Food+Co-ops: Next Generation Leadership

Sarah at Middlebury College Organic Farm  (c) Middlebury College (2013) Sarah at Middlebury College Organic Farm (c) Middlebury College (2013)

NOFA VT’s Winter Conference is the best-attended gathering of farmers and their allies in Vermont each year. The theme of the 2013 conference was Generations of Innovation. Implied in that theme is the value of next-generation leadership. In this first of a monthly series of posts on the connections between food, co-ops, and community, NOFA-VT member Eric Deluca will focus on youth leadership development. Here are two inspiring stories: one on food and the other about co-ops. They showcase what’s possible in the world of youth leadership development. You’ll see themes like peer-to-peer learning; that’s no accident. You can do this too! Food: Middlebury FoodWorks Internship Program Middlebury FoodWorks is a nine-week internship program for Middlebury College students on local food and sustainable development, piloted in Louisville, Kentucky and expanded to include Middlebury’s Vermont partners in 2013.  Its mission is to provide summer internship opportunities that enhance student learning and engagement in food studies. Each student works four days a week, focused on local food.   On the fifth day, students learn together about agriculture and ecology; food systems; community and economic development; nutrition and health.  Students in Louisville and Vermont are connected through video conferences and a blog. The 15 Vermont students this summer are working in such places as NOFA-VT; the Mad River Food Hub/UVM Continuing Ed food hub management program; Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets; Rutland Area Food and Farm Link (RAFFL); on farms, etc.  In addition to attending the Slow Living and UVM Food System Summits, Vermont students visited Hardwick to look at local economy; met with Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross about food policy and a resilient food system; visited local producers, etc.  This week, Philip Ackerman-Leist is challenging them to identify a local food project; students will present their work in a TED-style talk at the program’s conclusion.  (Afterward, Wendell Berry will be joining the Louisville students!) Check out the Middlebury FoodWorks blog where interns are posting regular reflections, pictures, and tweets: Co-ops: On the Road with Co-Cycle, a youth-led, bicycle-powered tour linking co-ops across the country. Co-Cycle 2013—Week 1 (Snippets from the Rider Blog)
 Co-Cyclers Cooling off in Idaho's Clearwater River--July 2013 Cooling off in Idaho's Clearwater River--July 2013

“In Seattle we were hosted by SLICE: Strengthening Local Independent Cooperatives Everywhere. We arrived for a kickoff party at Equal Exchange Café—a worker co-op. Then we biked over 200 miles over four days and tallied 14 flat tires and 3 wrong turns. On June 9th we were happy to reach Portland, Oregon—mainly because we could shower. We were impressed by the bike-friendliness of the city and felt welcomed by the roads and people. We arrived during a two-week bicycle extravaganza: Pedalpalooza. We met bike- and co-op-curious community members. Our team—with the help of materials developed by TESA (Toolbox for Education and Social Action)—conducted a workshop where we learned about the different cooperative models, drawing from the diversity of knowledge in the group. We developed questions and research outlines for the co-ops we will be visiting on tour. This process proved helpful the next day when, as part of a research partnership between Co-Cycle and CoFed (Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive), team members visited Food For Thought café—a student-run collective in Portland State University.” Watch the Official Trailer (3 min) for To the Moon—the documentary chronicling the 2012 Co-Cycle cross-country bicycle tour. Follow the 2013 tour on Twitter @cocycle2012 and on Facebook. Eric DelucaFood+Co-ops is a monthly series curated by NOFA-VT member Eric DeLuca. Eric serves on the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Board and previously served on the Vermont Agriculture Innovation Center Board, which together have driven over $4M of investment in the Vermont working lands economy since 2010. Eric managed the International Year of Cooperatives for the US through the National Cooperative Business Association. He is currently partnering with UVM Continuing Education, the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, NOFA-VT and other VT food system leaders to create the first higher ed certificate program focused on food hub management in the country.