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"I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture."
- George Washington
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 MOFGA Strategic Plan 2017 through 2021 and Beyond

Introduction

This document is a condensed overview of MOFGA's new Strategic Plan. The plan is the final product of an 18-month process of information and idea gathering involving MOFGA members, volunteer committees, staff and board with input and prioritization from a board-appointed Strategic Plan Coordinating Group. The plan was adopted and approved by the MOFGA Board of Directors on August 11, 2016.

At each step in the planning process, comments and suggestions from stakeholders were received and incorporated. The planning process was extensive and open to all. It is hoped that the Strategic Plan represents the hopes and dreams of the MOFGA Community and its belief that the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association should and will continue to engage, lead and grow the organic movement in Maine.

Mission

In developing the strategic plan, stakeholders re-drafted MOFGA’s Mission Statement, and the new statement was adopted at MOFGA's annual membership meeting in January 2017. MOFGA's new Mission Statement is:  

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association is a broad-based community that educates about and advocates for organic agriculture, illuminating its interdependence with a healthy environment, local food production, and thriving communities.

Vision

In addition to Mission, the planners determined that MOFGA should, for the first time, put into writing its collective Vision for the future of our organization, our communities, our state and our nation. Here is the Vision adopted by the board:

MOFGA envisions a future of healthy ecosystems, communities, people and economies sustained by the practices of organic agriculture.

Values

We also engaged in a discussion of organizational values, and the following set of values emerged from that conversation.

MOFGA believes in our responsibility as an innovator, leader, collaborator and visionary to support:

• Organic farming and gardening

• Organic food for all

• The integrity of organic standards

• Practical forms of education

• An economically viable market for producers, processors, consumers and communities

• Human health, environmental health, local food production and thriving communities

• Economic, environmental and social justice for all Maine

• The sustainable use of resources

• Volunteerism 

• MOFGA members, staff and land in carrying out our mission

• Ethical decisions grounded in science based information

• Education as the foundation for effective advocacy

• Transparent, inclusive decision making

• Partnering with all farmers on issues of common ground

• A geographically, socially and demographically diverse MOFGA community, growing in membership

• Work that builds a healthy planet

• Our leadership at the local, state and national level in organic agriculture, environmental protection, volunteerism and the consumer's right to know

• The value of Maine's pioneers, past, present and future who create a healthy world and just food system for all Maine


    

Goals and Objectives

At the heart of MOFGA’s Strategic Plan are the Goals and Objectives we will seek to achieve over the next several years. In our planning, we recognized the need to state basic, broad goals that will inform all of our work. We want to be good organizational stewards. We want to collaborate with like-minded groups. We want to deepen our engagement with our members. We want to remove barriers to participation. We want to document and evaluate our work and understand its impact in the community. Above all, we want to stay aligned with our Vision, Mission and Values reflecting MOFGA’s understanding of itself as a diverse and open-minded community.

In each department, we identified goals and objectives to guide our work, shown the tabs below.


 
Education | Agricultural Services | Common Ground Country Fair | Certification Services, LLC | Public Policy | El Salvador Sistering | Membership and Development | Communications | Governance | Administration | Buildings and Grounds
 
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Education

Expand the content and reach of education for gardeners, students, educators, consumers and the general public

• Establish specific strategies to expand content and reach

• Establish and implement specific measurement tools to monitor progress towards goals

• Increase staff capacity and collaborations to develop, coordinate and facilitate non-farmer education and outreach

Support farmers’ long-term viability and success by fostering peer-led training, mentorship and networking, and by providing professional development opportunities to new and established farmers

• Continue to improve the quality, participation, and documented results of the Journeyperson Program

• Refine and expand farmer professional development programming based on farmer input

• Thoroughly review and restructure the Apprenticeship Program

Increase the use and effectiveness of demon­strations to educate and inspire newcomers, enthusiasts, and practitioners alike

• Continue to develop, nurture, and improve the Heritage Orchard, ongoing

• Continue to develop, nurture, and improve low impact forestry modeling

• Expand the number and effectiveness of demonstrations of renewable energy

• Develop a plan to document and disseminate best practices of integrated management demonstrations beyond in-person workshops

• Develop a comprehensive plan for all on-site demonstrations

Support and nurture a networked community of learners, stewards, practitioners, and service providers

• Increase organizational capacity to serve the networked community by updating the farmer directory and redesigning the database

• Establish and publicize a clear framework for participation

• Establish and implement a system for regular communications to, from, and among network members

• Hold at least two regional events in 2017 and three regional events each year thereafter


Agricultural Services

Improve marketing of MOFGA Certified Organic

• Develop and implement a coherent, long-term strategy to promote the MOFGA Certified Brand to consumers, producers, wholesalers, and retailers

Broaden and deepen technical support to assist farmers and gardeners in growing organic plants and livestock; to support producers throughout the certification process; and to support the long-term sustainability of organic farmers

• Increase ongoing business and marketing education and one-on-one technical assistance to certified producers

• Increase support capacity within the staff or farmer base so that each organic certified producer – as well as transitioning farmers, journeypersons and others – receives at least one proactive, supportive contact each year

• Implement staff transition and maintain science-based crop expertise, within a year

• Increase science-based livestock expertise

• Establish staff capacity to maintain an ongoing directory of available expertise with the expanded internal directory and provide ongoing updates

Increase geographic reach, especially to Down East and southern and western counties.

• Increase capacity to better serve Down East, southern, and western counties


Common Ground Country Fair

Enhance fair participation, experience, activities, and revenues in ways that support MOFGA’s Vision, Mission, Values and educational goals.

• Assemble critical information for Fair planning

• Make a plan for deliberate future enhancements such as (a) increased revenues, (b) reduced congestion in, and approaching, the Fairgrounds, (c) improved branding and marketing, and (d) additional diverse programming

• Implement and evaluate trial projects to reduce congestion and mitigate other carrying capacity limits that are relatively low-cost and easy to do

• Improve clarity, distribution, understanding, and compliance with all guidelines

Increase effectiveness of the Fair as an entry to all MOFGA activities.

• Improve branding and awareness of “MOFGA” at the Fair with more prominent use of the MOFGA logo on tee-shirts, signs, and in other ways

• Capture and publicize census data from Fair-goers so MOFGA can effectively follow up with Fair-goers after the Fair with invitations for further engagement

• Improve integration of MOFGA programming and staff by launching and/or holding sessions of long term education programs at the Fair and by better showcasing MOFGA staff capacity at the Fair

• Improve promotion of the “organic and rural living lifestyle” by requiring vendors to effectively publicize organic and local sources

• Improve promotion of the “organic and rural living lifestyle” by having a museum-type display at the Fair, which explains the value of organic food

Increase volunteer participation at the Fair by enhancing recruitment, retention, and the overall volunteer experience.

• Build a sense of team unity among volunteers by moving the camping location and by providing organized pre- and post- social activities

• Improve perks for volunteers such as on-site showers and non-GMO food

• Provide premiums and special recognition to volunteers for hard to fill shifts and for exceptional service

• Instill a greater sense of pride and responsibility among qualified volunteers

• Effectively collect, analyze, and act on feedback from volunteers regarding their experience and how to improve it

Improve economic opportunities for vendors and participants aligned with MOFGA values.

• Engage market analysis expertise and provide findings and recommendations to vendors to help them improve profitability

• Increase the number of vendors

• Provide a “job fair” at the Fair to help match employers with potential employees

Model ecologically sound practices and maximize positive human impact on the environment.

• Develop and implement a plan for incrementally reducing impact each year and simultaneously modeling ecologically sound practices


Certification Services, LLC

Improve customer service to our certified organic and transitioning clients and continue to offer services that are affordable and equitable to farms and processors across the state.

• Work in partnership with Agricultural Services and Education to bolster support for organic transition and technical outreach to existing certified organic growers and processors

• Provide a thorough, easy to understand, and respectful inspection process for farmers and processors

• Increase educational materials and outreach to certified clients to help them comply with the organic standards and value the certification process

• Ensure clear, consistent and fair communications and interactions with MCS clients

Improve standards enforcement procedure and action.

• Increase capacity to perform adverse actions as needed in a manner that is timely and equitable

Improve the working relationship among MOFGA, MCS and USDA National Organic Program.

• Complete a business plan to work towards a self-sustaining business

Increase the number of MOFGA Certified Organic farmers and processors.

• Build capacity to market the value of the MOFGA certified organic label to Maine’s organic farmers

Diversify services offered to meet consumer need and set the precedent for future labels.

• Conduct a business plan analysis of add-on labels suggested for consideration to date


Public Policy

Improve effectiveness and capacity to develop and advocate for a broad range of public policies that support MOFGA’s Vision, Mission and Values. This includes effectiveness and capacity to be reactive to proposed detrimental policies. Advocacy issues to include: pesticides, genetic engineering, organic food access, climate, trade, infrastructure for production and processing, food safety, land use and access, toxics, and farmer autonomy and consumer choice.

• Increase staff capacity to track legislation and regulations, recommend proactive policy positions, prepare and present testimony, organize outreach to MOFGA membership and the public, staff the Public Policy Committee, and maintain a repository of MOFGA public policy positions

• Increase volunteer capacity by assessing policy priorities of members, building a team of volunteers, and implementing an on-line mechanism to update members on the work of the Public Policy Committee

• Increase the number and effectiveness of Maine leaders in positions of influence throughout the state to advocate for MOFGA issues

• Strengthen MOFGA’s effectiveness among policy-makers as a source of science-based information for responsible public policy development

Develop and strengthen relationships and collaboration with state and national organizations, coalitions and movements that embrace our mission and provide reciprocal support for policy initiatives.

• Types of organizations to include: farming, gardening, environment, government, education, forestry, fishing, food justice, health, farm workers, trade, economic development, rural, and food movements.

• Continue building working relationships with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the National Organic Coalition, the Organic Farmers Alliance, and other groups as appropriate.

Improve coordination among staff, other committees and the Public Policy Committee, with guidance from the Board, to focus advocacy efforts on top priority issues balanced with harnessing volunteer enthusiasm for a wide variety of issues.

• Ensure appropriate cross-program representation (from other MOFGA committees and programs) on the Public Policy committee


El Salvador Sistering

Increase awareness of and engagement in sistering activities in El Salvador.

• Lead a delegation to El Salvador in 2017 and every other year after that

• Educate Maine people about food and farming, here and in El Salvador


Membership and Development

Increase long term financial stability of the organization and day-to-day financial ability to achieve our mission and program objectives.

• Increase development capacity and maximize the productivity of our fundraising efforts by adding staff

• Launch a multi-year capital campaign

• Establish and implement mechanisms to target high-level donors

• Engage more members in giving and increase the total amount of member giving to annual fund appeals

Serve and engage members

• Establish and implement a mechanism to understand member desires and potential economic and other contributions

• Define what we mean by "membership," perhaps different categories of membership, such that membership characteristics, expectations, and benefits are clear

• Establish and implement a plan for achieving targets for specific numbers of members, diversity of members, and deeper engagement of members


Communications

Coordinate and increase overall effectiveness of communications throughout the organization, internally and externally.

• Improve the flow, usefulness, and consistency of information among board, staff, committees and the general public

Serve and coordinate specific communications needs of specific programs and initiatives.

• Support communications needs of various MOFGA departments including Development and Membership, Education, Public Policy, Marketing, Fair and Ag Services

• Support communications needs related to organic farmers


Governance

Establish governance matters as a regular aspect of Board activity and implement recommendations derived from MANP Board Assessment and May 2016 Board retreat.

• Immediate Action Items: create a governance calendar, develop a skills matrix for Board recruitment, develop training and orientation program for new Board members, present Board training in understanding organizational finances, and ensure a pathway for new ideas, consider timing and location of Annual Membership Meeting, clarify Vision, Mission, Values as aspect of 2016 Strategic Plan

Examine, clarify, and honor our organizational structure to improve overall effectiveness and efficiency and improve board functioning.

• Understand the current roles, aspirations and challenges of various groups of stakeholders in MOFGA, such as Management staff, Program staff, Committees, Chapters, Volunteers, Donors, Members

• Clarify and document the roles of Chapters and Committees including their specific responsibilities and how they relate to the Board

• Clarify and document expectations of board members and committee members

• Clarify and document the optimum size and composition of the board and committees, and how board and committee members are appointed and for what terms

• Board and Committee members participate in regular training to maintain awareness and compliance with MOGFA governance policies and with non-profit governance best practices in general

• Continually monitor governance practices and when practice is out of alignment with policy, either adjust the practice or adjust the policy

Establish strategic direction, promote shared understanding of it throughout the organization, maintain accountability to it, and perform regular evaluations and revisions.

• Establish and implement a plan for widespread dissemination and understanding of the strategic plan among members and other key stakeholders

• Establish and implement an ongoing mechanism for regular progress reports organized according to the Strategic Plan

Board members and leadership staff maintain a clear understanding of what is being achieved throughout the organization.

• Establish ongoing mechanisms for web-based fair statistics, staff capacity information, and other key types of information including a Board Calendar

• Board members and leadership staff keep themselves regularly informed of organizational activity and progress toward Goals and Objectives as articulated in Strategic Plan


Administration

Ensure adequate staffing to achieve the mission and program goals objectives

• Staff positions organized (an organizational chart) in a way that best serves the vision and mission, including specific job titles and accountability

Optimize our use of human and financial resources via careful planning and diligent oversight.

• Establish and implement systems and/or departments to maximize efficiency, effectiveness in finances and in personnel management

• Create a Human Resources Department to focus on all aspects of employee relations

Increase earned income

• Establish and implement a plan to increase earned income

Establish, encourage, and coordinate the use of standardized protocols to be used throughout the organization to ensure organizational sustainability and to track and evaluate performance and community impact.

• Establish, promote, and enforce protocols for performance and community impact tracking and evaluation

• Prepare and disseminate to the Board, Committees, and members regular reports of progress on the Strategic Plan

• Promote and enforce use of the Project Proposal Protocol


Buildings and Grounds

Develop and implement an Existing Infrastructure Completion and Maintenance Plan that will result in completion, maintenance and upgrades to existing buildings, grounds, and utilities such as water, electrical, and information technology systems to adequately support all current programs and activities.

• Develop and implement plan

• Inspect infrastructure annually to identify maintenance needs

• Ensure Unity Headquarters Grounds are appropriately landscaped

• Complete standard operating procedures

• Finish buildings we’ve started

• Ensure that all utilities are compliant with applicable standards

• Create a comprehensive and accessible map of facilities

Support the goals that come out of the strategic planning process with the development and implementation of a Facilities Master Plan that includes using existing facilities to their full potential and developing new facilities as needed.

• Require project proposal form in a timely manner

• Develop calendar of optimal times for implementation of Buildings and Grounds tasks

• Engage Board and other departments in developing Facilities Master Plan

Identify needs for replacement of all significant assets and request support from the Board in their role of providing financing for appropriate reserve funds.

• Work with the Finance Committee and the Board to create reserve account to maintain Fair infrastructure

• Create list of needed reserve funds

• Request reserve emergency fund

• Build communication with Board into our calendar

• Present at annual meeting


 MOFGA Strategic Planning 2015

MOFGA's Strategic Thinking sessions during the first week of August drew 124 individuals, including 44 farmers, to the Good Will-Hinckley School in Hinckley, Maine.

Status of the Conversation About MOFGA Planning

Thank you to all who joined us in 2015 to talk about MOFGA's Vision, Values, Mission and our strategic thinking.

There's still plenty of work ahead. In 2016, we'll develop a program activity road map, which will guide us into the year 2021. MOFGA staff, working with Board Committees, the Strategic Plan Coordinating Group, and MOFGA's Board of Directors, will craft Goals and Objectives for the organization and its various departments. These Goals and Objectives will be voted on by the Board and forwarded on to staff so action plans for implementation can be developed. We are working to bring plans to the Board for a final vote on June 5, 2016. This will enable the staff to develop action plans and apply them to budget planning for 2017 and beyond.

A few initial thoughts about MOFGA's Strategic Planning activities

To build on our outstanding reputation, valuable traditions, and our record of success, we dedicated much of 2015 to looking at ourselves and considering how best to carry our work forward. In light of changing food systems and changing attitudes, we want to maximize our relevance and effectiveness. Through membership meetings and surveys and many conversations we asked ourselves what is most important to us, what drives our work, and what effect we want to have on our communities. We expect this work to result in formal statements of MOFGA's values, vision and mission in 2016. We will use these guiding ideas to develop the organization's next strategic plan, with specific goals, objectives and actions to focus our work.

Our Discussions So Far

MOFGA's Strategic Thinking sessions during the first week of August 2015 drew 124 individuals, including 44 farmers, to the Good Will-Hinckley School in Hinckley, Maine. During four separate three-hour conversations, participants shared their thoughts on a set of key questions aimed at helping the organization identify and talk about our long-term vision, the values that motivate our members, and our mission..

Group discussion at a planning session in Fairfield.

The questions participants addressed were:

  • What does MOFGA mean to you?
  • Why do we do this work?
  • If MOFGA were as effective as we could imagine, how would we be different?
  • What would absolute success look like?

Responses to these key questions were as varied as the MOFGA membership, and all four sessions generated heartfelt responses. Thanks to the facilitation efforts of Good Group Decisions, we have a draft report of the proceedings available for review. This report is downloadable, and we hope you'll take this opportunity to read it in full..

Additional Steps in the Strategic Thinking Process

On August 31, 2015, we convened the first of two All Representatives Group meetings.

Participants at each of the facilitated conversations elected two representatives who attended two All Representatives Group meetings. The focus of the August 31 meeting was to achieve shared understanding of what we learned in the early August input meetings and to identify consensus on emerging elements of the Vision and Values. We also worked to identify "key questions to be resolved" to help inform development of a broad membership survey that was conducted between September 15 and September 30, 2015.

Kerri Sands (left) and Craig Freshley of Good Group Decisions recorded ideas and themes at a Fairfield planning session.

Here's who is involved in the All Representatives Group:

The 21-member All Representatives Group consists of the elected representatives from each meeting (8), all members of the Strategic Plan Coordinating Group (8), and MOFGA's Program Directors (5).

Elected Representatives include:
Robert "Haas" Tobey – member of Maine Heritage Orchard Committee
Annie Sheble – long-time MOFGA member and coordinator of the Children's Area at the Common Ground Country Fair
Galen Young – chair of MOFGA's Penobscot Chapter
Heather Omand – MOFGA's Organic Marketing and Business Coordinator
Eli Berry – chair of MOFGA's Fair Steering Committee
Michial Russell – farm manager at Pearson's Town Farm Project at Saint Joseph's College
Bob Lenna – member of MOFGA Certification Services Management Committee
Christine Bolton-Pistole – co-owner of Gryffon Ridge Spice Merchants, certified organic processor

Strategic Plan Coordinating Group includes:
Alice Percy – MOFGA Board President, certified organic farmer
David Shipman – MOFGA Board Vice-President, coordinator of Organic Growers Supply at Fedco
Logan Johnston – MOFGA Board Treasurer, certified organic farmer
Beth Schiller – MOFGA Board member, certified organic farmer
Ted Quaday – MOFGA Executive Director
Heather Spalding – MOFGA Deputy Director
Chris Hamilton – MOFGA Associate Director, certified organic farmer
Daniel MacPhee – MOFGA Educational Programs Director, certified organic farmer

Additional MOFGA Program Directors include:
Dave Colson – Agricultural Services Director, certified organic farmer
Mary Yurlina – Certification Services Director
April Boucher – Common Ground Country Fair Director
Jason Tessier – Buildings & Grounds Director
Janice Clark – Finance Administrator

A second All Representatives meeting took place on October 13. At that meeting the planning group reviewed survey data and staff analysis and developed draft statements of Vision, Values, and Mission. The Strategic Plan Coordinating Group met on November 3 to finalize proposed statements for Board consideration. The Board discussed most of the recommendations at a regular Board meeting on December 6, and recommended slight adjustments to MOFGA’s Mission Statement. The Board opted to continue discussing a proposed Values Statement and deferred action on a proposed organizational Vision Statement. In addition, rather than approve the Board recommendation on slight adjustments to MOFGA’s existing Mission statement, MOFGA members, at their annual meeting on January 12, 2016 in Augusta, voted to table the recommendation on Mission so that the organization could continue to refine the statement language.

The Strategic Plan Coordinating Group expects to use the organizational Mission Statement as it currently exists as a basis for strategic planning. It will craft a set of draft goals for the organization, and those draft ideas will be presented to the Board Committees for review and comment. The Committees will also be asked to draft a set of objectives for each of the Goals within its sphere of activity. Committees will meet during the January through April 2016 time frame to craft their recommendations on Goals and Objectives. Those recommendations will be returned to the Strategic Plan Coordinating Group for further action in April and May. Ultimately, the Goals and Objectives will be presented to the Board for formal action at the June 5, 2016 Board meeting
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