, data, and input continued to be gathered. We plan to release the first draft of the NH Food Strategy by the end of 2015 or early 2016. This Strategy will continue to be refined and adapted as needed to reflect the current state of our progress as a Network.

NH Food System Network: Businesses, organizations, institutions, agencies, and individuals that contribute to the NH food system. Participating individuals are working to build a shared understanding of the NH food system, align individual and collective efforts, and come together around priority actions and key leverage points for strengthening our state's food system. The Network is not membership based and participation across the state, food system sectors, and various points of view are encouraged.

Network Process/Approach: We aim to build connectivity, alignment, and action; build a shared understanding of the food system; and build relationships and trust. These things are happening via several avenues from the Regional Gatherings to decentralized action among the Network.

Food System: We are using the following definition when referring to Food System: “A food system includes all processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population: growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consumption, and disposal of food and food-related items. It also includes the inputs needed and outputs generated at each of these steps. A food system operates within and is influenced by social, political, economic and environmental contexts. It also requires human resources that provide labor, research and education.” (wikipedia 2014)

NH Regional Gatherings and Outreach Events - Gathering INPUT!

Since July of 2014, the Backbone Organization along with Process and Strategy Team members have been gathering input to inform the first draft of the NH Food Strategy. We held 8 Regional Gatherings around the state, and collaborated on two additional events in Keene and Laconia to hear from stakeholders their challenges, success stories, and key priorities for improving their businesses and our food system. We had over 250 people participate across these 10 events, many of whom have stayed in touch with the process via the NH.foodsystem Listserv and through personal communications.

The Backbone Organization is continuing to gather input via our online questionnaire on the NHFSN&S website, through individual outreach, and by attending events across the region. We have been hearing a lot of positive feedback about this effort, and we look forward to engaging even more people in this process.

For more information, contact or call 603.465.8255.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hayashi snowshoe hike and conservation

Here's a story about great people doing great work in the Monadnock... (with a bonus: getting to snowshoe with them on a gorgeous, cold, sunny day!)

Fulfilling Hayashi’s dream
Dublin/Antrim: Partnerships makes conservation possible
Monadnock Ledger-Transcript - January 27, 2015

My kiddos, exploring the frozen river in one of the newly conserved lands of the Harris Center for Conservation Education (before the real snow arrived a few days later).

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Iquitos Images

The winter break gave me some time to reorganize photos and uncover new patterns of thinking. This is a project I created for Ecological Thought during my first PhD intensive last summer, that I'm re-sharing now. It's good to remember, here in the thick of this ice-crusted New England winter, the warmth of climate and spirit I encountered in Iquitos, Peru. Ponder and enjoy. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Political Economy: Questions for Spring

This spring begins my third semester in the PhD program in Environmental Studies at AUNE. Here I am sharing my first assignment for Political Economy, an introductory presentation based on two questions:

1. Today, what are a few words that reflect your research interests? Can you share why this area is of interest to you?

I am interested in the intersection of higher education and local food systems, and how institutions of learning can use their intellectual, capital, and material resources to mutually nourish the communities to which they belong in ways that are culturally appropriate, ecologically sound, and economically feasible. I want to know how communities that are building resilient local food systems are working with their member institutions, and what leadership roles, methods, and measures are of most benefit. From this knowledge I hope to develop a model for communities that want to build resilient local food systems in conjunction with colleges/universities, with the end goal of improving opportunities for all stakeholders to learn collaboratively through meaningful and just work.

This challenge combines two areas in which I have professional experience, higher education and local food systems, along with an area in which I want grow, social justice. On a personal level, I have also experienced food insecurity; I am a parent of three people who are certain to face challenges related to unsustainable food systems; and, I have a low tolerance for apathy. Also, the cost vs. value of higher education has been called into question in recent years, and since the International Association of Universities’ conference I attended in March 2014, I find myself asking, if higher education’s promise does not align with the goals of sustainable development (ensuring the present generation’s ability to meet its needs without hindering future generations’ ability to do so), then who does higher education serve? How can institutions of learning best model stewardship in the world, beginning at a local scale? I believe food systems, being inextricably linked with other natural and human systems like energy, water and commerce, and being a vital and direct part of the human experience, are an ideal place to implement immediate change.

2. Do you see any potential relationship of Political Economy to your area of interests?

Dartmouth’s Political Economy Project says that political economy addresses these questions:

“Is capitalism a system of injustice and exploitation, or a system that allows for individual freedom and prosperity? What does it mean to have a fair and just society, the equality of legal rights or equality in the distribution of resources? What system of values is most conducive to prosperity, dignity, and happiness? How do different political and economic systems differ in their ability to achieve these objectives?”

Relating these questions to my research interests, I might use political economy to ask: What happens when local food systems are viewed through the lens of individual freedom and prosperity? What roles can higher education play in sustaining a fair and just society? What measures or models of university-community collaboration are most conducive to building resilient food systems? How do different political and economic systems differ in their ability to deliver accessible, quality education that enhances local food resilience?

In sustainability, we often refer to the “triple bottom line” of people, planet, and prosperity. I think political economy is a thread that connects these imperatives into one workable goal, or maybe a tool that can carve a path to it. I also wonder whether there is a better term than “political economy” that can be used, since both “policy” and “economy” trigger negative attitudes for many people whose experience is the failure of both to ensure social and environmental justice.

As always, I invite your questions and critiques.