Philanthropy and Flourishing Food Systems

breiby@growyourgiving.orgIndividual & Family Giving

Agricultural production has changed dramatically in the past century. Population growth, lack of food access, environmental changes and evolving industrial approaches all affect how and why we grow food.

At a recent Donor-to-Donor, experts in the field of sustainable agriculture gathered to share their expertise with Community Foundation donors while discussing how philanthropy plays a role in supporting just food systems.

Virginia Clarke, Executive Director of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF) started the panel discussion.  SAFSF is a philanthropy supporting organization with members from across the country who share a common interest in supporting sustainable food and agriculture systems. SAFSF members range from individuals and families, private foundations, to government agencies, companies, and investors. SAFSF offers educational and networking opportunities to foster collaboration and learning experiences to help donors make informed decisions about funding and capital investments.

Fred Iutzi, President of The Land Institute, a research organization based in Salina, Kansas, shared exciting developments about their work advancing perennial grain crops, pulses and oilseed bearing plants as alternatives to traditional annual grain and row crop plants. Research indicates that traditional annual crop cultivation can be harmful to the environment due to soil disruption and shallow root systems. The Institute collaborates with researchers around the world to develop an agriculture system that mimics natural systems in order to produce ample food and reduce or eliminate the negative effects of traditional practices.

Dre Taylor, Founder of Nile Valley Aquaponics, shared the story of his grandmother who cared for her garden in California throughout her whole life, instilling in Dre a love and appreciation for healthy food and community. Dre’s organization continues his grandmother’s legacy through neighborhood-based programming that grows fish, vegetables and fruit while training community members in topics related to healthy food choices and economic stability.

Jill Erickson is the Executive Director of Heartland Conservation Alliance (HCA), a nonprofit organization working to protect and preserve the Blue River Watershed in Kansas City. Jill and HCA volunteer Bob Berkebile of Heartland P5 Holdings shared their collaborative effort to establish a regenerative farm on land recently purchased by HCA. Bob discussed the critical importance of developing strategic plans for future land use in suburban and urban areas.

Agriculture and food systems affect everyone and “no one knows as much as everyone,” says Bob Berkebile. Collaboration and education are key to improving the way our communities support sustainable agriculture and food systems.

Listen to our latest episode of the Grow Your Giving podcast to hear Virginia Clarke discuss supporting sustainable agriculture and food systems.

Are you interested in supporting organizations working in this space? A charitable fund can help you maximize your giving. Contact us at or 816.842.0944 to learn about how we can help.

Authored by: Gwen Wurst, Senior Philanthropic Advisor