Foundations of Niche Meat Value Chain Coordination

MIDWEST MEAT VALUE CHAIN COORDINATION TRAINING

In partnership with the Regenerative Ag Idea Network (REGAIN), the Wallace Center is excited to offer a new, pilot, training for value chain coordination professionals in the Midwest – Foundations of Niche Meat Value Chain Coordination. The training will support place-based practitioners, encourage regional engagement, and help improve equitable opportunities for farmers, food chain workers, and consumers.

This training series will actively center racial equity, both in its cohort and content. The series will be hosted on REGAIN online peer-learning platform to provide participants with access to information, expert instruction, and peer-to-peer discussions.

Applications to participate in the series are accepted on a rolling basis until 11:59 PM February 6, 2023.

Questions? Let us know at [email protected].

Background

This pilot training will support the Wallace Center’s commitment to building equitable values-based supply chains, driving our larger goal of reimagining and redesigning farming and food systems. Wallace Center has an existing curriculum on value chain coordination (VCC) which is implemented by the Food Systems Leadership Network. The Food Systems Leadership Network’s training is focused on organizing and prioritizing VCC activities broadly to help practitioners develop more resilient place-based economies. This training will adapt the existing VCC curriculum to create a scalable, equity-centered value chain coordination curriculum and pilot a training series specifically focused on regeneratively produced meat in local and regional food systems of the Upper Midwest. 

This training will result in a larger, more connected network of skilled value chain professionals that work on regenerative meat supply chains in the Upper Midwest. It will support long-term collaboration and action to support farmers, workers, and consumers, while also creating an opportunity to work with similar practitioners in other regions or those focused on other regenerative products.  

Learning outcomes and objectives for this training include:  

  • An improved understanding of the purpose and best practice of equity-centered value chain coordination to support regenerative farming and food systems.  
  • Communications, relationships, and collaborations between diverse Upper Midwest value chain professionals are strengthened.   
  • Coordination with practitioners within the state. 

Value Chain Coordination – What It Is and Why It Matters

The COVID-19 pandemic has renewed urgency to build stronger, more resilient, localized and equitable value chains. We know that creating a vibrant local food system requires more than trucks and warehouses. They need trusting relationships, networks, and communications channels to be able to compete with the mainstream system and still commit to equity, transparency, and fairness. Value chain coordination (VCC) can help create that “soft infrastructure” that makes a local food system work. People doing VCC work are often market matchmaking, providing technical assistance, and convening stakeholders. This work doesn’t always involve packing boxes or running delivery routes, but is critical to a collaborative and values-based food economy.

Value chain coordination tools can help us analyze and address structural inequities that are interconnected and often difficult to shift (racial, economic, and social) and for clarifying how power is distributed across a food system. But how do you know if the work you’re doing is affecting real change or who is benefiting from that change? How do you know where to focus your attention with so many competing priorities? Honing your skills in value chain coordination can help address power imbalances in your community’s food system, create a stronger and more resilient web of businesses and organizations, and help orient your energy towards transformative, systemic change.

Photos courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Training Structure

This series will be held over five weeks, starting the week of February 13th and wrapping up the week of March 13, 2023. Participants will have between three to five hours of content to review each week at their own pace, in addition to a live presentation from a value chain coordination expert and/or practitioner, and optional office hours with the curriculum content creators.

The series will be offered entirely online via REGAIN’s online platform. Participants will have access to the “Meat Value Chain Coordination” course, which employs a module-based format that integrates video lectures to deliver content. The curriculum content will be largely self-guided, with a recommended week-by-week schedule from the series facilitator.

Participants will also be able to engage with each other via an online discussion group on the platform and live calls with experts. The live calls will be recorded but participants are expected to attend as many as possible.


Training Overview

This training will include:

  • Five self-guided modules on fundamental value chain coordination content
  • Two to three self-guided modules on specific meat value chain coordination content
  • Weekly discussion group prompts
  • Two online live “ask-me-anything” office hours with the course creators to discuss key takeaways from the course content and answer participant questions:
    • February 24th, Noon-1pm Central with Sarah Rocker and Elliott Smith.
      Sarah Rocker and Elliott Smith are the creators of modules 1-5 in this course around the fundamentals of value chain coordination. Sarah Rocker is a postdoctoral scholar with expertise in local and regional food systems, social network analysis, value chain coordination, and evaluation strategies. Elliott develops value chains through his company, Kitchen Sync Strategies, an institutional food service brokerage and consulting company. 
    • March 2nd, 2-3pm Central with Sarah Fritschner and Steve Warshawer
      Sarah Fritschner and Steve Warshawer are the creators of the meat specific VCC modules.
  • Two to three online live meat VCC practitioner “spotlights”. These will be webinar style format with Q&A from participants:
    • March 1st, 10-11am Central with Jodee Smith and Joseph Fischer Jodee works with Indiana University’s Food Institute and leads the Indiana Value Chain Network. Jodee will discuss their work helping to support VCC and value chain professionals and bring some ideas to the group. Joseph is the sales manager for Fischer Farms in Indiana. Joseph will give an overview of how his business fits into the meat value chain and how they’ve overcome some bottlenecks and challenges.

Photos courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Who Should Apply?

This training is geared towards food systems practitioners currently engaged in value chain coordination work, whether you use the title “value chain coordinator” or have never heard the phrase.

In addition to building baseline knowledge around value chain coordination, our intention with this pilot training is to connect and strengthen networks of value chain coordinators, particularly those that focus on meat value chains in the Midwest. We recognize that participants and the organizations they represent already have deep knowledge of these topics, and we look forward to building community and creating shared understanding of value chain coordination with participants.

This will be a virtual learning cohort composed of individuals and regional groups performing value chain coordination in the Upper Midwest. We encourage you to apply with one to three colleagues or partners from your state, but you can also apply as an individual. We also are seeking a diverse cohort in terms of the race, gender, experience level, and role of the participants. We anticipate having about 20-30 total participants.

Applications are due by February 6th, and selected applicants will be notified within one week of the application deadline.

This program will prioritize participation for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color)-led organizations and organizations that work in historically underserved communities.

Application Requirements

The development and delivery of this course is funded by a grant from the Lilah Hilliard Fisher Foundation and the training is free to all participants.