The MSU Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) within the Department of Community Sustainability is seeking a full-time Specialist – Outreach, to support outreach and business assistance efforts to Michigan food businesses to increase good food access to low-income urban and rural communities. The position will support existing CRFS initiatives and help to develop additional programming capacity to meet deliverables of a USDA-funded Regional Food Systems Partnership project. Core partners are MSU Extension, MSU Product Center, and the City of Battle Creek.
This position, as a full-time Academic Specialist in a partnership between CRFS and the MSU Product Center (PC), will support the Michigan Good Food Fund (MGFF), the healthy food financing initiative of the Michigan Good Food Charter and a $30M loan fund that to date has provided over $12M in financing to good food businesses. The work includes leading efforts through partnerships within Battle Creek and the SW Michigan region’s food systems initiatives focused on food and farm entrepreneurship, conducting outreach, and working one-on-one with entrepreneurs, especially focused on supporting entrepreneurs of color, connecting them to business resources and financing. They will support programmatic efforts aligned with the Michigan Good Food Charter in Battle Creek and SW Michigan, occupying an office in Battle Creek as well as on the MSU campus in East Lansing.
In partnership with the MSU PC, this position will also function as a PC Innovation Counselor, participating in MSU Extension’s Community, Food, and Environment Institute. Responsibilities include conducting outreach and marketing educational programs for business development for agriculture/food sectors to advance value-added products and services in line with deliverables of the grant. Personal, written, and multimedia education as well as planning and implementation of virtual, local, regional, and statewide events, such as Making it in Michigan, is an integral part of the position.
High emotional intelligence, using a racial equity lens in all program and communication efforts, network building and facilitation, and organization skills are critical for success. The position will be responsible for striving to create a strong, equitable, and sustainable networked food ecosystem in partnership with local organizations and area businesses.
This position is an opportunity for a collaborative, network-oriented, resourceful candidate to join teams supporting local and regional agriculture and food economic development in Michigan.
Provide business assistance to food and farm businesses in economically disadvantaged, rural and urban communities with a focus in Battle Creek and Southwest Michigan.
Aid businesses working to increase sales and access to financing.
Provide support to the Michigan Incubator Kitchen Network and to new Black and Indigenous entrepreneurs of color to start new businesses.
Help build increased capacity within project partners to provide technical assistance to food and farm business owners.
Contribute to collaboration among and across city municipalities, financial institutions, state agencies, and across MSU including via site visits across these groups.
Along with the project partners, increase procurement of locally produced products by retailers, institutions, and distributors in the focused communities.
Coordinate regional activities related to a recently funded USDA Regional Food Systems Partnership project. This will include facilitating business technical assistance to entrepreneurs, as invited.
Lead or contribute to development of outreach and scholarly publications on learnings; distribute information of interest to networks.
Contribute to MGFF, PC, and grant reporting on current funding and developing grant proposals to support new/continued work.
Data and impact tracking for the partners that includes developing a working knowledge of the Center IC database system.
Participate in CRFS, PC, and MGFF meetings, e.g., staff, strategic, and partnership meetings.
Significantly contribute to relationship-building among and across city municipalities, financial institutions, state agencies, and across MSU including via site visits across these groups, to identify needs and how to best deliver business assistance to support economic development through food in the Battle Creek area.
Contribute to success of CRFS and PC goals by providing business assistance to start up and expanding businesses, developing education to benefit food and farm enterprises including Making it in Michigan and other webinars and workshops, evaluation, and other team related duties.
Expected of all CRFS Academic- Outreach specialists:
Engage with relevant networks led by CRFS and/or partners and appropriate professional organizations;
Document and share project work and accomplishments; maintain regular internal and external communication about project activities; write grant reports; develop and report on an annual plan of work;
Actively participate in CRFS staff and strategic meetings and stay current on CRFS projects, activities, resources and publications as relevant to this work;
Represent projects and CRFS in a professional manner in all forms of engagement and communication; and
Help to foster, facilitate, and maintain the CRFS culture of anti-racism, trust, support, and accountability.
Status: This is a full-time, annual year, fixed-term position. Initial appointment will be for one year with annual reappointments contingent upon funding and performance.
Equal Employment Opportunity Statement
All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, citizenship, disability or protected veteran status.
Bachelor’s degree required; Master’s degree or comparable experience preferred. Prefer background in community food systems, business, economics, food marketing, agribusiness, community development, or a related field.
Minimum of two years’ experience working with agriculture/food enterprises.
Demonstrated experience using an equity lens in food systems educational programming and working with multicultural and diverse populations.
Demonstrated project leadership, management, and grant-writing experience.
Proven ability to effectively and diplomatically engage and collaborate with diverse stakeholder groups such as project grantees, nonprofit, academic, and governmental organizations, and funders. Experience in network-building and group facilitation.
Demonstrated resourcefulness and ability to problem-solve and think critically. Proven to self-direct and balance multiple projects simultaneously and to easily shift between working independently and as part of a team.
Demonstrated strong written and verbal communications skills and experience using a broad range of communication tactics.
Fluency in Spanish highly desired.
High degree of knowledge of and comfort with using technology in completing job requirements including Microsoft Office suite; online search, file-sharing, and collaboration platforms; electronic survey software; and phone/web conferencing systems.
Available to occasionally travel throughout the state and, less frequently, within the US, including overnight. Possession of a valid, current state driver’s license required.
Required Application Materials
Qualified applicants should submit a) CV b) a cover letter describing your interest in, and qualifications for the position. Include a statement of your philosophy that specifically addresses the alignment between your goals and CANR’s focus on excellence through diversity and inclusion, including summary of your experience with, or interest in working in diverse communities c) Names and contact information for three professional references.
If you have questions about the position or search process, please contact: Ali Farra, [email protected]
Please do not send application materials directly to Ali Farra
The mission of the Center for Regional Food Systems at Michigan State University is to work to engage the people of Michigan, the United States and the world in applied research, education and outreach to develop regionally integrated, sustainable food systems.
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