work journal

Strategy workshop: Montana Food Matters

October 10, 2023

The 102-year-old floors creaked as Kate Wright and I shuttled my workshopping kit to the conference room on the second floor of National Center for Appropriate Technology in Butte.

With my home garden now spilling over in the height of summer, I'm remembering that December day I spent working with the team from Montana Food Matters, a virtual library that amplifies stories of sustainable food and agriculture in Montana. 🥕

Kate, the library's managing editor, welcomed the participants as they arrived from Polson, Whitefish and Missoula to be together in person for the first time. The team: Maura Henn of NCAT, Jessianne Castle of Edible Bozeman; Jennifer Zaso and Claire Grisham of Community Food and Agriculture Coalition, and Robin Kelson of the Alternative Energy Resources Organization, or AERO.

Our aim: align on a common vision and plan to grow the library in a sustainable way.

We set a goal for the morning and assessed what's moving the library forward and what's holding us back.

Then the reframe. Always the reframe. This is where a team figures out if the place they think they’re going is where they’re actually going.

“What do we really want to accomplish?” Robin asked.

We moved to the other side of the room, because you need space to think big. I asked questions, and they dug in. We weeded into the nuance of language, and then zoomed out to 30k feet.

In this side journey on their way to a three-year plan, the MFM team clarified a deeper purpose:

"To support those working to increase access to healthful, locally grown food for all Montanans."

With this came a vision statement:

“We envision a vibrant Montana food system that is diverse, resilient, equitable and ecologically sound. Montana Food Matters library plays a central role in supporting a food culture shift that strengthens our communities for future generations.”

Ambitious? You bet.

And there’s more — a mission and values, distilled from the team’s words and thinking, and the bones of a three-year work plan. But it’s not just my story to tell, so I’ll end here.

This is about a community library, after all, and library stories are for all to share.

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