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Washington State

Grower Round Tables 2013 Toolkit A series of conversations held with growers across the state of Washington to better understand and support growers’ relationships with their community, state and the wider hunger relief network.

A project developed from the 2012 Harvest Against Hunger Area Summits Participating Communities: Tacoma, Carnation, Ellensburg, Moses Lake, Wenatchee, Sedro Valley, Spokane, Walla Walla & Vancouver


Introduction The Grower Round Table series is designed as a way to bring together growers in conversation about their motivations for giving back to their community and ways to best support their efforts towards hunger alleviation. The project was developed out of discussions amongst farmers, processors, packers, policy makers and hunger relief organizations at the four Harvest Against Hunger (HAH) Area Summits held in Olympia, Wenatchee, Yakima and Seattle throughout 2012. The summits were designed to bring together specialty crop growers, community advocates and various hunger relief entities to share ideas and insights about building more effective partnerships. Panel discussions and breakout sessions directed conversation towards collaborative and creative solutions for enhanced relationships between agricultural producers and hunger relief groups to increase markets and alleviate hunger. Twenty-two project ideas were established, and out of these conversations, the Washington State Grower Round Table was established as a top priority. The findings will help hunger relief organizations better support and engage farmers and inform future outreach materials to be disseminated by partners like the WSDA and WFC. The goals of the Grower Round Table series are to better understand: (1) growers’ perceptions about their role within the hunger relief system; (2) growers’ motivations for participating in produce recovery and giving back to community; (3) growers’ assessment of successes and challenges within the emergency food system, and (4) best methods promoting farmers and supporting their efforts towards hunger alleviation.

What is a Grower Round Table? A Grower Round Table, similar to a focus group, is a way to bring people together in conversation about a particular topic. More formally, a focus group is a “form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement or idea.” Usually a facilitator leads discussion through various open-ended questions. The facilitator directs conversation, but also encourages inclusions of all voices and welcomes the exchange of more organic and free-flowing ideas. In this context, the Grower Round Table series will serve as an open space for farmers to converse and share ideas, as well as, a means to capture farmers’ ideas about hunger relief and community giving.

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Who?

4-8 farmers (5 farmers would be a productive turnout)

Communities?

Harvest Against Hunger VISTA host sites

Location?

Community space or farm (somewhere growers feel comfortable)

Atmosphere?

Relaxed & casual (consider providing food and/or sitting around a table)

Length?

1 – 1.5 hours (request 2 hours from participants as buffer)

Facilitator?

HAH VISTA and connected community member as assistant facilitator


TIP 1: How to Create a Grower Round Table 

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Reach out to growers by building upon existing community resources. Leverage groups with preestablished grower relationships to develop round tables. Incorporate your efforts into their strategic list of priorities and solicit their advice. VISTA at sites will have a good pulse on the community. This is where their community expertise shines! (Suggested organizations: Tilth, Young Growers Association, farmers market associations, local food coalitions, Grange, etc.) Consider how you are going to approach farmers about the project. You will be making an appeal to their stewardship, but the greatest emphasis should be towards partnership building. Relationships before requests. We want to build trust and listen to farmers. Make sure to have a good sense of the project, so that you can communicate the purpose and answer any questions. You may also want to help contextualize the issue of hunger by articulating the needs faced by the local hunger relief agency you represent. How should a Grower Round Table look? There shouldn’t be one answer to this question. Facilitators can be creative. The approach may be different depending on the participating farming body. Farms, kitchen tables and the local food bank’s meeting room are equally acceptable locations as long as people are comfortable and surrounding noise and distractions are minimal. The primary goal is to create a relaxed, fun and inviting atmosphere. Treat as a gettogether and welcome new faces. Consider the use of props such as easels to outline conversation or creative objects, such as a vegetable, stone or even a shovel, to signify who is speaking in the group at any given time. Also, feel free to take or assign a helper to take pictures. We want to capture these fun gatherings and be able to report on the process! Consider how you may be able to incentivize a farmer to attend a Grower Round Table. Will there be a potluck lunch? Donuts and coffee? Are the any resources or small gifts your local organization may be able to provide? What to bring o Watch o Pen & notepad o Camera o Recording device o Poster board


TIP 2: Round Table Etiquette & Effective Facilitating 

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Facilitator Role o Nurture disclosure in open and spontaneous format o Generate many different ideas from as many different people as possible o Direct conversation through list of questions in time efficient manner Facilitator Traits o Can listen attentively with sensitivity and empathy o Is able to listen and think at the same time o Believes that all group participants have something to offer no matter what their education, experience, or background o Has adequate knowledge of the topic o Can keep personal views and ego out of the facilitation o Can appropriately manage challenging group dynamics Assistant Facilitator Role (Appoint connected community member, who is not a participating grower, as your helper) o Run a tape recorder during the session o Take notes in case the recorder fails or the tape is inaudible o Note/record body language or other subtle but relevant clues o Allow the facilitator to do all the talking during the group Start with a “softball question” or icebreaker. Example: What’s everyone’s favorite vegetable? It is good facilitator practice to paraphrase and summarize long, complex or ambiguous comments. It demonstrates active listening. Reiterating ideas or asking participants to rephrase helps confirm responses are heard correctly. Helpful probes to further explanation: o Can you talk about that more? o Help me understand what you mean o Can you give an example? Facilitators should be objective. They holds a position of authority and perceived influence, so they must remain neutral, refraining from nodding/raising eyebrows, agreeing/disagreeing, or praising/denigrating any comment made. How to tactfully deal with challenging participants o Self-appointed experts: “Thank you. What do other people think?” o Dominators: “Let’s have some other comments.” o Ramblers: Stop eye contact; look at your watch; jump in at their inhale. o Shy participants: Make eye contact; call on them; smile at them. o Quiet participants: Ask them to repeat their response more loudly. Ground Rules o We want you to do the talking o There are no right or wrong answers o What is said in this room stays in this room


TIP 3: Respecting Growers and Perspectives 

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Important disclaimers. Start from a place of non-assumptions. o Remind growers that their hard work and efforts are appreciated. HAH is committed to long-term farm sustainability. The point of conversation is to determine how to better support their continuing work. o The local hunger relief organization realizes that without farms there would be no emergency food network. They are essential to community vitality. o The conversation is about capturing their voice. You want to help their voices be heard and involved in local and statewide hunger relief efforts. Remember produce recovery and other forms of community involvement are often voluntary. Farmers are busy people. They often wear many hats that often extend beyond farming to include all the many components of running a business – marketing, accounting, product delivery, employee management, customer development, etc. Any level and format of participation is appreciated. Farmers may not be wealthy, but they have a wealth of knowledge, land and hopefully interest in helping. Relationships before requests. Refrain from questions that request direct commitment to donating and avoid asking about specific quantity and variety. Participants will have range of knowledge and experience related to farm production and produce recovery. o A gradual approach may address a goal of trying to waste less and find a home for unused produce, instead of committing to donating. o Ideally, we could predict how much a farmer will produce over a given season. The reality is farming is highly variable. Factors of climate and disease control can make or break a season. And in general, it is easier for farmers to think in terms of acreage or number of row crops versus poundage. By nature of their occupation, farmers are not necessarily accustomed to meetings and are not generally keen on attending. So, respect their time! Clear time expectations from the start may make growers more willing to attend future gatherings. Farmers are generally reticent people. Be sensitive that they may not be used to talking about their profession. Their elevator speech or pitch may not be fine-tuned. For example, they may be anxious or uncertain about this season’s farm production. Try not to put anyone on the spot. Make the abstract tangible and the tangible abstract. Sometimes it is challenging to inspire theoretical thinking with open-ended questions. Don’t be discouraged. o Recognize farmers may not see how their occupation fits with your work. If contributors seem stumped by certain questions be prepared to share examples. Help tie their efforts into hunger relief. o Examples can be an opportunity to educate about current hunger relief happenings in their community and statewide. Something as small as a couple key statistics about work already happening could be inspirational. Sometimes there is no answer. Farmers’ reason for donation, for example, is probably varied (good will, convenience, religion, avoid waste, tax incentives, etc) and sometimes highly personal. Farmers may not be willing to share certain information in a group setting. Thanks farmers for their time, commitment and continued hard work. “Shake the hand that feeds you.” – Michael Pollan


King County

GROWER ROUND TABLE Introduction Welcome! Thanks everyone for coming. We appreciate your willingness to come have a conversation with us. The discussion facilitator and assistant are from King County Food Bank.

Purpose We wanted to get growers together to talk about food and our community. We want to capture your perspectives on how community members and hunger relief organizations can better support agricultural vitality and partner with farmers to feed King County and its surrounding communities. The King County Grower Round Table is one in a series of conversations happening in communities across Washington. The project was derived out of a need to better capture growers’ voices and perspectives. The information gathered will be used anonymously to help sponsors - King County Food Bank, Rotary First Harvest, Washington Food Coalition and the Washington State Department of Agriculture – better support farmers and improve methods of outreach and messaging to the agricultural community.

Ground Rules We want you to do the talking We would like everyone to participate

There are no right or wrong answers Every person’s experiences and opinions are important Speak up whether you agree or disagree

What is said in this room stays here We want folks to feel comfortable sharing when sensitive issues arise

We will be tape recording the group We want to capture everything you have to say We don’t identify anyone by name is our report. You will remain anonymous


Grower Round Table Questions The facilitator should focus on capturing grower opinions and conversations around the following five bolded statements. The questions below each statement are prioritized and should guide conversation. The facilitator should gauge time such that each bolded statement is covered, however, not all questions must necessarily be asked. Remember that follow-up on key ideas with particular contributors can happen at a later date.

Icebreaker Examples: What is your favorite vegetable to grow? What is your favorite vegetable to eat?

1. Food, Community and Perspectives on Hunger Assess farmers’ hunger relief knowledge and perception of role within a. How does hunger look in our community? Where is it? b. Do farmers see themselves as a community resource? How? c. What kind of role do farmers’ play in alleviating hunger?

2. Agriculture and Community Involvement Gauge farmers’ experience with hunger relief & capture personal reflections if possible a. Has anyone ever addressed or seen hunger addressed in this community? b. When or in what context? c. What might be some other ways farmers might address hunger? Establish willingness to participate or increase involvement in their community a. How might farmers feel about setting a goal of reserving a portion of land or poundage of produce for a local food bank? b. What may encourage or discourage a farmer from being involved?

3. Partnerships: Organizations and Farmers Learn how to be a better resource to farmers a. How can farmers be better supported? b. What kind of resources can we provide to farmers? Any educational materials? c. Are there any other ways organizations can better connect and partner with farmers?

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King County

GROWER ROUND TABLE A local gathering of growers to discuss how community members and hunger relief organizations can better support agricultural vitality and partner with farmers to feed King County and its surrounding communities.

WHEN:

February 28, 2013 12 pm – 2 pm

WHERE: Ridgecrest Farms 1294 Ox Lane Seattle, WA

One in a series of conversations happening in communities across Washington State with support of the following groups:

King County

GROWER ROUND TABLE A local gathering of growers to discuss how community members and hunger relief organizations can better support agricultural vitality and partner with farmers to feed King County and its surrounding communities.

WHEN:

February 28, 2013 12 pm – 2 pm

WHERE: Ridgecrest Farms 1294 Ox Lane Seattle, WA

*FREE FOOD & DRINKS*

*FREE FOOD & DRINKS*

Help make the voices of WA growers – all shapes, sizes & locations – heard

Help make the voices of WA growers – all shapes, sizes & locations – heard

Conversation Topics

Conversation Topics

 Partnerships: Organizations & Farmers  Agriculture & Community Involvement  Food, Community & Perspectives on Hunger

 Partnerships: Organizations & Farmers  Agriculture & Community Involvement  Food, Community & Perspectives on Hunger

One in a series of conversations happening in communities across Washington State with support of the following groups:

Grower Round Table Toolkit  
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