When adopted by farmers en masse, the sustainable farming practices SFA promotes have the potential to change the way we feed the world – and make rural communities thriving, exciting places to live.
At SFA, we focus on important issues like climate change, food security, growing world population, and rural community decline, and we do it primarily through networking, demonstration, and education. But there are other ways to affect important food and farming issues.
Alongside our main tenets are public policy issues of food and farming, and within that sphere of influence there are different viable techniques to make changes. One technique centers on identifying the source of the problem – an organization, group of people, or even an idea – and then attempting to stop, block, or thwart its progress. This technique is important, needed, and is clearly central to our political system here in the U.S. It is not, however, complementary to SFA’s approach.
Another public policy technique that fits more succinctly with SFA is to seek out areas of commonality among the various “players” addressing an issue. There are often more things we have in common than what we do not. This focus on areas of agreement rather than disagreement is becoming more popular in political circles. If there is public policy advocacy which connects closely with SFA, it is the “group formation” theory of change. According to the Center for Evaluation Impact, the goal of group formation is to build coalitions of unlikely allies, and advocates may be able to align existing groups or create new groups by finding something around which individuals can identify. Conversely, advocates may tighten group identity by differentiating their group from others.
To be very clear, SFA does not directly pursue public policy advocacy or have any programs directly lobbying or organizing for a particular cause or political objective, but we may occasionally join other organizations who are better equipped to carry those issues forward. For example, SFA is a member of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, which works in Washington on a variety of sustainable ag issues. More locally, SFA is a member of the MN Environmental Partnership, a group of organizations committed to advocating for the environment in Minnesota.
We focus on our strength, and that is helping farmers through networking, demonstration and education. To learn more about the ways we are working to improve our food system, come to the SFA Annual Conference on Feb. 13 in St. Joseph, Minn., or the Midwest Soil Health Summit on Feb. 17-18 in Alexandria, Minn.