By Dana Stevens, Event & Project Manager

Posted May 6, 2019


500 Food System Leaders Gather in Support of Local Food for Institutions at #F2ISummit


On April 2-4, 500 food systems leaders gathered at the University of Massachussetts Amherst to participate in the third biennial New England Farm to Institution Summit.

Since the inaugural event in 2015, the summit has become the seminal gathering for farm to institution stakeholders across the campus, health care, K-12, and more recently corrections sectors in New England. Food service operators, teachers, administrators, health care providers, local food advocates, farmers, processors, distributors, students, and others gathered to learn and share innovative approaches to getting more local, sustainable food into New England institutions.

Participants hailed from all six New England states, as well as 14 other states from around the country. Attendees brought a wide range of experiences and perspectives to the summit based on their professional roles along the entire supply chain from farmer to composter. A total of 236 organizations were represented from different parts of the farm to institution landscape.

This graph represents types of organizations that attended the 2019 New England Farm to Institution Summit. *Students selected their college or university as organization type.

Rooted in our 2019 theme of “Celebrate. Mobilize. Transform," this year's summit was designed to recognize and appreciate the important work that is already being done in the region while creating a space to build and energize the network towards transforming the food system.

On Tuesday, April 2nd, participants had the opportunity to explore model organizations and initiatives in the Western Massachusetts area through five field trips; develop skills at a fundraising short course from Jenn Hayslett Consulting; or participate in a day-long training for farmers interested in selling wholesale to institutions put on by Kitchen Table Consultants.

( Left to right) Peter Allison, FINE's Excutive Director; Steve Goodwin, UMass Deputy Chancellor; Ken Toong, Executive Director of UMass Amherst Auxillary Services spoke during the opening plenary at 2019 New England Farm to Institution Summit. 

Wednesday, April 3rd marked the official opening of the summit. During the morning plenary (video) Peter Allison, FINE’s executive director, welcomed attendees, and shared brief reflections on our journey to the summit, recognizing all who have contributed. Ken Toong, the executive director of UMass Amherst Auxiliary Services (which houses UMass Dining), extended the welcome as our summit host and deputy Steve Goodwin discussed how sustainable food fits into UMass’s broader educational and community mission.

Jose Olivia, co-founder and co-director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA), provided the keynote address on April 3rd at the 2019 New England Farm to Institution Summit in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Jose Oliva, the co-founder and co-director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA), provided the inspiring keynote. Mr. Oliva shared his personal story as a food refugee fleeing civil war-torn Guatemala. He and his mother made a living as undocumented workers in the restaurant industry when they settled in Chicago. Oliva’s personal story, and the story of the formation of FCWA illustrated the ways in which race, immigration, and workers rights are inextricably linked to our food system. While pointing out the many atrocities that “have become so normalized in the restaurant industry that it almost becomes invisible," Oliva shared the work of the FCWA and the Good Food Purchasing Program which has successfully “shifted the regional food system” in places like Los Angeles where the policy has been adopted. Recently, the City of Boston adopted the Good Food Purchasing Program.

Oliva emphasized that our work to change the food system must include all five values that define ethical food: “human health, environmental sustainability, animal welfare, local economies, and of course, labor." “I really truly believe that we can change the food system for the better.” He said. “I know it’s not an overnight process, I know that it’s going to take time, and take a lot of work... but I know for sure that we’re not going to change that food system if we don’t address these issues." The morning wrapped up with a call to action by Karen Spiller from Food Solutions New England to join the Racial Equity Challenge, and continue our work to address racism in the food system, our organizations, and our personal lives.

Tania Taranovski, FINE’s director of programs moderated the Sustainable Seafood Success Story panel with Doug Feeney, a fisherman involved in harvesting the product; Robert Bankert, UMass Dining Executive Chef; and Jared Auerbach, the founder of Red’s Best.

Wednesday’s lunch featured three sustainable dogfish products, and participants enjoyed their meal while listening to the story of the seafood to institution collaboration that led to their development. The panel (video) included Red’s Best CEO and co-founder Jared Auerbach, UMass Executive Chef for Residential Dining Bob Bankert, and fisherman Doug Feeney (of Chatham Fisherman’s Cooperative), moderated by FINE’s Director of Programs, Tania Taranovski. On Wednesday evening, participants networked with 30 organizations working to change the food system at an exhibitor reception.

Becca Story from New England Dairy & Food Council (right) speaks with attendees in the exhibitor fair at the 2019 New England Farm to Institution Summit in Amherst, Massachusetts on April 2-4.

In partnership with UMass Amherst Dining, FINE developed a sustainability policy for the summit that helped guide decisions made during the planning process. The policy will help FINE track the environmental footprint of the event, and reduce the footprint at future gatherings. Our goals included sourcing 50 percent of all ingredients, and 100 percent of meat, dairy, eggs, greens, and grains from the six New England states; offering no single-use containers; and encouraging attendees to use alternative transportation at least once during the summit. FINE will release the results of these sustainability efforts in the coming months.

Thursday, April 4th began with a breakfast address from Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture John Lebaux who underscored the state’s commitment to farm to institution through grants and policy. Following Lebaux’s address, Randall Liberty, Maine’s newly appointed Corrections Commissioner, spoke about his plan to expand local procurement in prisons and add resources to prison farms, gardens and food systems career development programs for inmates.Attendees brainstorm big ideas during the Henry P. Kendall Foundation's New England Food Vision Prize: Causing Campus Collaboration for Community Change breakout session. 

Liberty’s address was followed by breakout sessions and an open space networking opportunity for those working on farm to corrections. The group identified several next steps including the creation of a listserv for network members. FINE looks forward to supporting this emerging farm to institution sector in the coming year and invites anyone interested in this work to stay informed of project and event opportunities through our newsletter.

Thursday afternoon offered open space networking opportunities for participants to gather and discuss emerging ideas sparked at the conference, or to discuss business within each sector. A career networking event co-hosted by the UMass Amherst School of Sustainability and Earth Sciences matched food systems professionals with leaders in the field.

Participants from across the country and many parts of the food system left the summit energized to apply their new skills, and already thinking to the next gathering. Holly Fowler of Northbound Ventures wrote, “I always wish this summit happened every year. It is invaluable to maintaining our momentum as a region in creating a resilient food system. This is a unique community of collaborators and innovators and the summit is a rare chance to share ideas, insights, and experiences to change the future.”

Plans are already underway for the 2021 New England Farm to Institution Summit.

Undergraduate and graduate students networking with food system professionals during the Food Systems Career Networking Event at the 2019 New England Farm to Institution Summit.

The New England Farm to Institution Summit is hosted by Farm to Institution New England. The 2019 New England Farm to Institution Summit was put on in partnership with Health Care Without Harm, the Northeast Farm to School Collaborative, the New England Farm & Sea to Campus Network, and UMass Amherst Dining. See the full list of steering committee members and advisors that helped put this event together here. If you would like to be involved in the planning of the 2021 summit, please contact Dana Stevens, FINE’s event and project manager, at [email protected].



Photos were taken by staff, attendees, and Keith Toffling for UMass Dining.

Browse Photos


Videos were taken by Reflection Films.




In our post-conference evaluation survey, we asked attendees for quotes. Here are a few of our favorites: 

“Coming from the Midwest, it was eye opening and inspiring to see both the initiatives and active results that New England states participate in achieving together.”  
– Rosie Florian, ValleyHUB at Kalamazoo Valley Community College (MI)

“Since the conference I have implemented techniques that I learned in the fundraising short course and have secured funding for my program because of it.” 
 – Koi Boynton, Healthy Roots Collaborative (VT)

“As a local producer looking to scale the availability of our products to institutions throughout the region, the New England Farm to Institution Summit was an excellent way to make direct contact with key decision makers at colleges and food service management companies in the region while also learning about their needs and expectations. We are now more equipped as a company to navigate a complex and often bewildering landscape and well-positioned for taking major steps forward to develop out our role as a producer in the food system.” 
– Mark Phillips, Hosta Hill (MA)

Visit the Summit website                                               View the 2019 Summit Program