Notes from the Initial Strategic Farm Planning Meeting

Initial Meeting Regarding Student Organic Farm Organization
02/23/12
2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

The following is a re-cap of what we discussed in the meeting. I tried to capture the main issues/points/questions but if I recorded inaccurately, please address any necessary clarifications or corrections at the next meeting (or via email if you cannot make it to the next meeting).

~Jennifer Josephs

Those in attendance for today’s meeting: Courtney Tchida, Rachel Grazulis, Sarah Bruggenthies, Sam Karns, Ann Holt, Forest Eidbo, Mark Kruse, Tyler Albers, Bud Markhart, Sarah Halvoson-Fried, and Rachel Hayes and Jennifer Josephs (facilitator).

The agenda for today’s meeting:
Introductions
Background
Objectives, expectations, concerns
Topic discussion: Mission/vision…
Next meeting: tentative agenda, time and date

We started the meeting off with introductions. We had a mix of student, staff and faculty from the U of M and MISA. The group agreed to a set of ground rules to assist in the discussion. Then Courtney gave us some background information informing us of the need for these meetings.
            In 2005, the farm was located on a plot (rented from St. Paul Experimental Station) and was operated as a student group and could only sell 3 times a year. The program initially received $500.00 from MISA for seeds and equipment.
            In 2006, the program received $9000.00 from MISA but since then has not received much else in terms of funding.
            In 2009, the Experimental Station offered more land to the Student Organic Farm Program and the farm subsequently moved to a larger piece of land.
            In 2010, the program applied for student services fees, but to obtain them they needed to be a student organization (not a program). One group member asked if the farm can be operated under both titles, program and organization—associated but not the same with books for each created separately?
            Courtney suggested it might be useful to revisit the mission-vision-business plan to see if it still works or if there need to be changes from what was8 years ago to what it is now. This prompted a cautionary note regarding whether the mission statement is driving the business or the business is driving the mission. Another group member suggested that perhaps we need to evaluate whether we are matching actions with our goals.
There is also a new organic major on the horizon that could potentially pose another element to in how the farm is operated/organized. Also on the horizon, MISA is offering $10,000.00 for the next school year, so it is important to revisit and revise the mission statement and business plan.  One group raised the question of what is to be done with $10,000.00, making a point about how far it could go and how quickly it could go. Another group member suggested that a committee should be formed to handle the money. Perhaps the student organization plays a leadership role here in directing the finances. Who will be the student organization?—another group member clarified that they are elected members. Who will lead the students—administration/staff? Some group members expressed concern regarding the relative experience and knowledge of incoming students in relation to the expectations placed on them to manage the farm. One group member suggested that a key element to the engaging students and encouraging commitment is to give voice and a level of control to the participating students. Someone suggested that perhaps we need to clarify roles in the mission statement. But another group member suggested that mission statements are usually vague but that management guidelines are used to forward the mission. Someone suggested that the mission statement needs to define each stakeholder.
We made a list including the following as stakeholders:
Students
Interns: Summer
               -research
               -farm sponsored
             HECUA
Farm class participants
Students like good food group—(leadership)
Service learning
Customers (representatives)
Community
            -outreach recipients
            -wellness collaborative
            -U of M community
            -non-U of M community
MISA
Faculty
            -researchers (Carmen?)
            -Emily?
Experimental Station
U of M CFANS

Who gets the food? Where does it go? What is it used for? Students have a stake in the answer to these questions. One group member identified a flaw in the current mission role in that students who are not involved in the day to day operations can still dictate how the farm is run on a day to day basis. But another member suggested that encouraging involvement increases commitment. This prompted a note about welcoming and engaging the “students like good food” group.
We concluded the meeting by clarifying the stakeholders who need to be included in the upcoming meetings (highlighted in the list above) and decided who would be responsible for contacting them. The next meeting was set for the following Wednesday but it was suggested to make the meeting longer, so we will meet from 1:00 to 3:00 to discuss the mission statement and guiding principles.

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