Annie Heuscher, CFAC Program Director, Leaves a Legacy of Hard Work, Creativity, and Laughter

This week, CFAC staff, Board, and friends said goodbye to Annie Heuscher, our Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program Director. Annie came to CFAC in 2012. In 2013, she developed the Beginning Farmer and Rancher program and built a state-wide network of resources, farmers, workshops, and an online platform to connect them all.

If you know Annie, you know she’s a force to be reckoned with – resilient, innovative, and hilarious. We will miss her and wish her all our best as she discovers her next adventures.

Here’s a look back on some of Annie’s CFAC highlights:

 

Q: Why did you think it was important to work for an organization like CFAC? What motivated you?

A: I love Montana; I was born and raised here. I started out working in planning and economic development, and I really loved the connection between all of those things that CFAC represents, and I think they’re all really important – the way we use land and sustain our ag economy in Montana.

Q: What do you like best about working in this world?

A: I loved all the people I worked with. There’s amazing people farming in Montana and it’s an honor in being able to support them in doing what they do really well.

Q: Tell us about a time when you did something you never thought you’d do while you were at work.

A: Hmmm. I never thought I’d watch an ultimate Frisbee tournament and get bit by a parrot all in one day at work.

Q: What was your earliest success? 

A: Getting the first Beginning Farmer and Rancher-related grant. It was a risk-management grant for $50,000 in 2013.

Q: What is your hope for CFAC in the future?

A: To keep innovating and making a difference across the food system.

 

Annie sendoff

Some of the CFAC staff cheers to Annie (left) on her last day.

Q: Your office jams are the best. What’s your favorite song to play at work right now?

A: “Good as Hell” by Lizzo.

Q: What was one really impactful moment for you during your time at CFAC that made you think, “I made a difference.”

A: Doing our evaluations from the specialty crop mini-grants and seeing how much that small influx of funding made people feel so much more confident in being able to grow their businesses.

Q: If you could pass on a few words of advice to folks working in the world of sustainable agriculture, what would it be?

A: Be open to all of the different places where ingenuity can come from.

Q: If you could give nicknames to everyone on staff, what would they be?

A: I’m going to give out nicknames, but I’m not going to say who’s who: Sugarlips, The Handler, The Fixer, The Performer (no pressure), Fountain of Youth.

Q: What’s Montana’s biggest strength when it comes to sustainable agriculture?

A: Decades of hard work, ingenuity and perseverance.

Q: If CFAC had a mascot, what would it be?

A: A big, juicy tomato. Because they’re delicious.

Q: If you were a big, juicy tomato, what would you do all day?

A: Chill in the shade.

Q: Anything else you want to say?

A: Thanks for the wild ride.

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Reciprocity Reigns in the Mission Valley

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By: Shay Farmer, Mission Valley Food Access Program Coordinator

CFAC’s work focuses on cultivating an interconnected local food system. Sometimes this path can wind between program areas of food access, beginning farmer and rancher training, and agricultural land preservation ever so subtly, reinforcing our overall programmatic impact as an organization, and offering immeasurable social impacts to boot.

In early October, CFAC’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher program leaders partnered with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) organize a week-long Armed to Farm conference, a Sustainable Agriculture training for military veterans.

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Twenty-five military veterans joined CFAC and NCAT for Armed to Farm, a week-long sustainable agriculture workshop specifically geared toward veterans in the Mission Valley.

Cora Coleman and Jeff Newton, a military family who attended the week-long conference, have also helped extensively with CFAC’s Food Access Program in the Mission Valley. And, they happen to live on seven acres of prime, unused farming land outside of Polson.

Dave Renn, Beginning Farmer Program Manager, said “the goal of the project training was in recognition of the fact that our veterans possess a lot of the skills and traits that make a successful farmer.”

“We learned so much,” Newton said about the conference. He hopes to develop a business opportunity from the knowledge he took away from the conference.

Coleman was introduced to CFAC two years ago from attending Double SNAP Dollars (DSD) incentivized self-sufficiency classes in Polson. She brought her family to learn to garden, preserve, and cook local food and to earn DSD incentives to spend on fresh and local food at the Polson Farmers Market.

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Double SNAP Dollars participants learn the basics of dehydrating and freezing in a Polson Farmers’ Market Double SNAP Dollars class this summer. Participants receive monetary incentives for attendance, which they can then spend at the farmers’ markets.

This year, our Food Access team recruited Coleman to be a part of the Double SNAP Dollar Street Team. As a DSD program customer, Coleman and other Street Team members provide valuable insight into DSD’s customer base and help promote the program within their personal networks during the summer.

As the summer winds down, Coleman has asked my family to help her family prune the many fruit trees that haven’t been tamed since the passing of her father years ago. In exchange for my husband’s help with pruning, they have offered us a goose from their flock.

The reciprocity of it all has really struck me; between professional and personal and the small part we all must play in our community, we are all re-learning skills and necessities that have sustained us for generations and prevented hunger in the past. And we’re doing it together.

Introducing CFAC’s newest team member, Annie Carlson!

Meet CFAC’s new AmeriCorps VISTA, Annie! Annie has only just started her one year volunteer tenure at CFAC, and she has already brought such a bright and positive presenIMG_4894ce to the CFAC team. Welcome Annie!

My name is Annie Carlson. I grew up in Kalispell Montana where my love for food and agriculture began. I followed that passion to Montana State University in Bozeman to study Sustainable Food and Bioenergy systems. Now that passion has lead me to Missoula to complete a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA with CFAC.

We interviewed Annie in her first week with CFAC. Read on to see what she had to say to our outlandish questions:

Krystin: What is your Myers-Briggs Personality Type?

Annie: ISFP (she had to take the online test)

KG: Why are you really passionate about food systems?

AC: I really like to grow food. My favorite activity is gardening. The magic of it is really exciting. It’s just a really nice way to spend time and get away from things, and it’s relaxing for me. I also really love cooking and sharing food with people. It’s always something that’s been big in my family: eating together and cooking together. I wish everybody could feel the way I feel about those things.

KG: How do you think the world would be better if they did?

AC: I think if everybody had the opportunity to enjoy food in all the ways it can be enjoyed, it would mean a lot of things: people have free time, people have resources to access those things. It’s important to know where food comes from and how big of a role it plays in our lives. Because even if food isn’t your passion, it’s still a major part of your life.

KG: What is your favorite vegetable to grow?

AC: OOOOOOO! I really love garlic.

KG: Why?

AC: Well, I like that it’s planted in the Fall and it sits all winter, preparing itself, and then it comes up so early in the Spring. It’s kind of wild, and I like that it has so many ways that it reproduces. So I kind of just like the plant structure in general. It’s so strong, and it leaves a lasting impact.

KG: On the earth or in your mouth?

AC: In your mouth!

KG: If you were a vegetable which one would you be?

AC: In the past I’ve answered it that I would be garlic, but I think I just have an obsession with garlic. It’s an always changing question. It’s a good reflecting question for myself, because a lot of things are changing for me right now. I’m thinking of a cold weather type. It has to be sturdy – so maybe collard green. Ready for the cold. Maybe a mixed green patch – a variety of things all in one. In a few months we’ll update everyone: “Annie is now this vegetable.” Or, you know there’s always that random volunteer vegetable that comes up in a spot where it’s not supposed to be, but it’s still in the garden, so kind of in the place where it’s supposed to be but not sure yet? It’s a deep question, Krystin.

KG: What are you going to be doing for CFAC?

AC: I don’t have a big project yet, but I’m going to be working with the beginning farmer and rancher program. I’m going to be helping the program to keep it going into the future, for a long time.

KG: What kinds of tools are you brainstorming right now to make that happen?

AC: Event planning, we’re doing resource development, researching evaluation tools and management tools.

KG: What do you see as CFAC’s greatest opportunity while you’re here?

AC: Because I’m focused on beginner farmer and rancher program, CFAC is in a unique place, especially with Farm Link, to really connect people and to keep a lot of agricultural land in agricultural production, and I think that would have a really lasting impact to fight the thought that agriculture is dying, or that if you’re retiring and don’t have a child to pass the land onto, that you have to sell to a developer. Changing that mindset, and getting the idea out there that there are beginning farmers out there who really want to farm, I think CFAC is in a unique place to do that.

KG: What has been your most exciting discovery about Missoula so far?

AC: It’s a really beautiful area, and I haven’t had the chance to explore it as much as I want, but I did get to go to Rock Creek last weekend, and that was an awesome area. There’s a lot of natural beauty around here that I don’t know about yet, but I’m excited to get to know it. Also the people who live here just LOVE it.

KG: What would you do with $1M?

AC: There are a lot of things I would do with one million dollars. I would probably give most of it to some type of organization, or multiple organizations, that I believe in. Try to do some type of social good. But then also I might use some of it for myself, probably to travel, and eat food around the world, grow food around the world.

KG: Favorite constellation?

AC: Pleadies. Because I like all the different stories about how they came to be.

KG: What is one thing you want people to know about you?

AC: I’m a pretty positive person. I’m passionate about the things I believe in. I believe that kindness and compassion are great strengths and qualities that maybe our society doesn’t focus on enough.

 

 

You SNAP, We SNAP. SNAP Challenge Week: Sept. 20-27

DSD campaign cardSNAP Challenge Week is dawning on us! The CFAC team has banded together to gain a better understanding of the impact of our Double SNAP Dollars program and raise money to continue Double SNAP Dollars programs in Missoula and around the state. We’re excited to be joined by partners at the Montana Food Bank Network, UM students in the Community Health and Social Work departments, EFNEP, the Missoula Public Health Department, the MT Department of Ag, and of course the Double SNAP Dollar retailers!

For those of you unsure of what this effort entails, here’s a basic rundown: folks pledge to eat on a budget of $5 a day for 7 days (from Sept. 20-27) to gain a glimpse into the struggles of the 134,000 food insecure Montanans who have very limited budgets to buy food for themselves or their families. $5 is the median SNAP benefit for Montanans.

Those taking the Challenge will be sharing their experiences throughout the week via social media and Op-Eds and the like, and encouraging donations to the $16,000 for 16,000 Missoulians campaign – which aims to raise enough money to cover a gap in funding through the end of the season in Missoula, AND be able to start next year with a adequate funds that can benefit Double SNAP Dollars programs across the state.

There’s a lot of buzz going around the CFAC office, including a lot of logistical questions about what to eat and how to calculate costs.

If you have questions like the rest of us CFAC-ers, download our SNAP Challenge toolkit. (And always feel free to call the office at 926-1004 or email Kim at kim@missoulacfac.org if you have more questions)

If you want to join us in the SNAP Challenge, you can pledge here!

Together, we can ensure access to healthy and local foods and build healthier communities. Please join us!

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5 Ways to Double Your Impact

Double your impact for CFAC’s Double SNAP Dollars program

Double SNAP Dollars is in its third year and as successful and effective as ever.

With 7 retailers, 1,000 participants, and $100,000 contributed to the economy in 2016, the program has proven to be an extremely valuable asset to our local, sustainable food system.

In 2017, that impact is on track to double. In just three months, Double SNAP Dollars has grown to 11 retailers, 615 participants, and over $33,000 contributed to the economy.

Below are five easy ways to support the program and double your impact for Double SNAP.

ONE: Take the SNAP Challenge.

Taking the SNAP Challenge means you commit to eating on $5/day (including coffee!) for a week (September 20th-September 27th) to put yourself in the shoes of those who struggle to put healthy food on the table. Why put yourself in another’s shoes? Because when we have empathy for others, we are better advocates. And, as our food system tells us: we are all connected.

“We never really understand another person until we climb into their skin and walk around in it.” — Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

Let others know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it to raise awareness of those who experience hunger 365 days of the year in your own community – and nationwide. Contact Kim@MissoulaCFAC.org for a SNAP Challenge toolkit.

TWO: Contact your elected representatives and ask them to take the SNAP Challenge, too.

The U.S. House will vote on the budget resolution this month. The resolution proposes drastic cuts to the SNAP program, and those who currently receive SNAP benefits – including the elderly, children, low-wage workers, and folks who are differently-abled, stand to lose needed food assistance.

If our representatives commit to taking the SNAP Challenge, they will have a greater understanding of the potential damage this budget resolution will cause in our communities. It’s simple to find your U.S. House representative and contact them – just enter your zip code online to get email contact information or call the generic Capitol phone line to enter your zip code and contact by phone: 202-224-3121.

THREE: Become a Challenge Champion.

Start a fundraiser to benefit CFAC’s Double SNAP Dollars campaign to raise $16,000 for the 16,000 Missoulians who struggle to put healthy food on the table. Just click the “Start Fundraising” button to set up your own fundraising page.

Start fundraising

It takes 5 minutes to set up a page and begin making a big difference. Raising $500 is as easy as asking 20 people (family, friends, colleagues, non-Montanans) to donate $25, and we’ll be providing plenty of resources to make your campaign easy and painless – just ask Heidi, who has already raised nearly 50% of her goal (thank you Heidi!).

Heidi fundraiser

FOUR: Make an individual contribution to CFAC’s Double SNAP Dollars campaign.

For every dollar you donate, one more Missoulian has greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables, one more farmer has a little more income, and one more community becomes a little more self-sustaining. When we all work together to achieve collective impact, the impact is exponential!

Organize!

FIVE: Pass this opportunity on to 5 folks you think might be interested in doubling their impact.