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.
 

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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. 

 

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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.  

 

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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.

 

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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!  

 

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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. 
 

Posted
AuthorKitchen Table Advisors
 
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As we reflect on Kitchen Table Advisors’ 5-year anniversary this January 2018, we have been inspired to appreciate and give respect to the people, businesses and organizations that we stand on the shoulders of in fueling the economic viability of sustainable small farms and ranches. 

Our piece of the puzzle - helping a diversity of farmers and ranchers more equitably access the business tools, resources and support they need - builds on the hard work and legacy of hundreds before us. Our work would not be meaningful without the struggles and achievements of pioneering farmers and ranchers, organic produce distributors, natural food grocery stores, chefs and restaurants honoring farmers, farmers markets, farm incubators, technical assistance providers, policy and advocacy groups, philanthropists and foundations, and more. Our focus on the economic viability of the next generation of sustainable farmers and ranchers only matters in the greater context of a healthy ecosystem that supports land, markets, financing, regulations and ecological farming practices for farmers and ranchers.

Since our inception, Kitchen Table Advisors’ work has drawn inspiration, knowledge, talent and resources shared by many leaders in the sustainable food and agriculture movement. We wouldn’t be here if we had not had the privilege of connecting with, learning from, and forming formal or informal collaborations with the following: 

  • Organic family farming and sustainable ranching pioneers like Full Belly Farm, Swanton Berry Farm, Straus Family Creamery, Joe and Julie Morris of Morris Grassfed
  • Organic produce distributors like Veritable Vegetable, and regional food hubs like Coke Farm, Capay Valley Farm Shop and FEED Sonoma
  • Natural food grocery stores like Bi-Rite Market and Good Earth
  • Farm to table chefs and restauranteurs such as Jesse Cool at Flea St. Cafe, Karen Heisler at Mission Pie, Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz at The Perennial
  • Farm incubators and training grounds for beginning farmers like ALBA and CASFS at UC Santa Cruz
  • Regional sustainable food and ag technical assistance providers, convening groups, and policy groups like CalCAN, CAFF, CCOF, EcoFarm, Farms To Grow, Farmer Justice Collaborative, Cooperative Extension, Marin Organic
  • Nonprofits that run farmers markets like CUESA and the Ecology Center
  • Farmer-focused lenders such as California FarmLink, Farm Service Agency, and Farm Credit, Slow Money
  • Land trusts preserving agricultural land such as MALT and POST
  • Conservation and regenerative agriculture focused groups like Carbon Cycle Institute and local RCDs
  • Farms and ranches whose land-based programs influence and shape the field of regenerative and sustainable agriculture, such as Pie Ranch, TomKat Ranch, and Paicines Ranch
  • Individuals whose influential roles in the space have transcended the institutions in which they’ve worked, such as Esther Park, Poppy Davis, Tony Serrano, and Bill Fujimoto
  • Sustainable food and ag nonprofits in other parts of the country that have influenced who we are, such as Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation, Coastal Enterprises, New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, Vermont Farm Viability Program, Holistic Management International
  • Local economic development nonprofit leaders in other sectors, such as La Cocina, Inner City Advisors, El Pajaro CDC, and Opportunity Fund
  • Values-aligned funders such as Sallie Calhoun, Heather Blackie, Gaia Fund, 11th Hour Project, RSF Social Finance and more

Kitchen Table Advisors was originally conceived to build upon the important work that many before us have done for decades; to add another piece of the puzzle that complemented the work of others; to join the fight and hopefully make our regional sustainable food and ag ecosystem. 

As we reflect on our ecosystem and a bigger picture collective vision for a more equitable, resilient and healthy regional food economy, we are so grateful to know that we are all in this fight together, and that we all have an important role to play, individually and as part of the collective. 

We know there are many challenges ahead of us - including racial equity and representation in the movement, the need for stronger pipelines of talent into the field, the need for additional financial resources to do the work.

And, we are so grateful for the work done before us; for the shoulders that Kitchen Table Advisors stands upon; for your partnership in this journey; for the opportunity to join this fight 5 years ago and to continue pooling our people, financial and social capital for the collective fight for years to come. 

 

Photo by Jonathan Fong