Network Profiles: NHFA Backbone Team – Erin Hardie Hale
Erin's work with the NH Food Alliance focuses on research, data analysis, and writing and communication. Before joining the NH Food Alliance team, Erin completed a PhD in agriculture and science education from UC Davis with a focus on coalition building and collaborative research between farmers and conservation groups in California’s Central Valley. Erin also has a master’s degree from UC Davis in International Agricultural Development with an emphasis in post-harvest handling systems for horticultural crops. In addition to working on farms in Oregon and New Hampshire, she has extensive experience in agricultural training and education and has worked with farmers, farmworkers, and rural communities around the globe, from California and Kenya to Bolivia and Egypt. Erin is committed to finding ways that people and organizations can learn with and from one another to build healthy, viable food systems and support resilient ecosystems and communities throughout the world. She lives in Durham with her hardy-kiwi breeding husband, two very small and independently minded people, a sweet dog from Alabama, and four curious hens.
One current focus of Erin's research is on understanding how to evaluate the health and growth of different food system networks in New England. Specifically, she is working to identify a simple tool that can be used to map the evolving connections across the NH food system as a means of better understanding how people are collaborating and building trust and relationships. "We want to learn from our network partners about ways that the NH Food Alliance can better help to serve their needs and add value to their work," she says. "Gathering information like this helps us to continually learn how to do things better. We’ll use this information to adapt and modify our approaches and activities so that we can more effectively serve our partners and meet our common goals."
Erin finds working in food systems exciting, because figuring out how to feed ourselves is at the core of so many critical issues, including environmental sustainability, social justice, community health, and economic viability. However, that complexity also makes it challenging. "There’s no one way forward that will satisfy everyone, and finding common ground takes time, trust, and relationship building."
Erin doesn't think that we necessarily need new technologies or scientific research to tell us how to grow healthy food and get it to everyone who needs it in an ethical and responsible way. "What we really need to know how to do is share ideas and learn from each other. People are making it work in small and big ways all over New Hampshire." Learning about what works in one place and adapting it for another and supporting that innovation and collaboration is a driving force of the NH Food Alliance.