This Couldn’t Be Done Without You!

This work couldn’t be done without support from those who share our dreams for a healthy food system that nourishes our bodies, provides good livings for our hard-working farmers, and keeps our soil, air and water clean. We can do this work only because we have support from hundreds of individuals, groups, businesses, foundations and government agencies. We are so grateful for your help to rebuild our food system based on our values—one that is local, sustainable, fair, humane and healthy. Together, we can impact our future.

The Foodshed Alliance began in 2001 as a program of Genesis Farm, Inc. a nonprofit ecological learning center in Blairstown, NJ, to work towards creating a self-sustaining rural economy — based on the production and sale of local foods — to preserve the fertile soils, pristine streams, wooded hills, dairy and crop farms, and historic villages of northwest New Jersey.

In 2010, the Foodshed Alliance incorporated as an independent nonprofit and eventually became a tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization. Beginning with volunteers and part-time employees, we increasingly tackled issues to help rebuild a self-sustaining rural economy that values the health of our food, our families and our land.

Today, with six full- and part-time employees, the Foodshed Alliance works at the intersection of food, farming and the environment in northern and central New Jersey, where 5.8 million people live. Our strategy is to work as a catalyst or linchpin organization creating a statewide network of partnerships to address and take action on issues in agriculture, conservation and local food access.

Milestones

Education

Educating people about rebuilding a healthy local food system has been front and center at the Foodshed Alliance. Over the years, we’ve hosted hundreds of people at dozens of educational events, including a GMO panel discussion, film screenings, book clubs, cooking demos, TedX viewing parties, and conferences and workshops.

Farmers’ Markets

Helping local farms thrive and providing access to local food has been an ongoing goal of the Foodshed Alliance. We have launched a number of farmers’ markets in the region, including a virtual farmers’ market—which was way ahead of its time. While the virtual market and the Newton market are no longer open, both the Sparta and Morris County markets are still in operation, now run by organizations closer to home. The Blairstown Farmers’ Market has just finished its 13th season. Over the years, we estimate these markets generated more than $4,000,000 into our local food economy.
Blairstown Farmers’ Market (2008 – 2020); Morris County Winter Farmers’ Market (2013 – 2019); Sparta Winter Farmers’ Market (2014 – 2015); Newton Winter Farmers’ Market (2013 – 2014); Virtual Farmers’ Market (2012 – 2013)

LocalShare

In 2012, we realized that local farms often had surplus food while many, many people in our communities went hungry. We responded by holding “Pay What You Can” LocalShare Community Dinners, where we used surplus food from farms, prepared by some of the region’s best chefs, served by volunteers, to guests from all walks of life who “paid what they can.” At one of these dinners, we had so much surplus produce we put it out for people to take home. The response was dramatic! It was clear that food-insecure people needed and wanted farm-fresh food!

The LocalShare program pivoted to become a full-fledged gleaning program with more than 150 volunteers, a dozen generous farms, and 100 social service agencies distributing food to those in need. Since the program started, the Foodshed Alliance delivered more than 480,000 lbs. of farm-fresh food to feed those in need.

Green Drinks

In 2014, we realized that farmers were so busy, they rarely had the opportunity to meet socially, learn from each other, and network about what they have in common. We borrowed the “Green Drinks” concept from the environmental community and launched our own Green Drinks: special gatherings at local restaurants where farmers and those interested in the local food movement can get together in an informal setting. Unfortunately, this program has been curtailed due to the pandemic, but we look forward to gathering again soon!

River Friendly Farms

In 2014, the Foodshed Alliance partnered with North Jersey RC&D to bring the River Friendly Farm program to northern New Jersey. The River Friendly Farm Program recognizes farmers that use environmentally friendly farming practices to help protect water resources.

Regional Foodshed Resiliency Plan

In 2014, the Foodshed Alliance received funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to do a comprehensive report on the state of northern New Jersey’s foodshed. The year-long research project culminated in publishing the Regional Foodshed Resiliency Plan in 2015, which analyzed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to our local food system. Since then, this report has informed and clarified our work, putting our focus on critical issues facing our local food system: land access for farmers, local food distribution, access to healthy food for all, regardless of means, and climate change. It was a basis for collaboration with groups, businesses, academics and
individuals all over the state.

Land Trust Partnership Series

In 2016, the Foodshed Alliance began collaborating with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the NJ Land Trust Network to hold a series of gatherings to discuss issues surrounding local food, farming and conservation. In six gatherings over three years, land trusts, agricultural nonprofits, government officials, farmers and others explored issues and brainstormed solutions. Two initiatives, Farmland Advisors New Jersey and the Sustainable Agriculture Enterprise program, grew directly out of these discussions. 

Farmland Advisors New Jersey

To address land-access challenges for farmers, the Foodshed Alliance worked with American Farmland Trust to bring together a statewide network of 15 agriculture professionals to participate in the Farmland Advisors New Jersey program. The group completed a year of training to help farmers successfully access farmland. The group is in the process of developing an outreach plan in order to service the community effectively.

SAgE

The Foodshed Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Enterprise (SAgE) program is designed to address one of the biggest challenges to New Jersey farmers—access to affordable farmland. Through this program, which launched in 2018, the Foodshed Alliance works with land trusts that hold deed-restricted farmland and facilitates farmers’ access to affordable 10-year lease agreements, which allows them to invest in infrastructure and the long-term improvement in soil health, critical to farmers using organic methods. There are currently two SAgE sites in two counties providing farmland to six new farm operations.

Food Hub

In 2018, the Foodshed Alliance completed a feasibility study for a northern New Jersey food hub. The study concluded that a food hub that aggregates and distributes farm food could help strengthen the farm industry in New Jersey by giving farmers easy access to urban and institutional buyers to fill the need for locally grown, fresh healthy food. This summer, the Foodshed Alliance helped launch a pilot food hub connecting rural and urban farms in northern New Jersey with urban communities in Newark. As of the end of October, the food hub has generated more than $8,000 in local food sales.

Networking to Protect New Jersey’s Ag Interests

In 2017, the Foodshed Alliance joined with the national nonprofit Environmental Working Group to connect with New Jersey farmers, agricultural groups, land trusts, conservation groups, social service agencies and anti-hunger advocates to form consensus on what they wanted to see in the 2018 Farm Bill and to formulate a plan to inform New Jersey legislators of these priorities. We met with the New Jersey Congressional Delegation in Washington and New Jersey to educate them on the importance of passing a fair and equitable Farm Bill.

Climate Change

One of the recommendations in the Regional Foodshed Resiliency Plan was to increase organic and regenerative farming to support the soil’s ability to reverse climate change. Rebuilding the soil and sequestering carbon hold great promise to create resilience to climate change, and it is a goal of our efforts in increasing the number of emerging and expanding farm enterprises.

Farm-to-Fork Dinners and Wine Festivals

Early on, we committed to both support local farms and showcase their incredible products in our fundraising efforts. Since 2007, the Foodshed Alliance has partnered with premiere local chefs and farms to create our Farm-to-Fork Dinners and Wine Festivals. We are so grateful to the farms, chefs, volunteers, sponsors and, of course, attendees!
Alba Vineyard Farm-to-Fork Dinners (2014-2019) and Wine Festivals (2014-2017); Andre’s Restaurant/Lakeside Dining (2013-2016); A Toute Heure (2013); Mohawk House (2012);Sweet Jane’s (2010); Donaldson Farms (2007-2009)