By Nicole Mason, Kitchen Cabinet member
We have so much to celebrate in 2018- not just in what the organization has accomplished in five years, but by how the organization has grown, and strengthened and flexed. I’ve decided to share a few words in the form of a recipe-- in part because we’re all here bound together by farming and therefore food, in part because Kitchen Table Advisors is still something we are adding to, changing, seasoning, and transforming, much like a shared meal.
Serves an entire community of farmers, volunteers, business owners, funders, leaders, and families.
First, set the dial to 2013.
Next, bring Anthony, Pei-Yee, and Paige into the mix. Combine with a heaping cup of humility, drive, vision, and hard work. Make sure there is no central office and that work-life balance is at the center of everything.
Mix in to the organization’s culture: a love for food, games, entrepreneurship, and a true passion for elevating farmers and ranchers. Foster inclusion, support, and trust. Push against organizational hierarchy, support shared leadership and a common vision.
Infuse with the wisdom and guidance of a zillion leaders, role models, elders, mentors, and teachers. Sprinkle with the foresight of individuals whose influential roles have transcended the institutions in which they’ve worked like Tony Moraga, Sallie Calhoun, Esther Park, Cynthia Wong, Michael Roberts, and many, many, many others.
Whisk together good ideas, early funding, true collaboration and thoughtfulness. Look to organizations like California FarmLink, ALBA, CUESA, RSF Social Finance and others, and learn from them. Get businesses on your side like Coke Farm, FEED Sonoma, Veritable Vegetable, Bi-Rite , Straus Family Creamery, and Clif Bar.
Add dashes and pinches of ideas from other shoulders on which you stand: Swanton Berry Farm, Morris Grassfed, The Perennial, CalCan, MALT, and the Farmer Justice Collaborative.
Finally, blend in financial assistance from funders and supporters, like New Priorities Foundation, Bank of the West , the 11th Hour Project, and Gaia Fund. Don’t forget the individuals (many of whom are here today) that made meaningful gifts to KTA through the years.
Reduce the mission to a clear, digestible statement: to support the economic viability of farmers and ranchers.
Form your one on one business advising program. Scramble together with your first cohort of farmers.
Turn up the heat.
After 2 years, bring on David Mancera, and then Thomas Nelson as farm business advisors. Expand your programs to include more farmers.
Add tablespoons of hard work, pounds of networking, and gallons of hustle. Keep stirring the pot.
Turn the dial to 2017.
Add Daniella Sawaya to engage community through powerful storytelling, and then fold in Sarah Gearen and Deb Nares as farm business advisors, and Noelle Fogg-Elibol, to nurture our growing community of partners. Let them marinate.
Let the organization rest in knowing that each cycle of growth brought the right people with the right skills, talents and experience to build a better, stronger organization.
Shape your board, pepper them with questions and strategic implementation, let them rise.
Mound in the center the knowledge that you successfully completed your pilot, and are able to see the tangible benefit of your work in the lives of your clients.
Add yet another cohort of farmers, bringing your services to 50 clients.
Finish at 2018.
Layer with a strong theory of change, even more of a focus on diversity and inclusion, and an ever-strengthening values proposition.
Place the organization in a broader context, draw your community together, deepen your relationships.
Bake for 5 years with a few core concepts:
- Always have a north star, one that says farmers & ranchers are thriving leaders of a vibrant, community-based economy rooted in equitable distribution of power & resources.
- Treat people fairly, support your community and let them support you.
- Focus on getting good at what you are trying to achieve, stay nimble.
- Value the uniqueness of everyone and embrace the racial, gender, socioeconomic and cultural diversity of the local food system. Maintain a sense of humor, remain thankful.
- Celebrate successes.
- Invite two alumni farmer clients to join your board. Relish the cyclical nature of giving and giving back.
Chill enough to take the time to celebrate. Serve to your community on a farm on a sunny day in February with a side of good food and ice cream sandwiches.
Enjoy with friends, colleagues, strangers, and family.
Happy Birthday Kitchen Table Advisors!
This recipe was presented by Kitchen Cabinet member, Nicole Mason, during Kitchen Table Advisors' 5th Anniversary Celebration at Green Valley Farm + Mill. It is shared here alongside photos courtesy of Sarah Trent.