By Sharon Tisher, 1999 MOFGA President
As I was immersed over the last couple of months in the issue of the moment – trying to get a biotech labeling bill passed in Maine – I realized it was time to stop, take a deep breath, and look at the big picture. I don’t mean melting polar ice caps, though that’s certainly important (see the article on global warming in this paper); I mean the big picture of what MOFGA was, is, and should become.
Fortunately, help is in place to do that. Since 1990, MOFGA has had a strategic planning system in place to help us focus on the horizon, while we juggle the issues (or crises) of the moment. The first five-year plan was completed in June 1990, thanks to the initiative of then president Bonnie Miller and executive director Nancy Ross. Our second plan was completed in December 1994, and this year we embark on writing a new five-year plan to carry us into the next millennium.
My experience with strategic planning in other nonprofits in my previous home was ambivalent. Boards gathered for a day or two of intensive brainstorming, argument, compromise and wordsmithing, crafted ambitious agenda, polished them off in plastic binders, and buried them in a file cabinet to gather dust. My experience of MOFGA’s 1994 five-year plan was very different. The slim two page document was not at all as elaborate as others I’d seen. It wasn’t terribly quantitative or specific. Virtually no contentiousness occurred as it was put together. To my recollection, after it was written, we never actually pulled it out of the file to review it and analyze how we were doing. We didn’t need to. Its goals were so imbedded in our hearts and minds that we didn’t need to reread the print. Remarkably, measured even by the very ambitious goals we set for ourselves in 1994, we’ve more than made the target.
We hoped by the end of 1997 to raise $999,999 to “locate, secure, and prepare a [100-acre] site for MOFGA to use for the Common Ground Country Fair and other activities.” As of this writing, we’ve raised gifts and pledges of $2,051,000. We’ve not only prepared a 250-acre site for the Fair, we’ve constructed a wonderful facility that has already drawn people from all over the country to events in addition to the Fair. The Spring Growth Conference on year-round crop production (covered in this MOF&G) was a great beginning of service, community and education for organic farmers in Maine and beyond our borders.
Now it’s time to plan for the next five years. Standing committees have already begun to look at what they would like to accomplish by 2004. On Sunday, June 6, the committees will report to the Board, and the Board will begin putting together the framework of a plan. Board members are trying to reach out by phone calls to friends and supporters in their areas to get their input. If we don’t call you, please call (e-mail, or write) us! Let us know where we should be in five years, what our specific objectives should be, and how you think we should accomplish them.
Questions we are asking ourselves range from very big financial ones to very specific, but essential, practical ones: From how to raise $1,000,000 to pay off our mortgage on the property and to complete construction of the model homestead that will house our farm and facility manager, and other essential construction projects, to what the maximum wait should be in traffic to get to the Fair; From what percentage of MOFGA income should be derived from non-Fair programs, to what percentage of Fair patrons should arrive by train or bicycle; From how many certified farms we should have by 2004, to how many farms should be operated by farmers who are under 30 years old; From how we can boost farm income, to how we can address the genetic alteration of our food supply.