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The CRAFTERS (Climate Resilience through Agriculture, Forestry, and Technology)

A secondary school program that prepares students for leadership roles in solving the world's food system challenges.

Photo of Elizabeth  Reaves
10 16

Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Woodstock Union High School

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Government

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Change the World Kids, Marsh-Billings Rockefeller National Park, Academy for Systems Change, Sustainable Food Lab, Wolfsneck Farm, Via educación

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Under 1 year

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Woodstock, Vermont

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Woodstock Union Supervisory Union consists of six towns in Vermont that has a total population of 7900 residents.

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

This place is home. It is a microcosm of the challenges faced by rural, resource based economies that were developed primarily by agriculture and forestry and have since struggled to maintain population and manage a land based economy. Stewardship, innovation, and justice are all part of the legacy of this place. Woodstock is the birthplace of conservation and home to the Marsh-Billings National Park. Vermont is home to the largest number of patents per capita and Woodstock lies in a river corridor anchored by Dartmouth College. This river corridor connects Boston and New York linking the valley to the larger metro hubs. Our communities have an ethic of social and environmental justice and in supporting youth to lead through action and ideas. I don't want to live anywhere else and I want this place to succeed. I grew up in this place called Vermont. I love the people who have been working this land for generations. There is great wisdom in the people who are still care taking for the land as farmers, foresters, and as conservationists. As we stare down the barrel of a climate uncertain future, I want to give our students the opportunity to access the richness of this legacy as well as the tools to lead and design new futures full of meaning, anchored by a strong sense of place, and connected to the global youth climate movement. 

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Wendell Berry writes in his letters to Gary Snyder that there is "no high culture without low culture. Grandpop said, don't plow the hillside, so we didn't." This defines our place, home to both high culture and low culture. People come from elsewhere, seeking an ideal, while children are told that there is no future for them and they must leave to seek their fortune, elsewhere. We value this place, but we are also unsure how to steward it's future, especially as the concept of stewardship changes and offers a chance for regeneration. In this place you are known and you know. You have a voice at town meeting. You have a voice in designing the future. This type of democracy is tenuous as our population ages, young people leave, and those who are here struggle against the machine of modern society to find the time to be known. Poverty in rural places like this one is hidden in the hillsides. Families are torn apart by opioids and heroin and we are challenged in low population places to find the resources to fund the every increasing need to support the generational poverty and trauma resulting from a lack of jobs, safety net, and addiction. We have the opportunity to learn from the people who have stewarded our land for many generations and those who are bringing new ideas, but have yet to connect "grandpop's" wisdom with the best use of new technology. We love our woods, mountains, streams, lakes, fields. We know they are special. We play in them, some still make a living from them. When I look around I see so much despair and pain and fear for the future of our communities and wild places, and farmed places. But, when I work with our children I am surprised by how full of optimism they are.  They are seeking belonging and taking action in many different ways, and asking to be given the choice to access knowledge anchored in intention and experience. Their exuberance will help to 'craft' a meaningful, optimistic future, rooted locally, but shared with youth and other crafters globally. 

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

It's all connected. Our culture is founded on belonging and our global landscape of commerce and ability to connect anywhere in the world functions as a wellspring of ideas and opportunity, but un-moors our sense of belonging. We are our best when we belong and have a sense of place, even if that place is thousands of miles from where we belong. Belonging can be carried in our hearts. We tell our students that technology is their future, their best hope at prospering, but technology is a tool that without a 'crafter's' sense of purpose and understanding of the systems it is affecting will accelerates solutions some, but result in limited impact. To address climate change, steward our environment and communities and to weave a regenerative future we need our future leaders, or future 'crafters' to be as knowledgable about the system they exist in and are trying to affect as they are about the way things work. The one thing we are certain about the 2050 food system is how different it will look from the 2020 food system. We are not sure what the production disruptions will be and where, who will own our farms, and be farming our land, how nutrient dense our food will be, or if the land that produces the food will be fertile from good care taking or reliant on more and more inputs that have negative externalities and their own limits to growth. Today, lack of production is not the problem, the problem is over production fueled by an over reliance on synthetic inputs. We have failed farmers and therefore society by setting them up in a system where profit results from volume of production rather than farming free sunlight. This system of over-production results in low prices, which results in over grazing and over plowing, which results in more low prices. Farms go out of business and are consolidated and as they get bigger the risks and challenges of managing systems through more biological means increases. Rural communities empty out, services leave, schools close, and the fear and loss of connection to place and the land plays out in our political system. For a climate resilient and regenerative future we need to halve food waste, change and improve diets, and improve land use and production practices while closing the yield gap.  We can be certain that new technology will help us through this challenge but on it's will not solve this problem, that it will take 'old' social innovation to support farmers and the market system they operate in to change behavior and change policy to incentivize those behavior changes in order to realize a regenerative food system that nourishes everyone. To nourish everyone we want our students to see themselves in others and build connection across communities. To do that they need to understand their own story and place, so they can listen and see the story of others place. 

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

If our program were to launch today, by 2050 almost eight cohorts of 'crafters' will have passed through our program. Climate change will have been our most urgent and pressing issue for 30 years and  we will have given these next generations a chance to make this decade the 'age of action.' Some of them will have decided to stay in our community and build new food and forest system enterprises and some will have taken their knowledge to create place-based solutions anchored in systems thinking elsewhere. Because we are connected through a global network of visionaries such Wolfsneck, via education, Sustainable Food Lab, and Academy for Systems Change our process for developing student led, place based climate and food system education and leadership will have been adopted in other places both rural and urban, US and abroad. Our vision is to build a high school curriculum that blends the hard sciences of how soils and forests function and regenerate, coupled to comprehensive survey of the food system with leadership and systems thinking. Students will be able to access food, forest, and system thinking experts, learning from both their place in a rich agriculture, forestry, and conservation history and benefiting from access to the global wellspring of ideas and innovation. They will understand the creativity embedded in the way our biological and social systems function as well as how to 'craft' futures that can address systems shift and use technology as an accelerator. Students, supported by our Academy for Systems change partners will engage in an immersive 2 week summer course to learn about climate, food, forests and draw out their own food systems model. They will use this model to craft their own vision of a CRAFTER curriculum. This process to design our curriculum and the model we use will be a prototype for replication in other places, rural and urban, that want to foster a sense of belonging and elevate local knowledge and wisdom to the purpose of regeneration.  Students will have been trained in systems dynamics and supported to elevate their own leadership within the context of self, organization, and community. They will have had access to our living farming and forest communities for experiential, skills based training as well as be linked through existing STEM programs to design their own innovations, becoming a life-long 'crafter' for a regenerative future, independent of the path they chose. They will have hosted exchanges with students from other rural and urban places challenged by climate, such as collaboration with via education in Mexico, the New Harmony School in New Orleans, and Wolfsneck Farm in Maine. 

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

As our students and teachers tap into the wisdom of this place and bring others from outside to teach and learn with them, our community beings to knit together in new ways. The division between who are from here and who came here will start to close. Those from here will be seen and feel valued. The people who came here can tap into local wisdom to help them understand what it means to start the process of becoming from here and integrating outside knowledge into the knowing of a place and the care taking of this place. Our community will become a hub for regenerative innovation, building itself up as a knowledge corridor for a regenerative food future. A place where next generation 'crafters' can work side by with today's crafters. 

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Our primary assumption is that negative results can happen regardless of good intentions and individually rational decision-making. It is our vision to design a program for high school students that layers system thinking with a core understanding of ecosystem and social system function: soils, plants, forests, atmosphere, and water systems, alongside a comprehensive food systems class the covers the politics, culture, diets, and drivers of the current food system. We will support student to use system thinking to ask a specific question, such as: Why do these natural resource economies tend to overshoot natural limits and stress harvesting communities? Student will use their classes to look underneath the data, what they observe, to identify what the pattern is over time? What are the tangible structural causes of that pattern? What are the intangible habits of thought and action that cause that pattern? A key component of our program offering is access to local experts and place based experiences. We will have access to work in cooperation with the Marsh-Billings National Park and the Vermont Institute of Science, along with local foresters and farmers. Students will work in the school gardens and have the opportunity to us the school's farm-to-school program as a living laboratory to address food system challenges. Because of our community's location and assets students will have opportunities to learn from local knowledge and build connection to this place as well as access to the global youth climate and regenerative food movement. Students will be supported by weekend long systems leadership retreats that are designed with the Academy for Systems Change to support exploration of self, organization, and community. Each student in our program will design their own capstone project as part of program completion. They will take an HCD approach to designing a system solution to an existing food system challenge. They can do so through a collaboration with the NuVu innovation and technology studio or through the arts program. We recognize that our students want to be part of a regenerative future. They care about belonging and place and are eager to be 'crafters' of regenerative solutions. Solutions are HARD. We want to help this next generation of leaders jump over attempted solutions that tend towards symptomatic band-aids and get to system solutions that address underlying structure. We have a unique place that is already well placed to be a living laboratory and solutions hub for the 'crafters' of our regenerative food future. We have students driving the vision. We have the people. We have the learning labs. We just need the vision to pull it together. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email

Describe how your Vision developed over the course of the Refinement Phase.

Over the course of the refinement phase CRAFT worked closely as a core team to refine our systems map to reflect how the transformational change of the educational system is a key leverage point for transformational change in the food system. We see ourselves as aggregators and stewards of knowledge and used the FVP Refinement tools as prompts for identifying gaps in our theory of change and expanding our network of partnerships.

Please provide the names of all organizations you meaningfully partnered with to develop this latest version of your Vision (they contributed at least 10 hours of time to the Vision development during the Refinement Phase).

The CRAFT core team consists of regional leaders in food system education who will help deliver and advise on the CRAFT program and include: Windsor Central Supervisory Union (Food System Educator/CRAFT Vermont Coordinator), Wolfe Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment (Food System Educator/CRAFT Maine Coordinator/Experiential Learning Site), Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (Forest System Educator/Experiential Learning Site), Sustainable Food Lab (Systems Thinking and Global Food System Expertise), Change the World Kids (Food and Justice Education/Student-Led Action Learning Program/Food System Experiential Learning Partner), Billings Farm and Museum (Food System Experiential Learning Site), Academy for Systems Change (System Thinking Learning Network and Education), Vermont Law School Center for Agricultural Policy (Food System Policy Expert and Educator), Waters Center for Systems Thinking (Systems Thinking Educator).

Describe the specific steps you took during the Refinement phase to include different stakeholders to develop your Vision, including a description (age, profile, and total number) of the stakeholders engaged, and how you engaged with each.

See Stakeholder Attachment 

What signals and trends did you draw from to inform your Vision? Please provide data or examples that back up each signal or trend.

The Next Generation Science Standards provide a grounding framework for students to move from memorizing science to doing science in an applied and innovative manner. New research argues that if educational programs on climate change were implemented at scale, "the potential reductions in CO2 emissions would be of similar magnitude to other large-scale mitigation strategies, such as rooftop solar or electric vehicles.” . Millennials are asking for more transparency about where their food is sourced and how it is produced, they associate healthy food with organic, locally sourced, and produced with fair labor practices. Demand for local food has increased significantly. There momentum to restore soils and improve livelihoods and little disagreement that this is not a good outcome to pursue. Scientists agree that there is potential to use soils to drawdown carbon but the uncertainty over how much and where and the longevity of that pool of carbon is still highly controversial. Science, culture, mindsets, innovation, policy, and disruptive innovations are all leverage points that are needed to support the shift. The recent Forum for the Future report “Scaling Regenerative Agriculture in the US” lists out these leverage points. This report is a signal of the future desired state of the food system and also highlights how relevant the role of education is in supporting the change in mindsets and building capacity for a generation of consumers, policy makers, scientists, farmers, and innovators is to achieve a regenerative food system. In New England forests are part of our resource economy, food system (maple sugaring), and sense of place. As we intensify food production in the region we need to continue to value our forest system as well as acknowledge how it is changing with climate. (Source: ) For full documentation see attachment.

Describe a “Day in the Life” of a key food system actor within your food system in 2050 (e.g., farmer, chef, supply chain actor, food policy actor, etc.).

I am a high school student in Vermont. The first thing I do when I get up is open my curtains and greet the new day. For breakfast, I make two eggs from our chickens and toast on homemade bread with jam from the strawberries I picked with my family in the summer. The challenged to understand the complex systems in our world; from food systems to the justice system. I am also challenged with balancing technology with place-based learning. At school, I work with my peers to learn new content and apply skills in authentic project and place-based learning classes that draw from each academic discipline. We help solve real-world problems, ground our learning in our place while drawing from global interconnectedness. We use cutting edge technology, but also spend a good portion of our day working from our outdoor campus which has been transformed into a versatile classroom space. Each student contributes to the stewardship of our school community by completing chores such as food harvest and preparation, and compost and recycling collection. We ground our work in authentic problems posed by community members. For example, we are working with several local farmers to create a soil health data collection, tracking, and communication system that will allow a network of farmers to collectively build soil health. I finish up my shift of food prep (slicing local carrots) in the school kitchen, and then join the flow of my peers through the food line where I can easily access information about each product, like origin and nutritional quality. I choose a taco that contains local grass-fed beef, a salad made from greens harvested by our school’s Horticulture class. All of my peers eat in the cafeteria because school meals are universally provided for each student. Before I go to bed, I worry a bit about all of the work we have to do, but then think about how lucky I am to be surrounded by small farms and blessed with plenty of food for my family and it makes me feel grateful!

Environment | How will your food system of 2050 adapt to climate change and remain resilient?

Our future food system will be a greenhouse gas sink. Natural biological and chemical processes—especially photosynthesis—will bring excess greenhouse gases back to plants, soils, and the sea.  Our future food system will be a reservoir for absorbing and storing carbon.

The process by which soils are ameliorated to hold more carbon is the same process that results in an increase in the ability of soils to hold more water in times of too much rain, preventing crop failure as a result of flooding, and that can conserve moisture in times of too little rain, resulting in farming systems that are more drought resilient.

Practices that lead to improved soil health also break pest and disease cycles, and improve nutrient cycling, reducing the use of both herbicides and pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers. Therefore reducing overall toxicity, GHG emissions from manufactured fertilizer and improving net-farm profitability, keeping farmers farming. 

These same practices increase above and below ground biodiversity. More crop diversity and more plants in the ground year round hold soils and nitrates in place and prevent leaching of phosphorus and nitrogen, that oxidizes into our air, contributing to GHGs, and dissolves into our waterways resulting in severely degraded water quality and massive hypoxic zones.

As farmer livelihood improves they become less dependent on utilizing virgin forest or grassland to grow food. Together regulation, market demand, and an increase in farmer income can halt further deforestation in places where farmers are driven to cut trees or plow up grasslands to feed their families and stay profitable in low-margin commodity systems.

In a future system farmers will be able to map soils and plant native prairie strips or tree breaks on marginal ground that will sequester carbon and provision other ecosystems services.  Farmers in smallholder systems will use intercropping with trees and legumes to fix nitrogen, improve biomass, and grow more food. Vertical farming technologies will be used, not to replace land-based farming systems, but to augment them and reduce pressure to expand agricultural production on marginal land, forested land, or grassland.

Improving local and regional food systems to sustainably intensify and provision more than 40% of food consumed within a regionally relevant  and 100 mile radius will support resilience in times of supply disruptions related to climate shocks. Building resilience across the landscape will mean that markets exist to provide stable trading relationships and fair return to farm at all levels of the system: commodity through to local markets.

 Students in the CRAFT program will be asked to complete core curriculum requirements on the functioning of soils, water, and forest systems. They will have the opportunity to apply this knowledge through real research projects collecting on-farm environmental data as part of our partnership with Wolfe’s Neck, NPS, Billings Farm, Change the World Kids Community Food Shelf gardens, and the newly launched

Diets | How will your food system of 2050 address malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, metabolic disease) for the people living there?

In our future food system healthier soils will improve the nutrient density of the food we eat. As we begin to drawdown carbon and slow warming we will also begin to reverse the “carbohydrate” effect of warming on nutrient density in plants.

In our future food system market demand will lead to food and beverage innovation that shifts from energy dense snack foods such as soda and chips to whole food offering without added sugars, fats, and additives.

People will re-learn how to cook healthy food from scratch and where possible grow more food for themselves.

We will begin to reverse the epigenetic changes that generations of under-nutrition and metabolic disease have signaled in our bodies, resulting in a decrease in chronic disease, immune disorders, and behavioral disorders related to diet and toxicity. Improving the ability of the next generation to fully access education, because they are not only not hungry, but they have the right nutrients to fuel their brains and bodies.

Access to healthy food will no longer be the privilege of those who can afford it. Economic policies will create less income inequality. A focus on soil health will require farming systems to become more diverse.  Farming communities will be producing more types of crops meaning that they will go from food deserts reliant on export monocultures to food sheds feeding both their own communities and accessing export


As part of the core CRAFT curriculum students will take a general Food Systems Survey course that will cover topics related to diet, culture, and access.

Nutrition, diet, and how to create healthy meals will be addressed as part of the Wellness program and through hands-on activities in conjunction with the school districts Farm-to-School Program, designed to get kids cooking from scratch and tasting new foods through. Research from the National Farm to School Network indicates that these activities coupled with changes in food procurement, curriculum, and on-site gardening have positive impacts in the arenas of Economic Development, Public Health, Education, the Environment, and Equity and Community Engagement.

Economics | Where and what will the jobs be that support living wages in your future food system of 2050, and how will these jobs impact gender equality?

Food and beverage companies, driven by governments and consumer demand will shift buying practices in order to insure a living wage or living income for the farmers supplying them. Poverty in supply chains will be a reputational risk companies must address. Companies will recognize that in order to achieve impact against the SDGs and Science Based Targets (SBTs), farmers must have the ability to invest in changing their farming practices. Farmers will be rewarded for the provisioning of eco-systems service benefits.

Local and regional food producers face a similar set of economics, typically dependent on off-farm income or high value markets such as artisan cheese. COVID has illustrated the vulnerability of farm economics at all scales of production. In our vision supply chains at all scales will share more costs and risk with farmers producing food. This means that consumers must also spend a greater share of dollars on food and other policies, such as funding for health care, education, and living wage, in addition to policies that create incentives for ecosystem service markets, and tax carbon will need to accompany this transition.

A new set of enterprises will be developed across our food and forest systems to build support services for farmers, including data and technology, infrastructure and handling for multiple crops, rather than single commodity systems, marketplace solutions for connecting rural food sheds to urban consumers, and for building urban food sheds in unusual places that are not dependent on a large soil and land base.

 Students in CRAFT will encounter economic and livelihood food system dynamics in the Food Systems Survey course, a core requirement of the CRAFT curriculum. They will have opportunities to wrestle with the economics of the system through engagement with food system experts, on-farm visits, and with food and justice advocates and practitioners in our communities. They will have the opportunity to address economics at either the farm or community level as part of their capstone project. For example, students can choose to embed their CRAFT project in a community food justice program creating a fresh vegetable supply and behavior change model with the local food shelf.

Culture | How will your 2050 food system ensure that the cultural, spiritual and community traditions and/or practices in your Place flourish?

Students are so very much tuned in to cultural signals. They can identify new issues and trends and bring them to a classroom for a problem-solving/innovation session that will allow our food system to be more resilient. They often have a fresh/unjaded way of viewing things and can offer new ideas and perspectives and are experts at storytelling.

Our New England communities are still very oriented around place. Many towns still have a town green or church that serves as a focal point for gathering and if a farmers market exists it typically takes place in the center of town. There is a long time culture of land stewardship in New England with hunting traditions passed down through generations, many families if they have land still manage a woodlot for harvesting heating wood. New ways of stewardship through outdoor recreation are increasing the number of public, multi-use trails throughout the region. Most farmers in the region also have maple sugar operations that run as a separate enterprise. Traditions such as strawberry suppers in June and chicken dinners in the fall continue to flourish in many small towns. Our New England culture is naturally oriented towards inter-generational community life, inviting elders into schools and through other types of community service projects. Like most of the US the history of the land before colonization is overlooked. In our 2050 vision our sense of place will include reconciliation with this past. 

In our 2050 food vision this sense of place is honored through story and through the continuation of communal gatherings around food traditions at farmers markets and the act of sharing a meal. Caring for eachother and for a multi-functional landscape is elevated as our regional narrative.

Our CRAFT program will support students to see and document their local food system and ask them to intentionally explore this narrative through interviews with farmers, foresters, and community members. Cultural exploration of our food and forest systems will include Native American culture.

 A core part of the CRAFT philosophy and vision is supporting students to notice themselves in this story and to document their own sense of place. An example of such a project already underway can be viewed here.

Technology | What technological advances are needed to transform your food system into one that meets your goals and embodies the values of your Vision in 2050?

Continued technological advances will be needed to innovate, disrupt and transform our food systems (across the supply chain all the way to the end user) in a number of areas including:  


Microbial fertilizers

Precision phenotyping and bioinformatics


Growing food throughout the year

Crop and meat selection with lower environmental footprint

Animal health monitoring and diagnostics

Micro irrigation techniques

Precision agriculture

Holistic grazing

No till/low till agriculture

Sustainable forestry management (e.g. reduced impact logging, agroforestry)

In-field technologies to support farmer decision making: weather, in-expensive soil sensor technology

Measurement and understanding of ecosystem service benefits and complexity around stacked farming practices

Crop varietal adaptation to changing climate

Big data farming - data management

            Food Processing

Product reformulation and upcycled foods

Low food waste processors

Food fortification

Less crop loss, better harvest and post-harvest handling

Improved shelf life


Cloud storage

Fully traceable product systems

Transportation and improved aggregation and distribution for shorter supply chains

Retail And Disposal

Transparency and traceability

Systems for compost at scale and energy capture

Improving access

Food safety

Source: International Resource Panel; Anterra Capital; AlphaBeta analysis

However, much of this technology already exists today to support transformation of food systems.  What is missing is both the “stitching together” of these technologies to create comprehensive system wide solutions, and in our rural environment with small holder farms, access to and training with new technology.  In our vision for the future, higher efficacy food system solutions can be accelerated and refined by deploying these technology resources throughout our rural community, such that our community becomes a “living lab” - an innovation ecosystem - with producers/growers, retailers, scientists, designers, entrepreneurs, educators, businesses collaborating in real time.  Our students will not only have a front row seat to the latest innovations and food system solutions, our students will be integral to developing, designing and facilitating these solutions.  

Our Innovation Studio at our Middle/High School (developed in collaboration with NuVu – a full-time Innovation school in Cambridge, MA) will serve as the inaugural hub for connecting students and our community with a diverse array of collaborators, providing students with access to leading technology coming out of the Boston metro area and other areas of New England.  Working with farmers, scientists and technologists, student’s will engage in real world research projects that both benefit the community and serve to refine the technology (whether it is an app for pasture management,  a new sensor technology for monitoring soil nutrients, a micro-irrigation technique, low impact logging, composting and energy capture)   The school becomes the portal to engage stakeholders, communicate results and innovations, develop student leadership, and cultivate student ‘s own transformational behavior and interest in food system related careers. 

 Practically, to implement our vision, we would not require technology to facilitate the collaboration envisioned, rather we would need to continue to develop a roster of technology and business collaborators with which to partner, deploy that technology within our community and develop a framework for integrating students into each project.

Policy | What types of policies are needed to enable your future food system?

“People are fed by the food industry which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry which pays no attention to food.”

—Wendell Berry

Law and policymaking that impacts the food system often fails to account for the impacts that regulations in one area may have on other aspects of the food system. The food system impacts many issues of national concern, including the economy, public health, the environment, and trade. Due to its broad reach, many different federal, state, and local laws administered by a number of different agencies at each of these levels impact this system. Even with the proliferation of laws, regulations, and authorities that shape our food system, policymakers rarely account for the food system as a whole when making decisions. This leads to fragmented and piecemeal law and policy making that can be contradictory—or simply inefficient—due to its failure to account for the fact that food exists as part of a complex, interconnected system. Countless decisions about the food system, including increasing productivity, supporting research and development of specific technologies, and protecting the environment, may affect the food system in some manner given its broad reach creating tradeoffs that are not often transparently or inclusively addressed. The impact of such decision-making may be sweeping, completely unanticipated, and result in serious detrimental consequences. Law and policymaking focused on and affecting the food system needs coordination in the same manner as interventions and solutions for the food and agricultural sectors. For students working in and studying the food system, it is necessary to understand the foundational law and policy framework that governs this system to consider opportunities for improvement. However, it is also critical for them to appreciate how disconnected, reactive, and inefficient law and policymaking can be to provide a new lens that is comprehensive, strategic, coordinated, and inclusive. (Source: Laurie Beyranevand, Director Vermont Law School Center for Agriculture and Food Systems)

Describe how these 6 Themes connect with and influence one another in your food system.

Healthy soils and forests and the accompanying eco-system service, nutrient density, and farm resilience benefits are dependent on farmers’ ability to invest in the types of farm management practices that will lead to these desired outcomes. Three levers are typically available to provide incentives and overcome barriers: policy, market development, such as carbon or eco-system service markets or market development for crop diversification, and supply chains. In order to create the right type of pull to shift policy, and the right type of demand to create new markets, or drive investment through supply chain, we need a shift in culture, mindset, behavior, and actors who can see the system well enough to understand where potential solutions are simply bandaids not leading systemic change and where they may lead to unintended consequences. Technology has a role in solving technical problems related to the system. Technology is a disrupter that also needs to reach scale in order to influence change. 

Diets are influenced by a set of economic and cultural factors, in which sometimes a person’s economic status also influences cultural practices around eating as much as it does access to healthy food. Policy, influenced by both markets, technology, and consumer demand have a key role in creating a more equitable system of food distribution and access. Culture shift through the persuasion of peer influencers is the other leading factor for influencing what people eat and the type of transparency they demand in how their food is grown.

Culture and sense of place must be considered as part of the way in which policy, markets, and supply chain work is adapted in different farming systems. People who have their own strong sense of place will be oriented in the way they design solutions that allow for place and culture to be incorporated in the design and implementation of specific interventions.

Using Frank Geels Multi–Level Perspective (MLP) framework for socio–technical transitions to food systems (Geels 2011) we can see how niche innovations move to middle adopters until they reach a transformational tipping point that leads to regime change of political, cultural and physical landscapes. The interconnectivity of the six thematic areas raised in the vision prize can be seen to hinge primarily on the success of the MLP model, influencing change in business, technology, users (voters and consumers), media and culture, to result in whole systems transformation.

See attached figure. Geels, F.W. 2002. “Technological Transitions as Evolutionary Reconfiguration Processes: A Multi-Level Perspective and a Case-Study.” Res. Policy 31: 1257–1274.

Our vision for this food system outcome is that education is an accelerator of niche innovation in the Geels framework. Education will be transformational in the creation of the tipping point for the necessary socio-technological change that will enable this new paradigm

Describe any trade-offs you may have to make within your system to attain your Vision by 2050.

Tradeoffs are hard to predict, but all changes in habits require trade-offs. COVID is an excellent case for how shifts in behavior lead to new habits. Our larger American culture has had to trade expectations of movement, choice, work, how we learn and in care for one another and change habits to stay at home, wear masks, not socialize in normal ways, change consumption and travel patterns while witnessing huge swaths of the population experience increased food insecurity, reports of domestic and child abuse increase, have voting rights curtailed, and wrestle with essential vs. non-essenital workers make the choice of work over health. The shift to a new food system will hopefully not create these short term hardships, but it will require a trading of some habits for others. It might mean that New Englanders eat fruit and vegetables imported from warmer places in the winter, it might mean that the costs of some food go up and painful shifts in farm economies happen, for example if industrial meat processing is no longer a desired and viable choice for consumers and the public. (Source: Reaves, Hospice in the time of COVID, 2020)  It might mean that as the average share of income spent on food increases people have to buy less of other types of goods, or take fewer vacations, or that there is a period of food insecurity if economic policies don’t shift holistically, as we described in the policy section of our vision. As a system shifts it requires compassion to help hospice the loss of some habits in exchange for others.

3 Years | Describe 3 key milestones that you would need to achieve within the next three years for your Vision to be on track?

For our vision to be on track we need our process, philosophy, and curriculum prototyped at Woodstock Union High School and with the Freeport School District in Freeport, Maine, the district affiliated with the Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment.

Our top three milestones are: 

A student-led systems design process and curriculum is adopted at Woodstock Union High School and Freeport, Maine School in partnership with Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and Environment.  An approved seal of Regenerative Resilience is achieved by a cohort within the 2023 graduating class and is a permanent part of their high school transcripts.

Sustained funding is secured for a program coordinator to oversee integration of the CRAFT curriculum with place, systems thinking, and experiential learning. This coordinator is expanding partnership and supporting at least 2-3 schools in the region to adapt their own CRAFT curriculum.

 3-years of evaluation is completed to assess students in leadership, systems thinking, and food system literacy, and an increase in local food purchasing and food system education throughout the school district. Other partnerships with community organizations, such as the food shelf and community garden projects have been established to increase local food, and fresh food consumption, and access. Each student completing the Regenerative Resilience seal will have completed a capstone (action learning) project that explores an aspect of the local food system and includes some aspect of one of the following: in-field data collection, a design or STEM project that can be beta-tested, a cultural history of food and place, or a community engagement project that works to identify a barriers to access or a supply chain innovation that requires a policy or technology solution.

10 Years | What progress will you need to make—by 2030—that would set your Vision up to become a reality by 2050?

For our vision to become a reality by 2030 we will have seen wide adoption of the CRAFT program across New England schools, realized flow on effects in our local and regional food sheds, and more coordinated food systems policy coalitions form across the region.

At least 30% of Vermont and Maine schools have adopted CRAFT in their school systems.

New food-ag hub sites that result in increase in  farms, supply chain networks, agri- food-related clusters are developed as a result of community engagement through the CRAFT curriculum.

A coalition of actors are working together to coordinate a food systems policy changes across sectors at the state and local level. Students are part of this advocacy and the learning outcomes from the CRAFT program support policy changes as it relates to the education system.

Demand for shorter, more transparent supply chains and food production is creating an economically viable regenerative food production model resulting in sustainable intensification of food production and protection of valuable forest land, the costs and benefits of regeneration of soils are a recognized cost of doing business and license to operate.

More students are choosing to become food system entrepreneurs staying or returning to New England as a result of both connection to place and opportunity to make a viable livelihood in the food and forest sectors.

If awarded the $200,000 prize what would you do with it?

Or funds will be spent to implement, replicate, evaluate, and promote.


Program Coordination and Curriculum Development at Woodstock Union High School for next 3-years ($100,000). 

Salary stipend for a program coordinator to coordinate across disciplines and partners. 

Salary stipend for curriculum development and teacher training. 

Salary stipend for systems thinking tool building and facilitator to support quarterly systems leadership retreats for students. 

Funds to support expert speakers and student field trips. 


Kick-start funds for Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and Environment to 1. Start a CRAFT program in the Freeport, Maine District High School and 2. build a residential experience or students to learn from Wolfe's Neck farm and research station about the food and farming system. ($50,000)


Evaluation/Assessment of student learning outcomes in the following areas: ($25,000)

Next Generation Science Standards

Systems thinking capabilities

Student Leadership

Food systems knowledge and changes in habits

Storytelling and Influencing:

Documentation using multiple forms of media of the CRAFT story and student and community experience; including interviews with food system experts, documentation of place and culture, and student learning outcomes. To be shared and amplified across a range of users (FSVP participants, educators, policy makers, food system experts, and students) ($25,000)

If you are chosen as a Top Visionary, The Rockefeller Foundation would like to share your Vision widely with a global audience. What would you like the world to learn from your Vision for 2050?

Education is high leverage for transformational change.

Intentional learning empowers students to see themselves as agents of change.

Place-based learning builds a sense of belonging, creates community, and catalyzes a hub-like effect of flow-on benefits for innovation and social resilience beyond the school system.

Systems-thinking both explicit and implicit provides students with greater capacity to identify high leverage solutions as they become our next generation leaders for a regenerative future.

Like a healthy system, learning should be dynamic, not static. As climate will inevitably require places to adapt to increasing variability in weather, so should student’s learning path be adaptive. We see this as a living curriculum in the community that is as dynamic as the changing climate (social and environmental) for our food and forest systems.

Systems shift is a result of incremental changes in habits that form new realities and create tipping points for change. The way we think of our food and forest systems, see our local communities and larger world, do certain work, act on opportunities, make choices about what to eat and how it is grown, are all incremental shifts in habit. There are multiple starting places to influence this change, but no better one than exactly this time and within our educational system.

AND, there is hope. 

Please share a visual that communicates the structure and operation of your food system in 2050. Describe the visual.

Layered into our vision for the food system is a vision for the way in which education accelerates transformational change. It is the education system where we will act. Our systems map is an illustration of how we see education influencing the transition to our food system vision. Visual Stakeholder Map can be viewed here.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Itika Gupta

Reading through the Refinement Visions, I came across other Visionary teams from various parts of the United States. Incase you havn't already, connecting you all Mary McArthur Matthew Wilson Natalie Vandenburgh Stone Barns Center Christopher Newman Elizabeth Reaves Sprouting Farms  so you can provide some feedback on one another’s Vision submissions from the context of your region's most pressing challenges in the present and future. Happy connecting!

Photo of Nataly Pinto Alvaro

Dear Elizabeth, it's been great to read your proposal today!
I've looked at the Nuvu and it's very encouraging to see students developing amazing solutions.
About your proposal I really like it. I'm only wondering if you will talk about agroecology or organic farming in this next phase, probably it's implied but it might strengthen the technology component. I leave some articles for reference and I also invite you to take a look at our proposal. Your comments are welcome:

Articles about agroecology:

Photo of Benjamin Fahrer

Nice work! Congrats on making the refinement phase.

I worked for 10 years as a High School teacher in Natural Resource Management through the State Wide Regional Occupational Program here in California. The program you are envisioning is the program I had wanted to start but was limited within the school district and this was 20 years ago when the pressure of climate change and regenerative agriculture solutions were not being discussed in mass. You have such potential and I wish you the best in so many ways. This can have radical change.
Are you connected with the secondary school program and educational initiative at Stone Barns? There is some valuable connection there and networking that if you aren't I would be happy to but you in touch with them.
Also i would be happy to share some of the programatic work we did in ROP and the ways I wove in Permaculture and ecological farming to the students, best time of my life.
email is

Photo of Kathleen Robbins

Thanks Benjamin! We are excited about the potential for this project to enhance solutions in our own region but then be replicated throughout the country and world! We are hoping to get to Stone Barns this summer. If you'd be willing to share the permaculture and ecological farming work/curriculum, we would love to see it. Thanks!

Photo of Itika Gupta

Dear @Elizabeth Reaves , Congratulations on being shortlisted as a Semi-Finalist. Welcome to Refinement!

Through refinement, we'd like to see the details in the broad strokes of the Vision you painted for your region.
How might you bring your Vision into sharper focus through:
1. Building partnerships and forming a systemic and multi-disciplinary Vision Team
2. Visualising your future food system to help people see and feel the future of their food system
3. Assessing the feasibility of your future food system to better anticipate its needs and challenges

We invite you to take full advantage of the open platform here – to tag in team members into your Vision, connect with other Refinement teams, and solicit feedback from participants around the world.

It’s great to continue with you into this next phase. Consider me your support for questions you might have while on this platform.

Looking forward to seeing a detailed and Refined Vision for your region in the coming weeks.

Photo of Mo Bangura


Photo of Elizabeth  Reaves

Just found this great article on the value of education as part of the climate solution: New research argues that if educational programs on climate change were implemented at scale, "the potential reductions in CO2 emissions would be of similar magnitude to other large-scale mitigation strategies, such as rooftop solar or electric vehicles.”

Photo of Alana Libow

Hi Elizabeth! Yes! I was so excited to see this submission from you and the team. I have reviewed it and do recommend you cross checking your exciting vision to the points below.
-In particular, because your vision is a system in and of itself (eg educational system vs lets say a vision about food security in X city, it both inherently includes systems thinking and also is key to showcase its use of systems thinking across as many of the 6 themes as are applicable.
-In addition, we are encouraging creative bold futurecasted Full visions - eg If a student were to return in 2050 what would she/he see or if a reporter (or some future oriented tech system) were broadcasting from there what would be transformationally different, what would be felt, experienced, seen etc?

See what magic you can additionally add in the final hour! Excited for your vision!!

Photo of Alana Libow

Hi Elizabeth Reaves and Team,

Welcome to the Food System Vision Prize! Exciting to see this educationally oriented hands-on vision.

In our final hours (submissions due by 5pm EST), we would like to encourage that you check your submission to our checklist

Key aspects include:
i) Ensure a "vision" vs "solution"
ii) Showcase systems thinking and future casting (across your challenges, addressing challenges, and vision)
iii) Integrate the 6 Vision themes (or as many as are applicable)
iv) Deliver a creative inspirational vision that takes us into 2050 with you and inspires others toward your call to action

We hope this helps hone your vision!

Photo of Elizabeth  Reaves

Hi Alana!!! I can't believe it's you. So good to connect in this context and the prize is so lucky to have you. Would you clarify if you note is just general guidance, or on your read through we are not hitting the aspects you listed above?