PF: Development of a Sustainable Local Food System is my passion and indistinguishable from my work. For years I have been dedicated to the local food systems beginning in 1994 by helping coffee growers create community gardens in Costa Rica, to operating a produce farm as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), expanding markets, educating market managers and teaching farm food safety as Cooperative Extension Educator, to supporting the development of agricultural and food businesses with Keystone Development Center. I have worked in several roles in KDC since 2005 including being on the board of directors, working as a consultant, and most recently as the Associate Director.
KDC: Describe your role and responsibilities as a KDC Executive Director.
PF: KDC’s mission is to develop cooperative based businesses and help our clients become more profitable. By focusing on the need to develop physical and social infrastructure, KDC serves as a resource to businesses owners to develop and implement their innovations into financial benefit. The work is really diverse, which I love.
Working with clients, KDC assists in business development, direct marketing and grant writing. We create and analyze financial statements including multi-year revenue modeling, cash flow, balance sheets, and income statements. We also conduct feasibility studies, focus groups, and market research. KDC assists with human resource development including board development, strategic planning and the writing of internal policy, bylaws and marketing agreements. I specialize in value added products, niche marketing, food safety and efficient distribution systems.
KDC: What attracted you to the cooperative model?
PF: It came out of my focus on seeking positive solutions to food injustice for both eaters and producers. After years of struggling to operate a produce farm, the costs of doing business and all the tasks required were too much for one small farm. In the fall of 2005, I sought out fellow farms in the area and the assistance of KDC to help us become a cooperative. Our farm became a founding member of Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, this farmer-owned business, now supports 75 farm families, and is a part of the rebirth of our lost agricultural infrastructure.
KDC: What do you see as future opportunities and trends?
PF: So much has been accomplished in these past 10 years, but there is more work to be done. Areas of food-system infrastructure development are emerging, including the need for season extension, processing facilities, and distribution systems. Our clients are interested in product development covering seafood, shellfish, cheeses and specialty meats. We also hope to assist in market expansions for our farmer clients, including institutional wholesale. Food cooperatives remain a significant focus of what we do. A thriving food cooperative community helps expand the demand for local foods.
KDC: What do you see as the biggest challenges?
PF: One of the biggest challenge is that most of our clients are very independent and have a hard time finding ways of letting go their autonomy for the betterment of the group. Once they do, they realize everyone benefits much more by working together rather than competing.
KDC: What is the view from your doorstep?
PF: I’m missing the farm life, but once in a while sitting at my desk, a truck full of bleating calves sits at the red-light outside my office window. Spring is always on my mind, a symptom of my positive attitude and the energy to work for change. I see hope and a better future and try to share that passion and spark with others. I have a never give up approach which helps bring about the changes required for a paradigm shift.