Strategic Planning & Evaluation

Establish values, build vision, grow organizations. 

We provide strategic guidance, technical assistance and program design to support organizational management and growth.

What kind of community do we want to live and work in? What are the results we wish to see? Who will be our partners? What processes will we adopt to collaborate? How will we evaluate, discuss, know when we have achieved success?


We believe that evaluation is what David Grant calls “planning backwards.” We design innovative and participatory evaluation tools with communities to identify the measures that are valuable to them, generate and tell stories, adapt their programs, and grow their organizations.

We develop effective and appropriate methods for tracking and sharing results with diverse stakeholders, including community members, youth, peer organizations, funders, policy makers, and academia.

We coach people to effectively tell stories through narrative or photographs.

We facilitate Photovoice projects to engage communities in generating their own stories, capture data and analysis, and advocate for change. Photovoice combines community generated photos and dialogue to tell the stories of issues lived by residents, particularly to policy makers. See our blog:



Home Grown Springfield: Springfield Public Schools Culinary and Nutrition Center

Home Grown Springfield is a school food initiative of Springfield Public Schools and their food service provider Sodexo. The project aims to eliminate student hunger by increasing the quality of school food for its 31,000 students through scratch cooking in a 61,000 square foot state of the art Culinary and Nutrition Center. With funds from the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, Fertile Ground leads a diverse Advisory Committee made up of local and regional stakeholders who participate in quarterly advisory sessions focused on developing evaluation criteria and supporting the development of a replicable model. Fertile Ground captured the program’s first two years of  learning and evaluation in our latest report, found here.

CISA: Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program

CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) is a Buy Local organization based in western Massachusetts that works to strengthen farms and engage the community to build the local food economy. Fertile Ground is a learning and evaluation partner to CISA and their mentorship of three other Buy Local organizations across the state in providing trainings, technical assistance and networking opportunities to beginning farmers in Massachusetts. Fertile Ground enables CISA and its partners –  Berkshire Grown, Central MA Grown, and South East MA Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP) to tell the stories of successes and challenges faced by beginning farmers in their regions and to adapt their TA programs to meet diverse needs including land access, equity, marketing, distribution. We develop data collection methods, ranging from surveys to interviews to focus groups and build learning communities to enable Buy Locals to better respond to the needs of diverse beginning farmers and strengthen Massachusetts local food system.

Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation: Healthy Food Fund

The Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation aims to improve the quality and value of healthcare in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire by increasing access to fresh, affordable, local food.

Together Fertile Ground and DAISA Enterprises have provided critical design and evaluation services and expertise to the Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation’s Healthy Food Fund, which afforded three year grants to over 24 organizations in MA, CT, NH, ME for greater access to fresh food. Fertile Ground designed a learning community approach for grantees to share strategy and build capacity for tracking and evaluation. Click here to view the final report.

With the support of Fertile Ground, DAISA  developed GoodFoodTracker as a way to curate smart metrics, build compelling story formats, make reporting easy, and for grantees to access “info-sheet summaries.” Click here to learn more or request a demonstration.

“Catherine Sands was instrumental in helping our grant partners see the impact of their work not just in numbers, but in ways to be more inclusive and equitable.” – Mike Devlin, Director, Grants and Initiatives, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation

Gardening the Community

Gardening the Community is a food justice organization engaged in youth development, urban agriculture, and sustainable living to build healthy and

equitable communities. Fertile Ground supports Gardening the Community staff in co-creating a culture of evaluation, aligning their organizational values of justice and fairness, healthy people, and sustainable ecosystems to their program outcomes. Together with their intergenerational staff we developed a dynamic tool to map program outcomes, measures, and values.

Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan

The Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan was developed through a multi-year, state-wide engagement process aimed at identifying and addressing the most critical food system challenges and opportunities in Massachusetts. Fertile Ground contributed to the Food Access, Security, and Health chapter, developing recommendations based on listening sessions with food justice organizations, school food leaders, and community health advocates.