What has been your experience or relationship with FarmFED Co-op to date?
I first heard about FarmFED Co-op through a colleague who has been working on farm to hospital work in central Illinois. I recognized some of the family farmers involved and the importance of developing this type of infrastructure to strengthen the local supply chain, and knew that I wanted to become a founding owner! I am currently serving alongside farmers who have been deeply involved with the creation of the co-op on an advisory committee for a Land Connection grant focused on finances, food safety, and fulfillment, and look forward to continuing to build relationships with everyone involved.
What kind of relevant expertise and background do you have to offer as a potential board member?
In alignment with the goals of the co-op, I am deeply passionate about supporting local farmers and continuing to develop our local food system so that businesses can scale and we can improve access to fresh local food. My background is in cultivating demand for local food at the institutional level, non-profit third party certification, and produce distribution to institutions like K-12 schools, hospitals, colleges, and senior living facilities. I began my career working with college students, advocating for better local options from the foodservice companies managing their dining halls. At that scale, I saw the relevance of third party certification to learn about production practices or other types of business attributes, and I went on to work for a third party certification focused on pasture-based management and animal welfare. I worked to recruit farmers in a region that covered Texas up through the Midwest, including many producers in Illinois, and to utilize their certification, primarily in direct marketing at farmers markets and restaurants. In my current role as the local and sustainability director for a wholesale produce company, I have come full circle distributing to those foodservice companies that manage college dining halls but also hospitals, schools, and more—and have deepened my understanding of how the system works and can be leveraged to support local farmers. As a potential board member, I would hope to offer this lens of experience to enhance the mission and success of the co-op.
Have you ever served on a board of directors before, or worked under the supervision of a board of directors? If so, in what capacity?
I have not served on a board of directors. I believe my most comparable experience would be serving on a committee for the last several years called Core Group, for a service organization called Teen Service Week. We meet throughout the year to plan a Chicago-based service week for teens focused on the pillars of social justice, service, community living, and prayer. Core Group work involves reviewing feedback from previous years, planning the week each year, continuing to innovate programming and service sites, and selecting directors and staff for the week, etc.
How able are you to attend monthly meetings in person (in Mt. Pulaski), and how much time do you foresee having to commit to serving on the board?
I value the opportunity to meet face to face and would prioritize traveling from Chicago to be able to attend the monthly meetings in person. I would appreciate a virtual option as a back-up if I do have a scheduling conflict. I foresee being able to commit time to the monthly meeting and time between those meetings to participate in conversations or work on project as needed.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the ownership about yourself that you feel is important or relevant to serving on the board?
As I have watched farm to institution continue to evolve over the last decade, I have become more and more interested in implementation—there are buyers who want to increase the amount they are spending on locally sourced products and there are farmers that want to sell to their local schools and hospitals, but it is often the complicated web of incentives, contracts, logistics, traceability, reporting, and infrastructure gaps that cause the same conversations to fall short on action, accountability, and real changes to the local food system. I believe thriving businesses require equitable partnership and it is possible to achieve success across the supply chain in a way that is guided by shared values, and that’s the spirit with which I want to become involved as a board member.