Faces of Food Systems Planning: Amy Verbofsky

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Amy Verbofsky is a planner working at the Office of Environmental Planning at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Laura An, a planning intern at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and a graduate student of planning at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted this interview in October 2015.

What is your first and last name? Amy Verbofsky

What is your current position? Planner in the Office of Environmental Planning at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC)

How long have you held this position? I’ve been in my current position since January 2015, 10 months. But I started at DVRPC as a food systems planning intern 3 years ago.

What do you enjoy about your work? There are always a lot of different things to work on; it’s a very broad topic and involves everything from economics and building the food economy to farmland preservation, and food access. There are lots of ways to get involved.

Similarly, what do you find challenging about your work? You’re always learning as you’re going. I didn’t study food systems in school, but it’s more learning on the job, things like farmland preservation or financing food businesses.

What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work, and where does that fit in with the rest of the work that you do? Whatever stakeholders want you to focus on. For the last three years, I have worked on a Food Economy Strategy (increasing food access, building economic opportunities through food) for Camden, NJ. A recent project is a Food Promotion Survey for Montgomery County, PA. There are lots of different people in the food systems community and with lots of different interests.

Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? Why or why not? Yes, but I don’t typically introduce myself that way. It depends on my role in a given project because food systems are only a part of the overall work that I undertake at DVRPC.

What is the biggest food systems planning-related hurdle your community/organization faced in recent years and how was it dealt with? Planning can be slow, and often times the area or community you’re working with is changing rapidly. We need to make sure our work is always current and relevant to what’s happening in the community. For example, Camden City is changing significantly in just the past 3 years as several large corporations have announced relocating to take advantage of state tax incentives. The challenges that everyday people face haven’t really changed but the players who are involved in addressing those issues have changed, and therefore have also changed what growth looks like. It’s also difficult when you’re doing long-term work to keep stakeholders engaged over a long period and to ensure that your plan is eventually implemented over time.

Did you know you wanted to go into food systems when you first started that work? In graduate school, I focused on Community and Economic Development. I saw food systems as a way to address community/economic development issues from an equity/poverty perspective. Food systems came along with the internship and job opportunity with DVRPC. It is one way to address the problems I am interested in.

How has your perception of food systems planning changed since you first entered the planning field? Learning just how broad food systems is, particularly that the problems are not just in distressed and low income communities but are also in rural areas. Food systems also incorporates broader topics, not just food access, but everything important to all the different players in food systems. Regional planning helps me see a lot of different perspectives, in different types of communities.

Who has had the most influence on you as a planner? As a food systems planner? In terms of food systems, definitely Alison Hastings, currently DVRPC’s Manager of the Office of Communications and Engagement. From working with her in the past 3 years, watching her and learning how to run meetings, soaking in knowledge. Alison helped me find a niche and supported my career growth. She also transferred a lot of her food systems planning work and knowledge over to me.

Another influence is Samantha Phillips (Director of the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management), gave me my first real job before grad school, inspired me to take on more responsibility and bring passion to work in public service. She’s a strong young female leader in government.

And last but not least, Amy Hillier, a professor at University of Pennsylvania who has a dual faculty appointment between the Department of City and Regional Planning and the School of Social Policy & Practice. She has a passion for Philadelphia and for similar issues.

Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems planning field? What makes you successful in your work? What skills do you use the most in your food systems planning-related work? Be open to opportunities. There are lots of ways to do food systems planning, and many ways to address all these issues in the food system. It’s helpful to also know how to work with others, building relationships, and finding partners. It’s a small community within food systems so it’s imperative to maintain good relationships.

The skills I use most are: writing, case study research, and meeting facilitation.

What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school? Use grad school as a time to make connections, and get experiences like internships. The most valuable things I took away were not necessarily the hard skills, but the opportunity to intern at DVRPC. Being a grad student also gives you the opportunity to network and the opportunity to explore the field.


Faces of Food Systems Planning is a series of interviews with practicing planners from across North America who are engaging in food systems planning and policy work. This series is part of APA-FIG’s efforts to highlight food systems planning as an important planning topic. Click here for more information.

Faces of Food Systems Planning: Laura Raymond

LR head shot 1Laura Raymond is a Commerce Specialist in Small Farm Direct Marketing at the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Andrea Petzel, member of the APA-FIG Leadership Committee, conducted this interview in October 2015. The following responses have been edited.

What is your current position (include your title and name of organization)? I currently work in a position funded by a federal Specialty Crop Block Grant and my role is to help small and direct marketing farms extend their markets within Washington State’s local and regional food system. These are farms that are selling direct to consumers and more directly to retailers or food services. Our state is unusual because we have so many small and mid-sized farms that grow specialty produce crops and 95% of farms in Washington State are considered small farms

Through extensive outreach I provide farmers with technical assistance to help navigate regulations and permits, and I help them develop marketing strategies and basic best practices for their businesses. There are so many levels of jurisdiction that intersect with growing and selling food, and we help make it easy for farmers to understand.

What do you enjoy about your work? Working with farmers and learning about their particular farms, businesses, and how they’re making it work. There’s so much diversity in people, places and crops, and farmers are really committed; it’s not the easiest place to make it work and they do it because they love it and that’s really inspiring. I also really enjoy being part of re-creating a viable regional food economy.

What do you find challenging about your work? There aren’t always easy solutions and there’s so much regulation, with good reason. But it can be difficult in the moment, when helping a farmer who is doing important, hard work, to remember there’s a good reason for a particular rule. Also, over the last 60 years agriculture and food systems have really been evolved towards to be large scale, industrially-modeled, and globally-oriented. But now there’s growing consumer interest for fresh, healthy food and this means more opportunity for small local farms. In our state increasing numbers of young people are bucking long term trends and are getting into farming. It’s exciting that people think farming is a good way to make their livelihood, and local governments are starting to pay attention and trying to be creative about creating and keeping a vibrant local farming scene.

Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? Why or why not? No – I’m not sure who the food systems planners really are! Food systems are so vast and interconnected, and are really are about the overlap of food, health, culture, transportation, and land use. Good policy needs input from all those sectors.

Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems field? Find the thing you really care about and work on it. Find what you can do, connect with other people and do it! There are so many fields that interconnect with food; you can be a graphic designer and work in food systems!


Faces of Food Systems Planning is a series of interviews with practicing planners from across North America who are engaging in food systems planning and policy work. This series is part of APA-FIG’s efforts to highlight food systems planning as an important planning topic. Click here for more information.

Faces of Food Systems Planning: Dean Severson

Severson.jpg.JPGDean Severson is Principal Agricultural and Rural Planning Analyst for Lancaster County Planning Commission in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Laura An, a planning intern at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and a graduate student of planning at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted this interview in October 2015.

What is your first and last name? Dean Severson

What is your current position? Principal, Agricultural and Rural planning analyst, Lancaster County Planning Commission in Pennsylvania

How long have you held this position? 17 years.

What do you enjoy about your work? I like working one-on-one with municipalities.

Similarly, what do you find challenging about your work? Because Pennsylvania is a home-rule state, the county does not implement many plans. It can be frustrating because the planning commission can only advise and recommend, but municipalities, and specifically local officials are responsible for implementation. My priorities or interests aren’t necessarily local officials priorities and interests.

What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work, and where does that fit in with the rest of the work that you do? I focus mainly on traditional land use planning, rural areas, agriculture, and tangentially food systems planning. My primary focus is on agriculture as land use, and then secondly as an economic development issue. I work with municipalities to coordinate their land use planning decisions, help limit amount of development, and direct it to appropriate places, so that agriculture can thrive with little or no interference.

It’s interesting that in my experience, a lot of local planning boards in rural areas are made up of farmers or other people who have some relationship to agriculture or working in the food industry (such as dairy).

Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? Why or why not? No, because that’s too narrow. As a land use/community planner, I look at a variety of issues. I don’t really specialize on food system planning, but food systems are definitely a component of land use planning.

What is the biggest food systems planning-related hurdle your community/organization faced in recent years and how was it dealt with? Making sure there are connections between agricultural areas and market areas in urban areas and other smaller communities in Lancaster County. Most of Lancaster’s food production is exported out of the county for further value-added processing. But lately I have noticed growth in smaller-scale more direct-to-consumer production. The challenge is making sure there’s an atmosphere where small producers can thrive when competing with large farms for land, provide marketing opportunities for them to get product into local hands. Zoning regulations and farmland programs are more designed for larger farms; we haven’t made the transition to better accommodate or serve smaller farms yet.

How has your perception of food systems planning changed since you first entered the planning field? It’s broadened, seeing all different components of it. First food system planning seemed to be narrowly focused or defined (a food desert). But now I see the big picture – that it encompasses everything in from production to consumer. What’s the planner’s role in that? Making sure there are opportunities for small producers to enter into the market; transportation/infrastructure connections to make sure product can make its way to consumers. We need to look at the importance of agriculture in economic development efforts. And we need to also consider niche agriculture (smaller scale), because those producers have specific needs.

Who has had the most influence on you as a planner? As a food systems planner? Not any one person, but municipal officials who helped put things in perspective. Planners can think that planning issues are most important, but we are probably further down on the list – there are lots of other things that occupy municipal officials’ time and energy. Also – Farmers.

Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems planning field? What makes you successful in your work? What skills do you use the most in your food systems planning-related work? Look at the entire spectrum from production to consumption- a failure of a lot of planners is to focus on just the consumption end of food systems. True, we must be aware of the needs of consumers. But we also must determine what limits or prevents producers from expanding their businesses and bringing their products to the market.

I use the same skills for food system planning as I do for land use planning in general: listening with an open mind to hear new ideas.

What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school? Planning school doesn’t always prepare you for the day-to-day things. It often promotes this idea that you’ll be creating a grand master plan and that everyone will immediately get on board with it, but the reality is a lot of progress is made incrementally and much rests on developing a working relationship with your planning clients or local officials, and then eventually being able to accomplish things jointly with them over time.


Faces of Food Systems Planning is a series of interviews with practicing planners from across North America who are engaging in food systems planning and policy work. This series is part of APA-FIG’s efforts to highlight food systems planning as an important planning topic. Click here for more information.

Faces of Food Systems Planning: Monica Wilkinson

Monica Wilkinson_pic 10-2015Monica Wilkinson is the Community Development Director for the City of Vernon, Texas. She has held this position for 10 years. She is also an active member of the APA-FIG Policy Working Group.

Erica Campbell, member of the APA-FIG Leadership Committee and Coordinator of the APA-FIG Policy Working Group, conducted this interview in October 2015.

What do you enjoy about your work? I enjoy working with members of the community on collaborative projects such as park improvement, community-based planning, downtown revitalization, etc..  Working with the public can be exhausting but is at the core of why I chose a career in local government.  What I do makes a difference, which is fulfilling.

Similarly, what do you find challenging about your work? Right now my workload is a challenge.  I manage code enforcement, building services, planning & development, GIS, grant writing/management, animal control, and recently tourism and our main street program with one staff member and myself.  It’s a chore to keep up with it all much less to be competent and comprehensive in all facets of the job.

What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work? I was part of a citizen group that started our local farmers market so I work with that in the spring and summer quite a bit.  We coordinate with our local WIC office, meals on wheels, senior center, regional food bank and local food pantries.  I would love to conduct a food system plan for our area but haven’t been able to do so yet.

In the work that you perform, where does addressing food systems issues fit in? How has this changed over time? It’s not in my job description but it is a priority of mine.  I would say it is my responsibility as the city planner.  Vernon is a rural community and honestly, there hasn’t been much demand or support for food system planning….much less an understanding of why it’s important.

Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? Why or why not? Not specifically.  I have all the right training, background and experience to be one….just not the right location!  Food system planning alone is way too specific a title/position for a town of 11,000 – at least in rural Texas!

What is the biggest food systems planning-related hurdle your community/organization faced in recent years and how was it dealt with? The lack of understanding on the importance of food system planning and the unwillingness to devote funding for such an activity.  It’s really done in bits and pieces here…not collectively by way of a plan.  When I say in pieces, there are many people and organizations that contribute to improving health and food access/security in our community but no one concerted effort to plan for such in our community.  I think if our economic development people could ever understand that there is opportunity for job employment and business growth via a concerted effort on food system planning, etc. in our community, things might change.

How has your perception of food systems planning changed since you first entered the planning field? Ten years ago it wasn’t on my radar.  I have a PhD in political ecology and a background in agricultural development and cultural anthropology.  My dissertation addressed social implications of genetically engineered cotton in Texas.  I was, and continue to be, an advocate for sustainable agriculture but honestly I had no idea food system planning as a field of specialization existed until a few years ago.  It started coming together for me a few years ago as I became more interested in nutrition.  I’m a local Weston A. Price chapter leader and currently studying to become a nutritional therapy practitioner.  Maybe my interests  have just changed and I sought it out with more fervor.  Realistically, I don’t thing food system planning was a popular subset of planning until 5 or so years ago.  I could be wrong but I get that impression.

Who has had the most influence on you as a planner? As a food systems planner? Hmmmm…I love the work of Randall Arendt but I don’t think he is considered a food systems planner.  Since I don’t have a degree in planning per se and came to this (profession) in around about way, I’m not familiar with the key food system planners.  I will say that Arnendt’s work helped me start thinking about how our environment and the layout of our living spaces plays into our health and thus, the enjoyment and fulfillment we feel in life.  A century ago, the majority of people lived on the land and from the land.  Today we are so disconnected from what sustains us.  It’s hard to achieve health when so far removed.

Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems planning field? What makes you successful in your work? What skills do you use the most in your food systems planning related work? I would love to work more directly in the field of food system planning but that is not an option for me here…at least not at the moment.  Food system planning is a very small part of what I do every day.  It seems like most of the opportunities to work in this field are in urban areas where there are the resources and need to be more specialized.  But I think food system planning is especially important in rural areas and I would encourage anyone interested in working in this field to look broadly at planning and community development positions in rural areas.  There are a lot of opportunities to do good work which is both satisfying and significant in small communities.  You can see results quickly and witness daily the positive effects of change in your community.

What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school? I wish I would have gone to planning school!  I guess it’s never too late!   Actually, I don’t think it is necessary to be formally trained as a planner to work in food systems planning.  The field lends itself to diversity as it is a conglomeration of so many areas of study, i.e. ecology, transportation, planning, nutrition, GIS, community health, parks and recreation, economic development and even tourism to name but a few.


Faces of Food Systems Planning is a series of interviews with practicing planners from across North America who are engaging in food systems planning and policy work. This series is part of APA-FIG’s efforts to highlight food systems planning as an important planning topic. Click here for more information.

Faces of Food Systems Planning: Brian Hurd

Brian Hurd - Rise Pic 1Brian Hurd is the Technical Assistance Program Manager for Rise Community Development, Inc. in St. Louis, Missouri. He is also an active member of the APA-FIG Communications and Outreach Working Group.

Andrea Petzel, member of the APA-FIG Leadership Committee, conducted this interview in October 2015. The following responses have been edited.

Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? I do not consider myself a food systems planner but rather I consider myself a housing and community development planner that connects the community development system to improving food access in low/moderate income communities and addressing barriers to food security and healthy eating.

What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work? My focus is looking at how the entire value chain can support and benefit urban core areas from urban agriculture production to consumption.

What is the biggest food systems planning-related hurdle your community/organization faced in recent years and how was it dealt with? We develop affordable and market-rate housing and help rebuild urban core neighborhoods with an economic mix, often in neighborhoods where there has not been a market of opportunity for some time. We are looking at ways to overcome barriers to healthy food access by supporting alternative channels for food distribution such as co-ops, farmers markets, CSA programs, etc.

Who has had the most influence on you as a planner? As a food systems planner? As a planner, I’ve been influenced by Wayne Oldroyd, Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Maryland Heights, Missouri. For the concentration of food systems planning, I have not identified a specific planner who has influenced me. My influence comes more for trying to improve the health of African-American and other minority communities. Advocacy and social justice issues are what influence me most.

Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems planning field? What skills make you successful as a planner? My advice is work to create social equity in food systems in ways that benefit all from the rural farmer to the urban farmer and urban consumer. I believe what makes me successful in my work is that I am seen by many as a community developer, an intermediary that brings the regional community development system together. The skills I use most are market data analyses and translating information in a way that is meaningful through community engagement of diverse groups of people where it is simplified and makes sense on the neighborhood level.

What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school? I received my Masters in Community Regional Planning from Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. I wish I has known about the subject of food systems planning, I never thought of food access as a traditional social justice issue.


Faces of Food Systems Planning is a series of interviews with practicing planners from across North America who are engaging in food systems planning and policy work. This series is part of APA-FIG’s efforts to highlight food systems planning as an important planning topic. Click here for more information.

Faces of Food Systems Planning: Wendy Peters Moschetti

Wendy Moschetti.jpgWendy Peters Moschetti is the Director of Food Systems for LiveWell Colorado, where she leads the development and implementation of LiveWell Colorado’s strategies related to food systems, food access and food promotion. Prior to working for LiveWell Colorado, Wendy had her own consulting firm, WPM Consulting, and collaborated with many organizations—including LiveWell Colorado, LiveWell communities across the state, Colorado State University, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Hunger Free Colorado, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment—to work on a variety of projects aimed at leveraging our food systems to improve equitable access to healthy foods.

This interview was conducted by Laine Cidlowski on October 14, 2015 via telephone and edited by Kimberley Hodgson.

What is your first and last name? Wendy Peters Moschetti

What is your current position? Director of Food Systems, LiveWell Colorado, since July 2005 and former food policy consultant for over six years

What do you enjoy about your work? I really love the community partners I get to work with. They are working on food access issues all over the state. I also love that we are increasingly gettin to work on influencing state and federal policies. I love that we’re looking to lead state legislation, and we’re advocating child nutrition authorization. We’re trying to have more of a voice in state and federal policy.

Similarly, what do you find challenging about your work? One is very internal. I feel like we have a potentially great team. We have marketing, communication, policy, and community partnership staff in our organization, but there is little time for learning. I’m constantly really busy. It is challenging when there is not enough time to connect with the staff from the various teams within your own organization and learn from each other. Another challenge is having more ideas than funding to work on these ideas, which is probably everybody’s challenge.

What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work? Healthy food access. One of the five goals of our organizations is that Coloradans have access to affordable nutritious food and beverages. My work focuses on achieving this goal. We have a general sort of health equity lens overlying all that we do. My work focuses on improving access to the best quality, healthiest, food for the most underserved communities where food access really doesn’t exist. To accomplish this goal, we focus on different parts of the food system. That might mean working on community grown urban agriculture projects, or working with conventional food retailers. We try to take systems view but we’re definitely not agriculture focused, very definitely more public health focused. We shouldn’t be segregated but it’s hard to do it all.

In the work that you perform, where does addressing food systems issues fit in? How has this changed over time? We are getting a lot better at knowing how to use data, like what data do you really want and need to use that will tell the food system story and why the food system is important; and how do you use data to support actions. I think that at least in Colorado, we’re better now at defining what we do with diverse partners. I think when the terms food systems, local food systems, food policy councils and community food assessments where first used in the state, we were not very good at articulating our niche. Because there were a lot more conventional agriculture partners that felt threatened or didn’t value what we were doing or thought we were all about local local local or sustainable or organic or all these trigger words. I think we’ve just gotten better at articulating why we’re doing what we’re doing and I think we’re better at articulating why access to healthy food is an issue. I think we’re way better of using the data to show that there are real inequities in access to healthy food and healthy eating and in a lot of different ways: nutritional inequities, cultural inequities, economic inequities.

Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? Why or why not? You know, I don’t, because I have worked so much with public health and policy folks. Although I do have a degree in planning, I consider myself to be more of a food policy advocate. When I was a consultant, I always described myself as a food policy consultant.

What is the biggest food systems planning-related hurdle your community or organization faced in recent years and how was it dealt with? We are not alone on this one. The biggest food system hurdle is really figuring out distribution of fruits and vegetables. I could add actual production of fruits and vegetables, but I think farmers are pretty smart and adaptive; although we have some issues around getting farmers affordable land. But, in any corner of the state we still have significant challenges about consistent distribution of fresh healthy food products. The biggest challenge in the food system, in our perspective, of moving fresh, healthy foods where they don’t is exist is whether the location needing the product is rural and has one very small retailer, or very urban, like Denver, with many corner stores that all face the challenge of having a very consistent supply of fresh, quality products. The small rural food retailer and the urban corner stores are not on the bigger trucking routs. We really struggle with finding smaller, more nimble distribution models that are sustainable.

How has your perception of food systems planning changed since you first entered the planning field? A lot. I went to grad school in 2001, so a long time ago. And food systems planning didn’t really exist. Now the field is recognized as a professional field. In my grad school days at Berkeley, I was the only planner taking classes in public health. For many people it seemed very weird. Public health professors thought I was this cool planner, but didn’t get the connection. Fast-forward a couple of years and Berkeley now as a dual degree in planning and public health. So academically, students can now get recognition for focusing on food systems planning. Professionally, APA started offering food systems sessions at conferences, which didn’t exist early in my career; and APA developed a food systems planning interest group (APA-FIG). Now there is academic, education, training and professional recognition for a field that didn’t exist before. I think that is a huge! So now, justifying the use of city staff time to devote to this topic isn’t the stretch it used to be. And now, they also have more resources to be able to do it well. I think this is great.

Who has had the most influence on you as a planner? As a food systems planner? When I was an undergraduate student the Community Food Security Coalition was just starting. It doesn’t exist anymore, but their founder and executive direction, Andy Fisher, had just finished his master’s degree in city planning with Robert Gottleib in Los Angles. At the time, I was 20, finishing my bachelors degree in social work, and heard about Andy’s background and the organization. It was exciting to see people as front-runners that were doing planning, and really looking systemically at how to create communities that support healthy living and support everyone in achieving a healthy life.

What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school? I wish I had been more assertive about what I wanted to do. I went to planning school because I wanted to. I was a social worker for a couple of years and really loved it, but I really wanted to work on healthy food systems. That was the original motivator for me. I wanted to work on healthy community work, but then when I got to Berkeley there was just no infrastructure for it. There was no faculty working on this.

A lesson I’m still learning is really being able to articulate the importance of working through many different approaches. Whether you grow food, you’re a farmer, you’re growing food. Whether your life passion is to grow food, to grow fruits and vegetables to feed a healthy population; or whether your life mission is to just make sure policy is conducive to healthy food systems; and so on. I think that understanding all of those pieces and articulating why you do what you do and really honor the role that others play, is something we’re not always good at.


Faces of Food Systems Planning is a series of interviews with practicing planners from across North America who are engaging in food systems planning and policy work. This series is part of APA-FIG’s efforts to highlight food systems planning as an important planning topic. Click here for more information.

Faces of Food Systems Planning: Martin Bailkey

Martin Bailkey - Food for Thought Festival - CRC/GP boothMartin Bailkey is a food system consultant and former staff project manager for Growing Power, Inc. and co-director of theCommunity & Regional Food Systems Project. Martin is also an active member of the Madison Food Policy Council. He has worked in the food systems planning field over 17 years.

Marcia Caton Campbell, APA-FIG Leadership Committee Member, conducted this interview on November 17, 2015.

What is your first and last name? Martin Bailkey

What is your current position? I’m now completing my tenure as Co-Director of the Community & Regional Food Systems Project, a USDA-funded effort to document and implement food system innovations across the US. The project is run out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I’m returning now to food system consulting after working as a staff project manager for Growing Power, Inc., which is also a major partner in the CRFS project. I’m also a member of the Madison Food Policy Council.

How long have you held this position? The CRFS project began in 2011. I was with Growing Power for nine years in one capacity or another.

What do you enjoy about your work? After 17 years in the food systems field it still feels like cutting edge work in many ways, particularly in those contexts outside of our world of daily practice where alternative food practices are still considered novel (although that’s decreasing steadily).

Similarly, what do you find challenging about your work? It’s becoming increasingly challenging to keep up with what everyone is doing nationwide and globally. It’s also a good challenge to have!

What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work? Urban agriculture is what brought me into the field, and it still is at the core of much of the work I’m involved in.

In the work that you perform, where does addressing food systems issues fit in? How has this changed over time? When I started in food systems, I worked on the “big picture,” looking at things at a systems level. But my time at Growing Power took me to the level of the individual project and/or activity. I often reminded myself to assess how what was just completed altered the larger system that provided its context. I’m also much more aware of the pervasive role of systemic racism in the availability and accessing of nutritious food.

Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? Why or why not? Yes and no. At the risk of appearing overly concerned with formal designations, I’ve never had “food systems planner” as a professional title as more and more folks now do. But I’ve always held the belief that anyone who acts deliberately to fulfill a vision of a better future is, in essence, a “planner.” So, yes, in that sense I’m a food systems planner.

What is the biggest food systems planning-related hurdle your community/ organization faced in recent years and how was it dealt with? It’s been a challenge for the city of Madison to move a public market district forward. I’m not directly involved in the effort, but city staff and members of the Madison Food Policy Council have diligently employed planning practices in addressing the public’s questions about siting, need/use and funding. Madison, however, is one of those places where large public projects move pretty slowly anyway.

How has your perception of food systems planning changed since you first entered the planning field? A number of years ago Marcia Caton Campbell and I wrote a paper that essentially posited that while food system planning may have looked like a new area of professional practice it actually drew on and reflected established aspects of planning theory and practice. I still stand by that view.

Who has had the most influence on you as a planner? As a food systems planner? I had the good fortune to have had Jerry Kaufman as my major advisor in planning school. But though Jerry is considered a father of food systems planning, he had a greater influence by introducing me to the areas he was engaged in before food systems – planning theory, planning ethics (another area he pioneered), and central-city planning. Within food systems planning, no single individual(s) stands out. But I’ll give a collective shout-out to those university extension personnel dedicated to food systems with whom I’ve worked over the years.

Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems planning field? What skills do you use the most in your food systems planning related work? My best advice would be to engage, either professionally or personally, in some sort of on-the-ground food system activity that gets your hands dirty; something connected directly to food production (e.g, for-market farming) or distribution (working at a farmers’ market). To me, the core of community food systems work is direct engagement with food, and the more one does that the better. Other than that, you can’t deny the importance of critical and strategic thinking, and being able to communicate – particularly through writing – for a variety of audiences, whether school kids, grant proposal reviewers or the general public. I draw on those skills constantly.

What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school? From the outside, urban planning always seemed rather dry compared to architecture and landscape architecture, my previous fields. Until I went to planning school, I wasn’t aware of how effective planning practice is driven by a vibrant theoretical base.

Interviewer’s note: In addition to the work described above, Martin is co-author, with Kimberley Hodgson and Marcia Caton Campbell, of the 2011 monograph, Urban Agriculture: Growing Healthy Sustainable Places. Planning Advisory Service Report Number 563. Chicago, IL: American Planning Association. Martin has also published many articles on urban agriculture.


Faces of Food Systems Planning is a series of interviews with practicing planners from across North America who are engaging in food systems planning and policy work. This series is part of APA-FIG’s efforts to highlight food systems planning as an important planning topic. Click here for more information.

Faces of Food Systems Planning: Erica Campbell

Erica Campbell Farm to Plate (2)Erica Campbell, is the Director of the Farm to Plate Network in Montpelier, Vermont. She is also a member of the APA-FIG Leadership Committee and the Coordinator of the APA-FIG Policy Working Group.

Andrea Petzel, member of the APA-FIG Leadership Committee, conducted this interview in October 2015. The following responses have been edited.

Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? Why or why not? I am not a traditional planner, but I do consider myself a food system planner. In my current job I am coordinating the implementation of the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. But I’ve also worked for a planning agency in Vermont to develop a regional food system plan for a three county region, and on a local level, I have also overseen a local food system assessment and have incorporated a food system chapter into our municipal plan.

What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work? The Farm to Plate Strategic Plan is perhaps the most comprehensive in the country; its nearly 1,000 pages include all elements of the food system. It began largely as a plan to spur economic development and jobs in the farm and food sector, but quickly broadened to include food access, health, environment, etc.

What is the biggest food systems planning-related hurdle your community/organization faced in recent years and how was it dealt with? While we have a very collaborative environment here in our little state, the diverse views of network members bring a host of challenges. For example, strategies that help make farms more viable may inadvertently be contrary to making food more accessible and affordable. Sometimes Network member organizations are in direct opposition around a policy or program initiative, such as a livable wage or paid sick days legislation. We certainly look at win-win opportunities, but sometimes we need to have challenging conversations, including issues of racial justice, equity, and working conditions.

How has your perception of food systems planning changed since you first entered the planning field? When I first worked as a transportation and land use planning consultant, I was aware of local food systems but I was unaware that food system planning was a field until I came across APA’s food system planning documents. I was really excited when I found these reports as they catalyzed a desire to focus on the food system field.

Who has had the most influence on you as a food systems planner? Wendell Berry has been a big influence on me as a person, and his writings have influenced my relationship with food, the land, and community. Donella Meadows was another big influence in terms of understanding leverage points for systems change. Growing up in a small rural state and having a close connection with the people who grew the food we ate (and growing it ourselves) also had a big influence on my understanding of food systems and community.

Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems planning field? It’s really important to understand complex systems because plans ultimately need to be aimed at creating systems change. Even if you want to focus on one area of planning, an integrated approach that addresses the interrelatedness of issues is really helpful. Other knowledge areas that have aided me in my work include: policy analysis, research methods, public administration, economics, ecology, and sociology. Writing and communications are great skills to have too – using data to tell a story is a skill I am still working at!


Faces of Food Systems Planning is a series of interviews with practicing planners from across North America who are engaging in food systems planning and policy work. This series is part of APA-FIG’s efforts to highlight food systems planning as an important planning topic. Click here for more information.

Faces of Food Systems Planning: Megan Horst

Megan HorstMegan Horst is Assistant Professor at Portland State University in Portland, OR.

Andrea Petzel, member of the APA-FIG Leadership Committee, conducted this interview in October 2015. The following responses have been edited.

Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? Yes!

What do you enjoy about your work? Working with students and infiltrating their planning minds with foods systems issues. I also really like bridging the gap between research and practice.

What do you find challenging about your work? Food system work is filled with wicked problems with no one cause but rather systemic injustices. Trying to address all of these issues can be challenging, when one has little power or say over the cause. Sometimes the heaviness of the problems can be daunting; federal policy, climate change, social justice issues.

Who has had the most influence on you as a planner and as a food systems planner? I’ve really been influence by literature beyond planning –Julie Guthman, Alison Alkon, Julian Aguyeman – people who work in food justice and how the food movement isn’t paying attention to justice and is over-focused on local and sustainable food.

How has your perception of food systems planning changed since you first entered the planning field? I think I originally came to food systems planning based on my interest in sustainability issues and now I marry it much more closely to social justice issues.

What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work? I work mostly on the research side of things and right now I have an interest in farmland and farming issues – the effectiveness of urban growth boundaries, how we deal with expected growth, and whether investors are making a grab for farmland. Farmland access could be a concern; who gets to access and who’s producing the food. Is it corporate investors? Is it luxury or second homeowners? What does that mean for access by landless, young, immigrant farmers – farmers who really want to grow food sustainably for the local population? There’s lots of work happening to foster access to new farmers and that’s exciting.

Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems planning field? Read from literature from broader food justice issues, not just planning topics. Read about international work, and learn about anti-oppression and anti-racism training. As a planner you also need to use many practical skills; you need to be good at facilitating meetings and always work on being better at communicating and being more inclusive.


Faces of Food Systems Planning is a series of interviews with practicing planners from across North America who are engaging in food systems planning and policy work. This series is part of APA-FIG’s efforts to highlight food systems planning as an important planning topic. Click here for more information.

Faces of Food Systems Planning: Becky Bodonyi

BeckyPhoto

Becky Bodonyi is a planner working as a program specialist for the Multnomah County Health Department located in Portland, Oregon. Her work focuses on bridging urban planning, public health, and food access issues. Becky is also an active member of APA-FIG’s Policy Working Group.

Kimberley Hodgson, Chair of APA-FIG, conducted this interview via email in October 2015.

  1. What is your first and last name? Becky Bodonyi
  2. What is your current position? Program Specialist, Multnomah County Health Department, Portland, Oregon
  3. How long have you held this position? Just over three years.
  4. What do you enjoy about your work? I love working at the intersection of public health and urban planning. It’s an exciting time to be a planner at the health department, as more and more people in a wide variety of sectors are starting to realize how their organization or their work influences health. The idea that place matters is becoming more widespread and I get to help people tell this story. I also love geeking out about the data – both quantitative and qualitative – making maps and working to figure out how we’ll get from a vision to tangible change in our communities. Finally, I’m always told that planners talk in “planner speak,” and I love helping non-planners understand the world of planning, for example, deciphering maps, visualizing floor-area-ration (FAR), or how a density bonus can help us achieve multiple outcomes.
  5. Similarly, what do you find challenging about your work? Change is slow. It takes time to change systems, especially when the work is about making those systems more fair and just. The health inequities we see today, especially related to food, nutrition and chronic disease, have their roots in a long history of racism and policy decisions across all sectors, from agriculture and housing to transportation and education. The challenge is understanding how all of this is related but also accepting that not everything can be “fixed” overnight and being patient with yourself. I first heard Wes Jackson’s words nearly 17 years ago: “If your life’s work can be accomplished in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough.” And while it has since inspired me, I will also admit that it is ultimately my biggest challenge.
  6. What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work? I’m focused on healthy food access. My projects of late have centered on food retail and integrating food access into transportation planning.
  7. In the work that you perform, where does addressing food systems issues fit in? How has this changed over time? I work mostly on the consumer end – where do people shop and how do they get there, what’s on the shelf, do customers know how to prepare it, what is actually getting eaten. That said, working in healthy retail and helping small retailers overcome barriers has also meant I have had to engage somewhat with production and distribution through farm to store efforts, joint purchasing, and learning what wholesale produce suppliers serve the region.
  8. Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? Why or why not? Yes and no. I am an urban planner by training and I work on issues directly connected to food systems. But my focus within the food system has been so narrow that I don’t immediately identify as a food systems planner. Rightly or wrongly, in my head, I’ve reserved that title for folks who are working at a systems level, say convening a process to integrate food systems into a comprehensive (or general) plan or to develop a multi-sector food action plan.
  9. How has your perception of food systems planning changed since you first entered the planning field? I was an Environmental Studies major in undergrad and I took a few sustainable agriculture classes, which opened my eyes to the world of agriculture policy and food systems. When I got to planning school, which wasn’t that long ago, I guess I was surprised to learn that food systems planning was relatively new. It seemed so obvious to me that planners should be paying attention and using their tools and planning processes to support/influence/improve the food system. I’m glad it’s getting more and more attention now.
  10. Who has had the most influence on you as a planner? As a food systems planner? I don’t have any particular influences. I am a social justice advocate and planning is just one of my tools that I use to advance equity and fairness. I was raised to believe everyone deserves to live to their full potential and to do so in a physical, social and political environment that supports their total well-being and that presents opportunity not barriers. I picked planning as a career to contribute to this vision. I also just love cities and talking with friends (and strangers) about what works and what doesn’t about a particular place. Every day conversations and observations are probably the most persistent influence I have on my planning practice. I get around mostly by walking, biking or taking transit, which gives me a lot of time to observe the city and to interact with other people. A lot of my thinking is done on the bus.
  11. Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems planning field? What makes you successful in your work? What skills do you use the most in your food systems planning related work? Food systems planning is a broad field – don’t just limit yourself to working for a planning agency or a firm. I didn’t expect to work for a health department but am finding it to be an interesting place to be a planner and be a bridge between urban planning, public health and healthy food advocates. Skills that have proven useful in my role have been project management, negotiation, data and policy analysis, evaluation planning, and relationship building.
  12. What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school? Planning is as much an art as it is a science. I knew I didn’t want to go into the academic world so I focused my school search on programs that offered the so-called ‘professional degree.’ I didn’t exactly know what this meant and it was kind of sold to me as a two-year program where you developed technical skills, like understanding land use laws or GIS, and boom – you’re workforce ready. While those technical skills are essential, planning is about people and communities and humans’ relationships with each other and with place. It’s also about politics, conflicting priorities, and chronically underfunded cities (or counties). It is way more complicated and messy than I expected and this is where the art comes in. Planning school helped me develop skills to navigate this part of planning, but truthfully, the art of the profession is something that is better learned in the work place not necessarily a classroom. (And, I’d argue, the skills a planner needs to succeed in the art of planning don’t need to be learned in an urban planning job).

Faces of Food Systems Planning is a series of interviews with practicing planners from across North America who are engaging in food systems planning and policy work. This series is part of APA-FIG’s efforts to highlight food systems planning as an important planning topic. Click here for more information.