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The Monadnock People's Food Collaborative (PFC)

The Monadnock PFC is building a sustainable social enterprise that supports a thriving, fair, community-based food economy.

Photo of Rachel Brice
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Monadnock Farm and Community Coalition (MFCC)

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

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

Monadnock Farm & Community Coalition is a coalition of 96 member organizations and 48 individual members. One key member organization collaborating on this application specifically is the Community Kitchen of Keene, a 401(c)3, focusing on charitable food.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

http://mfcommunitycoalition.org/

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

  • 10+ years

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

Keene, New Hampshire

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?

Keene, a city in Cheshire County in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, is 1888 sq. km.

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

The people creating this Vision have deep and abiding connections to this place. We live, work, play, grow, and eat here. We and our neighbors are farmers, gardeners, cooks and chefs, advocates, students, educators, providers, and people who struggle with security, dignity, and justice in food systems every day. We identify strongly with the placename of Monadnock, the mountain at the heart of our foodscape, and we are working together to make it stronger and more inclusive every day. 

The lead applicant, Monadnock Farm & Community Coalition (MFCC), is a regional coalition of nonprofit, social service, and business entities, farms, educational institutions, and individuals who each play an active role in MFCC’s mission: to support a sustainable local food system by cultivating community action and building collaborations to implement effective programs, projects, and policies.

The city of Keene is considered a geographic, business, and cultural center of the Monadnock Region. The region is mostly forested, with small towns and villages nestled along its river valleys. Here is where people experiencing hardship can find hot meals and take-home food boxes, secure affordable housing, and find opportunities to work, trade, and do business. Here is also where we plant gardens in neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools; work with local organizations to provide community education and outreach; and conduct the work of building our local food system.



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.

The Monadnock Region is located in southwestern New Hampshire in the New England region of the United States of America. This primarily rural area is named after its most prominent geographical feature, the 3,165 foot Mount Monadnock, and is comprised of 1.5 counties, 35 different towns and cities, more than 167 farms, and over 131,400 humans. This territory was and is the traditional territory of many indigenous tribes of the Abenaki people; European settlement began approximately 1736. Approximately 94.5% percent of our population identifies as White, with less than two percent identifying as other ethnicity. More than 10% of our population lives below the poverty line.

We celebrate all four seasons in our region, with vibrant springs, steamy summers, colorful autumns, and deep snow winters. We hunt and fish, camp and hike, and have many visitors from other states and countries who seek our lakes and mountains for boating, skiing, and dining. Our primary industries are healthcare & social assistance, manufacturing, and educational services. 

Historically, our farms are small; according to the 2018 Census of Agriculture, almost a quarter of farms in the state are less than 10 acres in size, and more than 40% of them sell less than $2,500 worth of vegetables, eggs, meat, cheese, hay or other items a year. Our County Seat of Keene is a developing and vibrant city of approximately 23,000 people, has three major colleges/universities, a lively downtown, and an engaged and active population. 

Many of our residents are interested in and passionate about local food, a healthy local economy, public art, and education. We love to eat, and support our local farms & dairies by shopping at our many regional farmers’ markets and farm stands. Although we are all united in wanting to continually improve our community, strong tensions do exist in the ways we think this should happen. Our community includes those with politically conservative values and those with more liberal leanings. 

Additionally, some who may be interested in local food can’t afford regular access. We have support systems in place for those who are struggling, including hot meals providers in and out of the school setting, a food pantry, a homeless shelter, garden and food education organizations, and many others working tirelessly to build food security in the region. Nevertheless, significant work remains to be done.

We are a unique blend of self-sufficient individuals living in interdependent communities, and we want our region to maintain and increase its resiliency and health. We have hope and faith that we can achieve our vision of a vibrant, safe and efficient local food system that enhances the health of our community, is profitable for farmers and producers, is accessible to all community members, amplifies the voices of the Indigenous and People of Color (POC), conserves natural resources and is sustained by strong leadership and commitment in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

1888

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

131400

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

Environment

The impacts linked to a changing climate are already being felt in the Monadnock region. Flooding, changes in annual snowfall amounts, and more high heat days are impacting the community’s built, natural, and social environments. 


Addressing these challenges by 2050 will require political will/economic support. If we are successful, we will be better prepared to support healthy diets, improve food access, strengthen our farms, and bolster our economy.


Diets
41% of adults here struggle with obesity, which is inextricably linked to food insecurity. To address this by 2050, we will need improved nutrition education, increased access to healthy food, decreased food waste, and increased ability of local farms to meet the needs of the population.


Economics

Food producers and patrons face linked economic challenges. More than 10% of the population in the Monadnock region live below the poverty line. Farmers/food producers also need to earn a living wage. Organic certification can increase income, but is expensive. If farmers sell more expensive food, this can make it out of reach for patrons.


Corporatized food systems support less nutritious options, like fast food or pre-packaged junk food. These foods may cost less, but negatively affect both human health and the environment.


Particularly if our wage gap continues to grow, by 2050 we will need a robust local economy to support our food providers and our food patrons in a just and equitable way.


Culture

Fewer people now eat from-scratch meals at home. Learning how can be hard if the culture places little value on these practices, or if working multiple jobs. There can also be barriers that inhibit food access, despite the local presence of the nation’s largest wholesale grocery distributor. Patrons can feel uncomfortable in settings like a farmers market, and there can be stigma attached to food support. Additionally, Indigenous & POC are often rendered invisible by current power structures.


Technology

Our farmers/food entrepreneurs need infrastructure. This includes equipment for light processing, and facilities for cold, dry, and frozen storage. Tight margins make individual purchases of this infrastructure onerous if not impossible (as identified in a 2017 report).


By 2050: As population increases, the need for infrastructure will increase. To handle a changing climate, farmers will require technology like soil moisture monitoring, and infrastructure like greenhouses and irrigation. Access to funding, fertile soil, and education/technical support will be required to ensure these changes are implemented when needed.


Policy

In New Hampshire, our policy landscape is not supportive of communities’ sovereignty. The State preempts what communities try to do locally (New Hampshire isn’t a “home rule” state). Addressing this will require time/commitment from stakeholders working at multiple scales. Additionally, New Hampshire doesn’t provide the financial support needed for healthy food access and education



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

The People’s Food Collaborative is building a sustainable social enterprise that supports a thriving, fair, community-based & equitable food economy.


Our for-profit cooperative will host:


  • a production food-hub

  • office and community space 

  • communal kitchen space 

  • classrooms 

  • gardens 


The cooperative model will contribute to community empowerment, as those who wish to be involved can be formal stakeholders in the direction and vision of the Food Collaborative’s work by becoming co-owners. Because social enterprise has both economic sustainability and positive community change at the heart of its mission from day one, receipt of investment like the Food Vision Prize will be amplified in the community at many levels, including job creation.


The food hub: focused on light processing for farmers and food entrepreneurs, as well as cold, dry, and frozen storage. This will address multiple aspects of an intricate local/regional food system by supporting farmer-owned business, decreasing infrastructure costs for farmers and other food providers, and supporting a vibrant food economy. Because locally-grown foods will be locally-processed with cooperatively-held infrastructure, operating costs will be manageable, which will in turn ensure more affordable prices for food at the register. This will also support community health through improved access to healthy food.


The food hub operation will also support the gleaning operations of the Community Kitchen in Keene, as it will allow TCK to prepare and store donations of fresh produce in ways that permit year-round local/regional charitable food giving. This will help drastically reduce food waste of potentially gleanable farm products.


Office and community space: will further support the food economy of the region, as food-focused organizations will have affordable space in which to meet. Additionally, the community will have space they can use for organizing, which can help support efforts towards a better, more just, policy environment. Community space will also be important for community cooking and dining, two important practices for integrated community resilience.


The kitchen and classroom spaces: will address issues of both culture and dietary health, as often one barrier to healthy eating is the knowledge and support for healthy cooking. 


Garden space: will further address necessary education and community-building around food, and will provide much-needed access to land in the most developed city in our region. Multiple studies have shown the positive physical and social health benefits of gardening, as well as the importance of land access in the act of growing one’s own food.


Additionally, these multifaceted efforts will create local jobs, and will support our vision for Monadnock 2050.



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.

By 2050, the Monadnock region will be an involved rural community, engaged in policy that sets the ground for equity and equal participation. Our community members will feel empowered, and we will all be able to see ourselves represented in the food system. We’ll know where our food comes from, and we’ll have a connection to our local food landscape.

Our farmers won’t have to choose between being a farmer and having a stable income – farmers will be able to make a sustainable living. Additionally, our community members will be able to afford to eat good, local food. We won’t have to choose between food we can afford and food that is life-giving; local, fresh, healthy, culturally-appropriate food will be considered a right, not a privilege. We will grow and eat food together in community, food will be grown on public land, and nothing will go to waste.

Food in the Monadnock region will be an identifiable part of what it means to live here. It will be part of our multi-ethnic, local agri-culinary identity, and agri-tourism will be strong. Local food purveyors will sell locally grown and produced food. Our healthy, local food economy will be aligned with other community actors and agents, as well as economic and cultural priorities. There will be a strong network of relationships between all the actors of the food system, and our policy landscape will support this. Food issues will be integrated into community-scale policies and plans, including education, transportation, governance, economic development, environmental sustainability, etc.

Our soil will be healthy and our water will be clean; the policy landscape will support and incentivize this in perpetuity. Those who want to farm and grow food will have equitable access to land. In 2050, the Monadnock region will be a model to inspire other regions to embark on their own process of discovering their self-reliance and interconnectedness.



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

In 2050, the Monadnock region will be a model to inspire other regions in developing their own, place-based, just, inclusive, and regenerative food systems. Our most recent collective action visioning meeting, attended by over 40 individuals from across sectors, presents a compelling picture of how our community will look and feel after the People’s Food Collaborative (PFC) has broken ground.

The PFC will provide a much-needed nexus for the intersecting work of all food systems actors in our community. Our farmers and their business will be more resilient in the face of climate change; the addition of infrastructure for processing and storing crops and focusing on value-added products will allow them to diversify. This is a crucial strategy for ensuring economic stability even in the case of crop-loss due to flooding or climate chaos. The added infrastructure will also support the year-round gleaning operations of the Community Kitchen, drastically reducing food waste in our community. Additionally, shortening our local supply chains by making it easier for our residents to access locally/regionally grown food will decrease the use of fossil fuels for shipping and transport in our regional food system. In this way we will support a more sustainable New England.

Collectively, our community sees a number of additional environmental benefits stemming from the creation of the PFC. Because we will support local/regional provision and centralized access to food, we will also decrease the need for individuals to use their cars. We envision more walking for transport, which will in turn also support healthier active lifestyles. Centralized food hub operations can also facilitate greater ease in bulk/group purchasing; thus, we envision less single-use packaging in our region. The educational support provided at the PFC will enable research partnered with local institutions of higher education, specifically on climate change impacts and on heirloom and local seed saving. The presence of the Food Collaborative, with its support for independent business as well as education, will act as a “spark,” furthering additional benefits rippling out into the larger community.

Improved access to fresh, healthy, minimally processed food will contribute to healthier diets in our community. Collectively, we envision a region with a quantifiable decrease in food insecurity and increase in community health, where we grow food to appeal to many cultural palates, create a measurable increase in local food provisioning to our schools, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and other public institutions, and where our educational services and green urban infrastructure support active youth and teen cooking programs and a measurable increase in the consumption of local, fresh, healthy, and culturally appropriate food. The Food Collaborative will play a key and crucial role in these activities by providing community space for both cooking and nutrition education, as well as community dining.

Economically, we see the PFC as a major support for the success of our local farmers, food producers, and food entrepreneurs, through improved access to processing and storage infrastructure. The Collaborative will also provide jobs and culinary job training. Collectively, we envision exciting “ripple out” economic effects from the presence of the PFC, including a measurable increase of sales of local food in local storefronts, an increase of neighborhood-focused markets, an increase in dignity and respect for food and farm work, thereby leading to an increase of young people choosing food and farm work as a career option, and continued support for a thriving collaboration between and across existing organizations.

Environmental, health, and economic improvement will in turn affect our local/regional culture in positive and important ways. Collectively, we envision strong agri-tourism in our area, and a strong “agri-cultural identity.” The PFC could provide a site for a permanent, year-round farmers market, which could inspire other food-centric focused activities, such as a celebration of food parade or a “food hall” – a neighborhood full of independently-owned food trucks, food businesses, music, etc. We see the PFC as an organization that would support our diverse community where food becomes a conscious and integrated part of our lives, in part through the presence of community dining space. We see further cultural “ripple effects” as well, such as the inspiration for food focused ventures like cideries, meaderies, a “cheese cave,” etc. Culturally, the work of the PFC will enhance our region in extremely exciting ways.

Technologically, we see one of the strongest possibilities in the PFC as the support it could offer to web-based business, helping our “foodpreneurs” connect to more people through the power of the internet. The PFC will also continue to support the work and missions of the Cheshire County Conservation District and the UNH Extension Service, two of our important partners in the agricultural and food web here in this region. Through these partnerships, we will be able to continue to support farmers as they work to improve more technological tools for keeping their farms efficient and environmentally sustainable, such as soil moisture monitoring tools and greenhouses.

Last, but certainly not least, the PFC will provide important community organizing space, to continue to support our community members as they push for agriculture and environment-friendly policy. Collectively, we envision a community where access to food is seen as a human right, not as a privilege, and where there are continual measurable decreases in hunger – eventually down to zero.

Ultimately, we know that by 2050, the work of the PFC in collaboration with MFCC and all of its constituent members, as well as the wide and diverse network of food systems actors in our region, will have transformed the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, U.S.A. into a model for just, regenerative, and interdependent local and regional food systems that can serve to provide a framework and inspiration for other communities around the globe.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

5 comments

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Photo of Aura Stewart
Team

Rachel, your proposal is very interesting. I have a question for you and your team. How are you going to incentivize people to make the decisions your vision is encouraging?
Best regards,
Aura Stewart

Photo of Rachel Brice
Team

Great question, Aura!
Some of the decisions have already been made by the folks who are working to get this project off the ground. We are hoping other folks are incentivized to get involved through the benefits the PFC offers, in terms of provision of services as well as jobs. We will of course need a marketing/outreach team, and have started conversations about that. In terms of some of the long-term "trickle out" impacts we're hoping the PFC inspires, most of those ideas came from a series of large, collective impact meetings that included many community members from our region - so the ideas are already out there simmering! I hope this answers your question - and thanks for asking!
RB

Photo of Aura Stewart
Team

Thank you for your answer. Love to read that your program is the result of community participation. At the end of the day, communities only work on activities that are important to them. :)

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