Supporting food systems leaders around the US

January 17, 2020

by Bre Miller, program coordinator

Last fall, our Community Food Systems team hosted four Local Food Leader (LFL) workshops in Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and Oregon. These locations were selected as national hubs, providing access to this in-person workshop in the central, western, and eastern areas of the US.

Local Food Leader is an individual skill development program for beginning local food practitioners and local food supporters. LFL teaches foundational competencies critical to successful involvement in community food systems development.

After completing the workshop, participants can receive full certification by completing online modules. Once certified, participants can teach and offer the workshop in their own communities.

To evaluate the impact of the workshop,  participants were asked to anonymously complete a survey before and after the trainings.

Four people writing on poster paper at table.
Local Food Leader workshop in Massachussets.

The results

The following results are aggregated from all four state workshops.

The three most useful sessions were Networking, Inclusion, Evaluation, and Working in Food Systems.

Participants were asked to rate each session of the workshop for usefulness from strongly disagree to strongly agree, or 1 to 5. Networking and Inclusion were ranked as the most useful sessions of the workshop with 77% of participants selecting agree or strongly agree; followed by Evaluation (73%) and Working in Food Systems (67%).

Participants top three increases in understanding included:

  • 68% increase in understanding the process of becoming certified as a Local Food Leader
  • a 42% increase in ability to support partners in food systems development; and
  • a 36% increase in skills for coalition development

Most helpful piece

Common themes that emerged as the most helpful piece of the workshop included:

  • small-group discussions and activities;
  • conversations around difficult topics, such as inclusion and equity; and
  • interactive, hands-on activities as most helpful.

Some participants articulated that the small-group discussions made them feel, “more comfortable.” Others shared the most helpful piece of the LFL workshop was, “The activities, which brought ideas alive,” “Specific exercises to generate conversation,” and, “Getting to know who is interested in this work through all the activities and discussions.”

Group of people standing around room talking.
Local Food Leader training in Iowa.

Informing change

Food systems and professional development were the two main topics discussed by participants after completing the workshop as something they will work on in the future, including:

  • coalition or council development;
  • policy; and
  • food systems web and diagrams, which included information on food systems sectors and assets.

One participant shared, “I will be better prepared to initiate the conversation to develop a food policy council.” Another shared, “Recruiting, facilitating, and building our coalition (advisory group),” while a third expressed, “I will think more about policies in my county and integrate that [information] into my work I am doing.”

There were also underlying aspects of leadership in many participants’ comments, expressing their intent to include colleagues, in addition to themselves, on professional development-related plans and goals.

One participant stated, “I will have participants in my program and organization identify who we are and what role we play (as an organization and individuals) in the food system web.” Another participant shared, “Prioritize the importance of incorporating [the workshop] concepts into my current program” as a desired change in their work. “Relate evaluation, facilitation and leadership back to food systems,” was an additional plan of one participant.

Community Food Systems: planning, consulting and design.

Additional highlights

  • “Facilitation was the most helpful piece, being thoughtful and intentional about building groups and working in collaborative environments.”
  •  “I look forward to applying pieces from leadership, inclusion, and professional development [in my work] immediately. Thinking about my strengths in this light was helpful in refocusing my strategy.”
  • “Start working with immigrant communities on local foods” as a change in work.
  • Incorporating “more mindfulness about inclusion.”
  • “Understanding how personal values, privileges, and experiences influence how we interact with community members and work” as a change in my work.
  • “This session was very helpful and informative info for to the food system model.”

To find out dates for upcoming in-person workshops, sign up for our monthly newsletter, and subscribe to the FFED blog. You can learn more here about the CFS program, including available certifications (in-person and online).

For comments or questions regarding workshop evaluation, please contact Bre Miller. For questions regarding certification, please contact Kaley Hohenshell.