Barn Dance Raises the Sustainable Food Movement

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Barn Dance Raises the Sustainable Food Movement

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RSF Social Finance met for a second time with its first group of Shared Gifting grantees, joined by other members of the Bay Area sustainable food and agriculture movement.

Thursday, September 22, 2011 - 12:00pm


By Kelley Buhles

On the side of Highway 1, in an old Redwood Barn, members of the Bay Area’s local sustainable food movement, along with RSF, gathered in July to strategize about the future of their work and to celebrate their amazing achievements thus far.  Attendees contributed to a potluck of local foods and a DJ played bangara, hip-hop, latin, and soul to a lively crowd.

But this barn dance wasn’t just for fun. The genesis of this event was at the first meeting of the RSF Food and Agriculture Shared Gifting Fund. This program is working to transform the way philanthropic dollars flow to charitable projects in the world by having the grantees themselves determine how funds are directed. Seven organizations from around the Bay Area were selected to participate in a day long meeting where they shared their stories and needs. It culminated in them collectively deciding how to best use a grant of $50,000. To read more about this meeting check out this newsletter article.

During the granting process the participants decided to grant money to support another convening along with partners, collaborators, friends and family to discuss transforming the food system followed by a celebratory potluck and barn dance. Pie Ranch, one of the participants, offered to host this event on their educational and sustainable farm. Movement Generation, another participant, was requested by the group to facilitate the conversation on transforming the food system.

Approximately 30 participants joined the conversation consisting of the original seven non-profit organizations, as well as partners they invited to join. The group was a great representation of all of the people working in the sustainable food movement in the Bay Area including farmers, development directors, activists, teachers, volunteers, and community organizers.  The facilitators from Movement Generation helped us to define the roles we play, the tools we use, and to strategize about how we can transform the current food system into a healthy sustainable system. While it was apparent from the conversation that there is still a lot of work to do, the meeting helped to connect a larger group of people, organizations, and approaches that are working towards the same goals and identify our commonalities.

After the conversation, the potluck and barn dance began! Michelle from Movement Generation started off the dancing by leading everyone in some traditional Bhangra dancing. Oscar Grande then took over playing a great mix of world music, hip-hop, latin, and of course Michael Jackson. Oscar works with PODER (People Organized to Demand Economic and Environmental Rights) and leads a DJ collective/co-op as part of PODER’s grassroots economy work.

Although we didn’t walk away with a clear strategy on how to transform our food system, we were all made aware of the need to think about new ways of coming together, building community, and talking about sustainable food issues. It was also a great symbol of the uniting of urban and rural and of reclaiming the land. I like to think of the community barn dance as a vision for what a sustainable food movement could look like.

Kelley Buhles is Philanthropic Services Manager at RSF Social Finance.



Jillian McCoy, Communications Associate
RSF Social Finance
Keywords: Social Impact & Volunteering | Grantee | Grantmaking | RSF Social Finance | San Francisco Bay Area | Shared Gifting | Social Finance | Sustainable | agriculture | food | philanthropy