The Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM)–an educational 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization serving the San Francisco Bay Area through the Grand Lake Farmers Market, seven other Certified Farmers Markets, and other food- and hunger-related social programs–released a new, far-reaching 3-Year Strategic Plan that seeks to create a model for a local and regional food system that is healthy and equitable for all. The plan and its corollary, the Path to Racial Equity Plan, are inextricably linked and offer a detailed vision for an attainable and socially-just food system built on ecologically intelligent, human health-centered principles. “The COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter social movement of the past year provided us with the impetus to accelerate positive change in our food system,” said Andy Naja-Riese, AIM’s chief executive officer. “With this new strategic plan, we can shift the existing farmers market paradigm within the context of a healthy, equitable food system. There’s serious work to be done, but AIM and our stakeholders are 100 percent committed to transformational change.” AIM seeks to”‘act locally” to spark systemic change throughout the nation through its education, policy change, and community access programs that address the interrelated issues of: diet-related disease, food insecurity, loss of viable farmland and small family farms, structural racism, excess food, and carbon emissions from a globalized food system. The plan was developed by a diverse team of stakeholders, including AIM board members and executive leadership. It outlines four actionable goals underpinned by a cross-cutting foundational goal of racial equity. Each of the four goals has clearly-stated outcomes and key performance indicators for measurement of success. The interrelated goals in the plan were informed by these guiding principles:
Similarly, AIM’s plan includes a proposed list of aspirational market standards for the producers and communities it serves. “As this breakthrough plan becomes reality, we hope to inspire smaller farmers – many of whom are currently disenfranchised –to push the boundaries for progressive, exciting change,” said Priscilla Lucero, co-owner of Lucero Organic Farm in Galt, producer of Oakland’s Grand Lake Farmers Market, and AIM board member. “This plan isn’t window dressing. It includes specific ideas to increase opportunities to access markets, funding, and technical resources to help these food producers innovate and grow.”
Andy Naja-Riese brings 15 years’ experience in community food systems, health policy, and education. He is currently Chief Executive Officer of the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM), a California 501(c)(3) non-profit that works to educate, inspire, and connect communities with responsible farmers and producers as part of a healthy, earth-friendly, equitable local and regional food system. Andy directs AIM’s operations, fundraising, and strategic planning through the operation of 8 certified farmers markets, mobile market, farm box program, and educational and food access initiatives. Andy brings a unique perspective to non-profit executive management after spending 10 years with the Federal government, including managing programs and grants with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Andy received his Master’s degree in Society, Human Development, and Health from the T. H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health and his Bachelor’s degree in Community, Environment, Science, and Health from Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Andy is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and lives in San Rafael with his husband, Gary, and their rescue dog, Mac.