The Land Stewardship Project has been spending part of this fall gathering input from members and staff on how we should proceed with our work during the next five years. This development of what we call our “long range plan” has taken the form of member-leader input sessions, staff meetings and a survey sent out to all our members.
All of this input will go into developing a document that will guide our work for the next five years. It will replace our current long range plan.
Our first Long Range Plan Leadership Assembly meeting was held Nov. 22 in the west-central Minnesota community of Hutchinson. The meeting brought together member-leaders working on a variety of strategic initiatives, including healthcare, state and federal policy, establishment of sustainable farming systems on the landscape, community based foods, land access, multi-state rural organizing, beginning farmer training and support, and more.
Former LSP board chair Dennis Johnson led introductions, and purpose and context for the meeting were provided by LSP associate director/director of programs Mark Schultz and executive director George Boody. Current board member Chad Kingstrom led an interactive discussion of LSP’s mission and long range goals. Tom Nuessmeier, who serves on the Federal Farm Policy Committee and Multi-state Organizing Initiative, and Sally Reinitz, who works on Advanced Farmer Training and the Journeyperson Initiative, gave short presentations on their involvement with LSP.
The “meat” of the meeting occurred in the small group discussions, where a mix of staff, board members, and member-leaders in four separate groups focused on specific questions about how to grow LSP’s organizational power and effectiveness in the years ahead. Reports that came back to the general group centered on common themes that arose among the various groups, along with “a-ha” moments and strategic partnerships and organizing opportunities not yet explored.
The final Leadership Assembly meeting was held Dec. 5 in Wabasha, in the southeast part of the state. Current LSP board chair Juliet Tomkins led introductions, and purpose and context for the meeting were again provided by Mark Schultz and George Boody. Board member Alan Hoffman described LSP’s mission, and various LSP member-leaders talked about the strategic initiatives they are involved in. LSP organizer Karen Stettler facilitated small group discussions.
As in Hutchinson, this meeting brought together member-leaders working on a variety of strategic initiatives. In addition to the work that was represented at the Nov. 22 meeting, Wabasha participants are also involved with organizing around frac sand mining/local control, Community Supported Agriculture, racial justice, building soil health, and more.
In general, both the Hutchinson and Wabasha meetings included beginning as well as older, established farmers. Also represented was a broad cross-section of community members who brought with them various motivations for wanting to see more vibrant communities and a sustainable food and farm system.
The small group discussions at these meetings produced plenty of material to consider when developing the long range plan. That input, combined with the survey results and the outcomes of special staff meetings held in each LSP office, is providing invaluable guidance in developing a plan that will help us continue to fulfill our mission of fostering an ethic of stewardship for farmland, promoting sustainable agriculture and developing sustainable agriculture.
A common theme that has come out of this process is that there is a general affirmation of the direction LSP is headed in and excitement around the possibility of taking on new challenges and initiatives. People participating in this process have also repeatedly made it clear they appreciate our willingness to listen to members of the community when developing strategies and work plans. This long range planning initiative is another example of that active listening.
Now comes the fun part: distilling all of this great input down to a usable document. LSP’s long range plan team is currently going over all the information we have collected over the past several weeks and a draft of a new plan will be presented to LSP’s board of directors at their Jan. 31 meeting. Final approval of the plan is scheduled for mid-April. Stay tuned….