Transitioning to a real democracy is best facilitated by transparent and public networking. This is especially true as we attempt to ground the new democracy in a food & farm system that supports everyone. The internet provides many tools for this purpose. These are my preferred methods for communicating and networking as publicly as possible.
My hands-down preference is Twitter. It is visually simple and straightforward and most Twitter users want to be public because they’re interested in public things — policy, media, issues, etc.
Unfortunately, I have not found many U.S. food & farm folks who use Twitter. Nor, of the ones who do, have I found any to be a central “gathering” place for national or regional food & farm discussions.
Illinois Stewardship Alliance Twitter @ILStewards
On the state level (Illinois), I’ve found the Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s timeline to be very informative about Illinois happenings. Unfortunately, there’s not much two-way discussion, but it’s still worth checking out.
LISTSERVS (email groups)
There are many food-and-farm listservs, serving different geographies, different food system components, different affinity groups, and different policy agendas. Not all of them are public, partly because listservs are the oldest internet format for inter-personal communication. The ones that I have found most useful and complementary to each other are the following:
U.S. & NORTH AMERICA
COMFOOD — Community Food Security
All-purpose community food security (food-and-farm systems)
Probably the oldest and largest food & farm listserv
national, North American, some international
Tufts University group (not publicly archived, self-moderated)
Food Policy Networks – FPN
Supports food policy councils, local and state policy-making
Johns Hopkins Univ. group (publicly archived, not self-moderated, anyone can post)
North American Food Systems Network – NAFSN
Supports professional development for food systems people
Cornell University (not sure if it’s publicly archived – self-moderated)
Women, Food, and Agriculture Network – WFAN
Supports women farmers, women landowners, and women in food & farm politics
Google Group (self-moderated)
Supposedly national, but still predominantly Midwest; WFAN is based in Ames, Iowa
Note: In my opinion, considering that 70-80% of food & farm practitioners in the U.S. are women, WFAN has not made good use of its listserv if it wants to be a national organization. With new leadership in 2020, perhaps that will change.
REGIONAL – Midwest
Regional group created in 2017 for the purpose of promoting regenerative agriculture
12 states: IL IN IA KS MI MN MO ND NE OH SD WI
Google group (self-moderated)
Listserv manager: Kaare Melby, Organic Consumers Assn.
GoodGreens – not a listserv but an essential e-list for the Midwest
“GoodGreens is a collaboration facilitated by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Midwest Region to share resources and best practices that support local food systems, highlight new and emerging food models, provide connections to USDA grants and resources, and increase consumption of healthy, locally grown foods. Email blasts with news, grants, resources, and events and opportunities are sent approximately monthly.”
Networking meeting and monthly newsletters
7 Midwest states (IL, IN, IA, WI, MN, OH, MI)
USDA Food & Nutrition Service, Midwest Office (downtown Chicago)
Contact: Alan Shannon, Public Affairs Director, is the facilitator
Illinois Local Food and Farms Coalition – ILFFC 2007-2020
UPDATE: As of Dec. 15, 2020, all Yahoo Groups were shut down (part of a Yahoo business decision). The ILFFC webpage no longer exists. But for historical purposes, here are the details, including the original mission statement.
Illinois Local Food and Farms Coalition is a statewide rural-urban network of individuals and organizations working to create fully functioning — field to fork, farmer to user — local farming systems in Illinois.
This Coalition seeks to be a connecting and communication tool, linking farmers, businesses, non-profits, government agencies, and consumers –- all Illinois citizens from Carbondale to Chicago, from Quincy to Mattoon — wishing to talk and work with each other for the benefit of all Illinois.
We began as the coalition that envisioned and promoted the Illinois Food, Farms, and Jobs Act of 2007 (now Public Act 95-145), recognizing Illinois’ unique combination of geography, demography, and natural resources. Illinois’ expanding urban and rural population is settled upon highly productive agricultural land, providing Illinois farmers the opportunity to grow an abundance of foods and other farm products for Illinois residents.
Our GOAL is to realize fully the economic and public health benefits inherent within local food and farm systems.
Our STRATEGY is to advocate for local agriculture, linking the people, products, methods, and businesses that will create and support these systems.
Discussion on all relevant topics is welcome. We support diversity in local farm products, whether currently grown or yet to be developed, including local foods, fiber, forest products, ornamental plants, etc. Other potential topics of discussion include those related to systems issues and opportunities: land access and conservation, farmer training, agri-tourism, packaging, processing, warehousing, trucking, crop insurance, energy production and consumption, regulations, policy, and public awareness.
We welcome and encourage everyone engaged in this effort to create social, environmental, and financial prosperity for all Illinois citizens.
Statewide, all-purpose; created in 2007 to support the Illinois Food, Farms, & Jobs Acts and all future statewide food-and-farm policy
Yahoo Group (self-moderated)
Advocates for Urban Agriculture – AUA
All-purpose food-and-farm systems listserv, especially all forms of urban agriculture
Google Group (publicly archived, self-moderated)