Local Food Forum 2019: Keynote Speaker

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Debra Tropp spent more than 26 years at the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s Transportation and Marketing Program, retiring from Federal service at the end of January 2019. During her tenure at AMS, Ms. Tropp devoted much of her attention to identifying emerging marketing opportunities for suppliers of locally and regionally-produced food in wholesale marketing channels, so that smaller/mid-sized producers could diversify their customer base, expand their sales volumes and improve their cash flow.   

Throughout her career, she has embraced a systems research lens for looking at local and regional food systems, focusing on the points of connection between public health, small business development, infrastructure and logistics, and community planning in enabling comprehensive and lasting system change.  

In 2009, Ms. Tropp was also one of the founding members of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food task force at USDA, and was an early and pivotal contributor to the Department’s work on the role of aggregation centers and regional/local food hubs in advancing the growth and viability of local food supply chains.   

Most recently, she served as the primary editor for the AMS-sponsored report "The Economics of Local Food Systems:  A Toolkit to Guide Community Discussions, Assessments and Choices (March 2016), and as a member of the four-person task force that framed and produced the Federal Reserve/USDA book "Harvesting Opportunity: The Power of Regional Food System Investments to Transform Communities (August 2017).  

A native of Northwest Indiana, Ms. Tropp holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations from Columbia University, where she studied Economic and Political Development.  She currently serves on the Food Economy subcommittee of the Montgomery County, MD food policy council, and on the outreach/education task force of the Kellogg Foundation Leadership Alliance, while she explores ways to apply her knowledge of local/regional food systems in a community development context.


Debra Tropp

Principal, Debra Tropp Consulting

Former Deputy Director, Local Food Research and Development, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service

"Harvesting Opportunity: Why Local Food is a Vital Part of Thriving Communities"  

This keynote address will explore how shifts in consumer attitudes and preferences over the past decade that have contributed to the growth in--and resilience of--demand for locally-produced food products. She will explain how the confluence of several emerging trends in consumer decision-making have helped to move local food demand from niche market to mainstream status.  Topics to be covered include recent changes in local food sales, differences across generations in food purchasing priorities and store selection, the ongoing diversification of marketing channels used by local food suppliers to distribute their products to household consumers and institutional/commercial food buyers, and the combined impact of these emerging procurement and  distribution practices on market access and profitability for small and mid-scale food producers.

Local Food Forum 2019: Guest Speakers

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Jeff and Zach Hawkins

Owners, Hawkins Family Farm, North Manchester, IN

The Case for Community Supported Agriculture: One Farm’s Example

Community Supported Agriculture is at a crossroads. The classic CSA box—a weekly grab bag of whatever happens to be coming out of a farmer’s field—is losing its allure among locally-minded eaters. Yet, the relationship that makes up the core of CSA, the alliance formed between a farm and its members, remains integral to the survival of small farms. In this presentation, Jeff and Zach Hawkins of Hawkins Family Farm explain the importance of CSA to their farm and describe their efforts to refashion the CSA model in order to better serve eaters, farmers, and the land that sustains them all.

Jeff and Zach Hawkins are third- and fourth-generation farmers on Hawkins Family Farm outside of North Manchester, Indiana. They rotate cattle, hogs, poultry, field crops, and produce around their 99-acre farm using a whole-systems approach, and market their products through Community Supported Agriculture, an on-farm store, and to restaurants. The farm also hosts weekly Fridays on the Farm pizza nights during the summer, which feature artisan pizzas made with locally-sourced ingredients and baked in an outdoor, wood-fired brick oven.