THE FUTURE OF THE FOOD CLUSTER & WINTER MARKET
To the Members of the Northern Colorado Food Cluster:
The Board of Directors of the Cluster have regrettably decided that, due to financial constraints and continued challenges securing a permanent Executive Director, the Cluster cannot continue in its current iteration. We have begun the process of winding up most of the Cluster’s business. With the exception of the Winter Farmers’ Market – which the Cluster will continue to operate until we identify a viable successor – all other Cluster activities will be ceased, and we anticipate formally dissolving the Cluster as it currently exists in the coming months.
We did not arrive at this decision lightly, as all members of the Board share a strong commitment to helping to build and grow food businesses in Northern Colorado, and to bolstering our local food economy. Ultimately, this decision was made based on three factors:
- The Cluster received extensive funding in the form of grants in recent years, and this has allowed us to make strides in the very specific areas detailed in those grants. It has always been the goal of the Board – as well as the hope of many Members – to expand the footprint of the Cluster and become less reliant on grant money to allow for more diverse services and activities. At this stage, the Cluster continues to struggle to find its footing with regards to raising non-grant funds (e.g. membership fees, sponsorships, donations), and the Cluster’s budget became increasingly inflexible. Ultimately, the Board determined that, due to these fiscal challenges, the Cluster would be largely limited to grant-based activities and would not be in a position to grow and build its services for Members outside the grant activities in the foreseeable future.
- The Cluster has had difficulties attracting and retaining a permanent Executive Director to execute the long-term goals of the organization. Our most recent Executive Director (ED) is resigning due to personal relocation circumstances and was the fourth ED in four years since the Cluster’s inception. Due to the above-described budgetary restrictions, the Board felt it would be imprudent to launch another ED search. The lack of permanent ED leadership has made it difficult to both ramp up fundraising and increase non-grant funds, as well as to pursue the broader goals of the Cluster.
- Finally, to that end, each member of the Board saw the Cluster as an invaluable asset to the Northern Colorado food community, but we each also believed strongly that the Cluster should always aspire to do more. We know that many of the Members shared those hopes, and we have spent much of the past year working to find a viable path towards those goals. Unfortunately, when the Board met in recent months to assess the financial restrictions, it became apparent that there was no clear or immediate path to meeting those loftier aspirations.
Ultimately, we decided it was best to responsibly wind down the Cluster. We have seen firsthand the immense passion and ingenuity already present in the local food community in Northern Colorado, and it is our overwhelming hope and expectation that other organizations and actors, existing or new, will step into the space the Cluster is vacating to better serve our community. We intend to carefully preserve the work the Cluster has achieved and to make it available to all such community organizations and actors. As this process progresses, we will continue to advocate for and attempt to build bridges to support local food.
Practically, the Cluster will return certain grant funds received but not yet utilized in the coming weeks. We will also be returning membership fees to any Member who paid fees since the beginning of 2018, and will wind down other general Cluster activities. We will begin the process of closing down social media and other accounts in the coming months, but will continue to communicate with you via email in regards to this process and (we hope) other opportunities and efforts in the local food community that come to our attention.
One activity which the Board is still working to address is the Winter Farmers’ Market, which utilizes an independent budget within the Cluster’s budget. The Board hopes to identify an appropriate, qualified successor organization to operate the Market in the near future, and will provide updates regarding the Market as often as possible.
We understand members and the community may have questions regarding this decision, as well as practical questions regarding the Cluster and this process. For the time being, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com with any such questions.
The Northern Colorado Food Cluster moved the local food systems economy a step further; the decision to close it was complex, and we made a considerable effort to explore the best options for the community. We cannot thank you enough for your support of the Cluster and for your continued efforts to support our local food community.
The Board: Corey, Katie, Carrie, Brendan, Denny, Nathalie, Lauren