Stories From the Field

Creators of data warehouses, data explorers, and data dashboards encounter several challenges when it comes to the issue of equity. We encourage the use of practices that invite community members to help contextualize data, share their personal stories, and amplify community solutions. Thus sharing the ways that you use the data to tell your story and the role of local and regional food systems is critical to this project. This space provides “stories from the field” – capturing snapshots of ways in which various stakeholders have used these data and why data was important to telling their story.

San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition

Liza Marron, Steward

The San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition works to foster an equitable local food system that restores the health of the people, community, economy and ecosystem. We are located in a rural six-county region in South Central Colorado. In order to achieve our mission, we run several programs, including the Valley Roots Food Hub (local food aggregation and distribution service to over 100 family farms, ranches and food businesses), the Rio Grande farm park (new farmer training and land access), Cooking Matters (educational programs supporting health eating), and Local Foods Local Places an economic development initiative to support producers and provide healthy food access. We leverage data – both quantitative and qualitative and engage the community voice – to help us to better understand community needs and opportunities so as to build a resilient and equitable local food system in the San Luis Valley. And, we don’t just do this once, as community needs and opportunities change over time. Right now we are launching a new San Luis Valley Community Food and Ag Assessment and we have been very fortunate to be able to leverage data available via These indicators provide important baseline information, and help us to better define the information we collect from people in our community.”

–Liza Marron, Steward, San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition

Farm to Institution New England (FINE) supports a network of stakeholders who are committed to building an equitable, sustainable regional food system through farm to institution activity. We recently applied for a USDA Regional Food System Partnership Grant with the City of New Haven's Food Policy Division; the Springfield, MA Food Policy Council; and the Cumberland County Food Security Council in Maine. It was a significant effort for the four partners to describe our different communities and food ecosystems: this involved reviewing disparate data sources and coordinating different partners with varying types of experience, many of whom had never before worked together. Some of the partners had not applied for or administered this kind of funding, so adding the data collection process on top of the application process was a pretty big lift. If we had had the Food and Agriculture Data Explorer (FADE), we could have streamlined the process of connecting relevant community-level data to our application in a meaningful way. Beyond the application, it also would have supported our initial understanding of each others’ communities and helped us build relationships and trust.There is a critical need for the type of open source data platform that FADE would provide: it will inform and strengthen many other partnerships and projects in this regional network of food system change makers.
The power of this initiative is that it belongs to anyone who is interested in food systems and everyone can contribute. By making the data accessible and linking to GitHub, we hope to cultivate a collaborative environment where people access data, synthesize it in creative ways that help them tell their stories about their food systems, and share their figures and code so other people can learn from and expand upon their work. We invite you to join us!
Josh Stoll
Local Catch and faculty member at University of Maine
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