Economic Assessment Toolkit-USDA

I recently attended a two day workshop on the new toolkit, conveniently held in New Orleans during the Food Distribution Research Society’s  2016 Conference: Exploring Linkages in Food Market Innovations. FDRS has a very sensible membership rate for anyone interested in research on food systems, which should be just about everyone reading my blog.

The first part of the workshop provided a general overview of the purpose and the layout of the online toolkit with time for a round of introductions from the attendees.  The gathered group (SRO by the way!) was a wonderful cross section of municipal projects, regional assessments and some feasibility/benchmark needs for newly emerging initiatives. 32 states were represented among the attendees which meant lots of networking happened in the hallways.

 

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Day 1 breakout, facilitated by toolkit team member Dr. Todd Schmit of Cornell University

 

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Day 1 breakout, facilitated by Dr. Dawn Thilmany the coordinator of the toolkit project.

 

The next day, one could choose either of the tracks to learn more detailed information. True to my usual m.o., I traveled between  both rooms depending on the topic being discussed.

Track A: Advanced Economic Impact Assessment

  • Review of Economic Development Principles
  • Modelling Issues to Consider in Economic Impact Analyses
  • Hands-on Customization of IMPLAN data for Analysis
  • Assessing your Community’s Efforts

Track B: Integrating Benchmarks into Your Local Food Assessment

  • Food System Typology
  • Economic Benchmarks across the Typology
  • Mapping the Range of Economic Multipliers

 

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The two days contained amazing detail on unpacking data for analysis when using secondary dbs such as the Ag Census. The researchers also did a great job discussing (in layperson terms)  how to think about economics within the food system as a whole and across connected sectors as well as frank discussions on sorting out long-held assumptions that one might have about data ( I find markets need this reality check as much if not more than other project leaders so do take note).

If this workshop comes to your town, I’d recommend that you invite your Extension partners and any market planning on conducting in-depth research on their own. They may even be offering some travel scholarships as they did to this one.

I am gratified to see that the work the FMC team has done for the last 5 years or so to research and adapt existing tools into the still-in-development Farmers Market Metrics training and pilot materials closely follow the same framework used by this very smart group. I think FMM will be the market-focused portion of data collection and data use that toolkits like this rely on existing in local communities that make their work easier.

With all of this attention being paid to collecting and discussing data, it is becoming more evident that practioners and researchers will have many ways to share dynamic and disciplined ideas on the impacts that local and regional food systems have on their communities. Join in, won’t you?

In case you haven’t heard of this yet, I urge you to check it out online:

USDA-AMS’ The Economics of Local Food Systems: A Toolkit to Guide Community Discussions, Assessments and Choices

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