Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Agile Agriculture Summit at the University of Arkansas

On June 30 & July 1, 2009, I represented the LL.M. Program at the Agile Agriculture Summit sponsored by the University of Arkansas Applied Sustainability Center. This Summit was designed to bring together diverse stakeholders in order to design and launch projects bridging the gap between the market desire for local food products and the lack of access to local food sources on the part of retail markets. Bridging this gap should produce positive benefits for agricultural producers, food distributors and retailers, and consumers.

The Sustainability Center issued the following press release explaining the outcome of the Summit:

The Summit was structured and facilitated using the Appreciative Inquiry process to quickly form teams and design discrete, measurable projects. All projects take into account the foundations of Agile Agriculture:
  • Promoting sustainable agricultural production systems
  • Ensuring profitability to producers and distributors
  • Providing social benefits of local food
  • Delivering healthy products to consumers
The product of the Agile Agriculture Summit is a set of projects, each of which will be implemented by a multi‐disciplinary team.
  • Governance‐creation of necessary structures and processes to support the overall program (funding, organization, etc.) and provide project management resources to insure long‐term viability.
  • Policy‐ Creation (or assistance in creation) of a federal inter‐departmental and inter‐agency task force to address opportunities and challenges in areas including farmer support, regional food infrastructure, health & nutrition, extension & education, regulatory issues, tax policy and transportation.
  • Agriprenuership‐creation of a farming incubator infrastructure to enable new and existing producers in development of successful farming systems and marketing enterprises that are adapted to local ecological and social characteristics.
  • Entrepreneurial Livestock Business Model‐ creation and development of a business model to serve as a resource, focused on regional processing facilities and diverse branded products.
  • Production Technology‐ assessment and development of small and medium scale production and processing technologies.
  • Supply Chain Transparency‐ harmonizing fresh produce GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) audit standards into an accepted industry‐wide system.
  • Financing the Food Shed‐ helping the existing infrastructure to assist & support the needs of the new and developing food systems
  • Social Benefits – Collection of primary and secondary data to assess social benefits of local food systems in four pilot locations.
  • Consumer Engagement‐ designing a regional information network in a model community that promotes dialogue and empowers and informs consumers to enable them to make healthy food choices for their families and communities.
  • Produce Hub‐development of a successful fresh produce distribution hub.
  • Marketing and Finance Education‐ education development and deployment to value chain participants that will insure appropriate decisions regarding engagement in emerging marketing venues.

Support for the Summit was provided by the University of Arkansas Applied Sustainability Center; Wal‐Mart Stores, Inc.; the National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas School of Law; the University of Arkansas Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability; the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University School of Law; Wallace Center/Winrock International; L&M Companies Inc.; Michigan State University; University of Wisconsin; Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group; National Center for Appropriate Technology; and University of Nebraska.

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