Indigenous Food Systems Community of Practice

Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF), First Nations Development Institute (FNDI), and Melvin Consulting PLLC are excited to launch a new Indigenous Food Systems Community of Practice that will run from July 2021-June 2022. Over the course of a year, a group of 15 funders will gather to:

  • Interact, learn, and build relationships with Native American practitioners, organizations, and communities offering food systems solutions;
  • Share and sharpen their skills and strategies for investing in Indigenous partners who are leading sustainable agriculture and food systems work in Indian Country;
  • Build awareness of and respond to the historic, structural, current (e.g. impacts of COVID-19), and philanthropic barriers that Native communities and Tribal governments face in obtaining funding; and
  • Enjoy the fellowship and support of other funders committed to investing in Indigenous communities.

This Community of Practice is made up of grantmakers, lenders, and investors who bring a commitment to investing in Indigenous communities and who have a range of experience with grantmaking or investing in sustainable agriculture and food systems work in Native communities This includes both those funders who are preparing to invest in Indigenous food and agriculture systems for the first time, as well as those who have already made or are making investments in Indigenous-led projects. We hope those participants who have not yet funded in an Indigenous community will leave this experience having committed to do so. 

Robert Baldy and IAC Pacific Region TA Specialist Kier Johnson run an automated drip irrigation line at Daggs Farm.

Community of Practice Focus

Native communities receive only about one-quarter of one percent of all philanthropic giving, and only a small portion of those grant dollars go to Native-led organizations. Members of this community of practice will learn from and with Indigenous people leading projects in communities in order to build effective allyship skills. Participants will learn about the root causes that bar funding and resources from reaching Indigenous communities, and, we hope, apply these learnings to their own work.

Wow Tomato Family Farm with Mike Hodson, Tricia ‘Kainoa’ Hodson, and their sons, Baba Hodson (21) and Micah Kamohoalii (25), and cousin Devin Liza (18) at their farm homestead in Kamuela, Hawaii.

Guided by our learning content and guest speakers, we will explore the historical and present-day complexities of Indigenous communities and food and agriculture systems. We will delve into the structural underpinnings that have institutionalized inequity and the barriers that Native communities and Tribal governments face in obtaining funding. We will simultaneously explore the beauty and richness of Indigenous agriculture and food projects, people, and institutions. As we learn from Indigenous topic experts and each other, we will co-design ways to change funding practices from within our funding organizations and networks.

Throughout the community of practice, participants will share their experiences making investments in Indigenous communities. Discussion of completed, in-progress, and/or anticipated real-time funding experiences will expose all members to a range of investments and funding dockets that include Indigenous projects and provide opportunities for participants to explore areas of collaboration with one another. At the same time, this community of practice will expand participants’ understanding of the strengths, abilities, and talents of Indigenous communities in our collective undertaking to create more just and sustainable food systems.