Our Community Connections Coordinator facilitated a letter-writing workshop with the support of partner organizations.
Green Umbrella hosted the 2023 Annual Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit (MRSS) on Friday, May 12, 2023, at the Duke Energy Convention Center. Sustainability leaders and visionaries came together in a collaborative space to "imagine visionary and inspiring possibilities that inform, empower, and motivate our actions to create a more vibrant, equitable, and thriving region."
The event included a keynote speech by Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, four breakout sessions on a variety of sustainability topics, a plenary panel, and a roundtable discussion focused on the Green Cincinnati Plan. Amanda, our Community Connections Coordinator, facilitated a workshop during one of the breakouts called "2023 Farm Bill: What Is the Impact at the Regional Level?"
Keep reading to learn more about the Farm Bill session and the other food-related sessions!
"2023 Farm Bill: What Is the Impact at the Regional Level?"
During the workshop we hosted, attendees were able to advocate in real-time through a guided writing session. Attendees submitted comments to Congress members that serve on Committees on Agriculture or emails to their Congress members directly. The panelists provided data and stories to help create the attendees' comments and emails.
Tania Whitfield from Kentucky Food Action Network (KFAN), Kimmie Ishmael from Community Farm Alliance (CFA), and Penny Shore from Ohio Farmers Market Network (OFMN) provided grounded, local examples of how the decisions made in the previous
Farm Bills continuously impact the regional food systems in the Midwest. The panelists also provided suggestions on how the 2023 Farm Bill can strengthen a resilient regional food system. Through the panelists' examples, attendees were educated on region-specific calls-to-action the attendees could address to their Congress members.
In addition, CFA and KFAN have proven experience with storytelling in their advocacy efforts, and they facilitated advocacy tools using such skills. KFAN provided an advocacy formula attendees could use to construct their letters:
Story + Data + Call-to-action
The resource sharing doesn't stop there! The presentation slides are linked below.
During the letter-writing session, we had a Resource Packet available, which you can download below as well. The packet is an extended version of the presentation with additional data, stories, and tools to help support advocacy.
It is not too late to submit your own letter or comment about Farm Bill programs and funding! The 2023 Farm Bill will not be reauthorized until September 2023 at the earliest. You can submit comments to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, the House Committee on Agriculture, or find your Congress member to email their office.
Other Food-Related Breakout Sessions
We also want to spotlight the other food-focused panels and workshops at the MRSS. Below are some of the key food-related breakout sessions:
"Food Waste Solutions and Strategies Across Ohio" featured representatives from the City of Cincinnati, the City of Columbus, the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio, and Hamilton R3Source. The panel highlighted the importance of innovative partnerships, cross-agency collaboration, and strategy solutions across different sectors. The session offered attendees tangible strategies that can be replicated and scaled in communities across the Midwest. Food Policy Councilmember Tony Staubach and Food Policy Council Consulting Member Robin Henderson were panelists.
"Financial Sustainability for Black-Led Food Cooperatives" featured the National Black Food & Justice Alliance (NBFJA) Market Study Project. The project's perspective is that the current market research field is heavily reliant on data that diminishes the impact of Black spending and the demand for localized, community-operated food options in our communities. The project was initiated to develop culturally relevant market study principles, strategies, and recommendations. The session shared more about the project, its progress, and its findings to date.
"Reimagining the Civic Commons in Cincinnati and Beyond" featured our Green Umbrella colleague, Chris Smyth, who is the director of the Common Orchard Project. Along with other panelists, Chris explored how Green Umbrella’s initiatives and partnerships are creating new opportunities for placemaking corridors as environmental restoration in Cincinnati. A reimagined Civic Commons would allow residents from diverse neighborhoods to collectively meet their needs for safe active transportation, clean air, access to water and food, and, most importantly, a sense of community.
Image from Reimagining the Civic Commons in Cincinnati and Beyond panel. From left to right: Chris Smyth (Director of the Common Orchard Project), Wade Johnston (Executive Director of Tristate Trails), Tyeisha Cole (Climate Action Coordinator at Green Umbrella), and Derrick Feagin (President of South Cumminsville Community Council)
Finally, "Radically Reimagining Community Through Collective Care" had facilitators present from their own lived experiences examples of how-tos for safe (legal) “guerrilla gardening” in abandoned urban landscapes, de-capitalizing lawns, creating food is free communities, free food mapping & food sharing, seed saving & starting, and seed & plant sharing. This workshop was a hands-on think tank that led to a list of tangible affective and effective actions co-created with the attendees.
Join Us for Future Activities
We will continue to prepare and share resources about the Farm Bill and advocacy opportunities, including through some training events and a letter-writing campaign by our Committees this summer and early fall. Please join us!
In the picture: Charlie Gonzalez is the Member Relations & Events Manager and was the lead backbone staff member of the Midwest Regional Sustainability Summit Planning Committee.
In addition, the MRSS is an annual event, and the call for session proposals will open again in early 2024. Stay tuned to Green Umbrella and Food Policy Council communications for more information.