As you know, direct-market business models such as farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) have fueled much of the growth of the local food movement in the last two decades. However, a growing number of farmers in our region have been reporting declining farmers market sales and increased difficulty attracting and retaining CSA members.
On January 18th and 19th over 120 participants gathered at the Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center in Oglesby, IL, for the Routes to Farm Summit. During these two days, farmers and local food advocates discussed these direct-market issues many are facing and proposed action steps to come to solutions and support one another as a community.
Through a process of open dialogue among farmers and local food advocates who gathered, we gained an understanding of current challenges for direct market farms, identified critical issues and barriers to their continued success and developed a farmer-led agenda for action that will guide follow-up activity.
Since the real ‘experts’ at the meeting were the participants, the bulk of our time was spent in small working groups using an “Open Space” meeting format. Open Space allows for broad and democratic input and is used by diverse organizations, businesses, and communities to deal with complex and systemic problems. For more information on Open Space meeting facilitation, please visit www.openspaceworld.org.
Overall the event was a tremendous success! To read one participants perspective click here.