Collaboration by NOFA-NJ
Collaboration is the number one driver of NOFA-NJ’s success, especially given the very small size of our staff. Nearly all our recent successes have involved effective collaboration in some form. In addition to serving the needs of our producers in NJ, we also strive to stimulate demand for their products with outreach efforts to the general public. There is no way to have a broad reach like this, from production to consumption, without good partners. We have too many partners to list in a short summary, but some of our more recent collaborations are illustrative of how we operate.
Smaller, organic farms are the primary constituents we serve. The range of issues they face requires a breadth and depth of knowledge that no one person could ever hope to attain. Our farmers have questions about business, soil, entomology, certification and other topics. Even within certification, few people can confidently handle production, processing and livestock. Our solution has been to develop a roster of vetted resources, which requires collaboration. For example, on Right to Farm issues, we rely upon our friends at the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC), the very same folks who built and maintain the njlandlink.org resource with us. We conduct most of our workshops at member farms, and we work with other organizations, like Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT), National Young Farmers Coalition, and Master Gardeners, to reciprocally promote events.
Consumer outreach relies even more heavily upon good partnerships. Public libraries, especially the Princeton Public Library, have given us numerous speaking, book club and film screening opportunities. Locally, social media groups, businesses, Meetup groups, churches and especially universities have been indispensable. We do not have the capacity to take on national issues alone, so we are heavily reliant upon the strength of related or kindred organizations like the NOFA-IC, NOC, Rodale, Weston A Price, Environmental Working Group, Food & Water Watch, the Humane Society, Cornucopia, Moms Across America and others to represent our views with authority.
Recently, our best efforts have been those that involved the most collaboration. Our excellent “Sourcing Health Locally” event was a joint venture with The Suppers Programs last September. A few months later, in late 2017, the mayor of Princeton, which is home to many NOFA members, reached out to us to help write a proposal for the prestigious Bloomberg Mayor’s Challenge that addresses problems around food waste. On February 21, Princeton was awarded the distinction of “Champion City”, along with $100k, to take our plan to the next level. To make that happen, Mayor Lempert convened representatives from several leading organizations, including NOFA. Every grant application we have prepared in 2018 has involved other parties, including both public and private entities.
The most impactful collaborations are those that bring together people with different backgrounds or viewpoints. Last year, we convened a local grains workshop that brought together conventional and organic farmers. This year, we are all working together on our upcoming Deer Management Symposium. Nothing does more for our movement than an open door with a big welcome mat.