This is the third and final in a series of three blog posts recapping School Garden Spring Break, Slow Food USA’s national conference in April 2016. As we look to the organizational future of Slow Food, Spring Break certainly reaffirmed our new strategic direction, which highlights three buckets of work: gatherings, campaigns, and partnerships. Over the next few weeks, this series of blog posts will highlight these areas.
“I loved learning about local groups (such as Roots Hummus and Friendship Gardens) as well as partners around the nation (such as Gardeneers and Butter Beans) who have different angles on the challenge of food in our schools but are doing vital work to put this puzzle together.” –Spring Break Participant
I am certain that this gathering would not have come together so successfully if it weren’t for partnerships. Because the Slow Food USA School Garden team has our offices in Denver, we had to rely on the amazing partners we have in Charlotte to produce this successful conference. We have many thanks to give to the local superstars:
- Steve Case, co-leader of Slow Food Charlotte (the local chapter)
- Salem Suber, Director of Culinary Services of Southminster Retirement Community
- Thom Duncan, Slow Food USA Board Member and Director of Friendship Gardens
- Lani Lawrence, Director of Friendship Kitchen at Friendship Trays
- Bobbie Mabe, Garden Leader and Horticultural Therapist
- Farmer Sammy Koenigsberg of New Town Farms
- Rogue Farms and C3 Lab
- Local chefs: Chef Carmen Morales (Friendship Kitchen), Chef Clark Barlow (Heirloom Restaurant), Chef Barry Francois, Chef Salem Suber (Southminster), Chef Beverly McLaughlin (Beverly’s Gourmet), and Chef Megan Lambert (Professor at Johnson and Wales University)
In addition to Charlotte-based organizations and dozens of regional partners, we brought six national partners to Spring Break 2016 including:
- The Edible Schoolyard Project
- Whole Kids Foundation
- National Farm to School Network
- Captain Planet Foundation
We were excited to have a representative from each organization both present about their work and join in the workshop discussions. As one attendee commented, “I appreciated that the individuals presenting were also participating in the conference.” People loved having the Edible Schoolyard Project there because “it’s the one that started it all” and “Kyle Cornforth’s presentation on the Edible Schoolyard brought a depth of experience that resonated with my desire to plan long term.” Similarly, participants appreciated having FoodCorps present because they “play an intricate part to growing school gardening across the country” and have “grown in impact and reach so dramatically in such a short period of time.”
Some of our partner presentations were hands-on workshops, like a Grantwriting 101 session with Tristana Pirkl of Whole Kids Foundation. One participant was thrilled that WKF provided “a very realistic idea of what grant writers are looking for in partnering with us. It really improved the way I will ask for monies from anyone!” Others similarly “came away with a much better understanding of what is needed to procure funds and will use this model for other funding requests.” And the sentiment was certainly not one sided, as Tristana herself found “this conference was one of the most engaging, helpful and interactive conferences I’ve ever attended. I loved the nature of the small group-one that was so excited to be there. Truly a great group of people and so much to share and learn.”
Anupama Joshi, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the National Farm to School Network, provided “great information and numbers to take back to host schools” and people were inspired by “listening to the vision of someone like Anupama who has created something from scratch that now has such political and societal impact.”
We were also joined by Kyla Van Deusen, Director of Project Learning Garden for Captain Planet Foundation. Folks commented that “the range of programming, expertise and resources are inspirational!” and the fact that “there are so many resources that are available for free. Great source for all that is school gardening.”
Last but certainly not least, a new partner of Slow Food USA, FarmRaiser, a healthy fundraising platform that connects local producers with schools, was a huge hit! One participant noted that “FarmRaiser was particularly useful because I’ve been looking for a better model of fundraising” and “they seem like a great company!”. We couldn’t agree more and are thrilled to share FarmRaiser with many more school gardens in the Slow Food network and beyond.
I hope the words of May Tsupros, Executive Director of Gardeneers (Chicago, IL) ring true for all of our Spring Break participants: “The relationships I built…the ideas I was fortunate enough to discuss, and the information and resources that were given truly, will make a dynamic and lasting impact on the future of our organization.” We look forward to hosting other School Garden gatherings in the future, continuing to bring Slow Food values to the forefront of this movement.
And for future gatherings, we’ll be sure to keep these final words in mind:
“Whatever you change, and I really enjoyed it all tremendously, don’t change the food. The joy of eating what was so graciously prepared and served for us was the foundation of this amazing conference. I was not prepared to be so inspired by the meals! I realize now that I should have known better.”