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Strategic Planning for AgriClusters

Overview of the ACRE Process


AgriCluster Resilience and Expansion - or ACRE for short - is a professionally-facilitated strategic planning process to help groups of farmers, especially those in value-chains, work together and compete more effectively in an increasingly complex world. The ACRE Program is hosted by the North American Food Systems Network.


By identifying shared concerns, shared histories, shared values, shared opportunities, and developing a strategic work plan, ACRE helps local and regional groups of farmers and their stakeholder allies - including fisheries, mariculture, agroforestry and timber production, food handlers, food processors and packagers, distributors, and retailers, as well as nonprofit and municipal allies - begin to transform into more resilient "AgriClusters."


The ACRE Strategic Planning Process includes a set of exercises that a trained ACRE facilitator uses to assist an emergent or existing AgriCluster that is struggling or at a strategic crossroads. Launching or expanding an AgriCluster can be fraught with anxiety for stakeholders. ACRE provides a means of examining options going forward in a systematic and transparent way that builds trust, transparency, and thoughtful deliberation. The final output of the ACRE Process is a simple but comprehensive strategic plan that is based on shared personal, economic, social, and environmental values and vision of the group.


The ACRE Strategic Planning Process has three key parts:


1. Formation of a Core Group (leaders who plan the strategic planning process)

2. The ACRE Workshop (a series of inclusive strategic planning exercises 

3. The ACRE Summit (stakeholders adopt the strategic plan and join work teams).


Additional meetings of the Core Group are also conducted after the ACRE Workshop and the ACRE Summit to ensure smooth transition to project implementation.


The key exercises and activities of the ACRE Workshop include the following:

  • Stakeholder Analysis of the Value Chain

  • Shared History Exercise

  • Shared Values Exercise

  • Shared Vision Exercise

  • Opportunity Generating Exercise

  • Initiative Build-Out Exercise

  • Prefeasibility Analysis

  • Drafting the Project Work Plan

  • Workshop Wrap-Up and Evaluation

  • Post-Workshop Core Group Meeting

  • The ACRE Project Summit

  • Project Implementation


Completing a full ACRE Process, from formation to implementation, can take several dozen hours to complete over several months. However, in some circumstances the process can be modified and expedited to meet the needs of groups who are more advanced in their project deliberations and development.


More details about the ACRE Program can be found here:

For more information about taking the online ACRE Facilitator Course, contact Kim Hines For information on becoming certified to teach the ACRE Strategic Planning process, contact Duncan Hilchey at

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Becoming a Certified ACRE Facilitator Trainer/Teacher


Becoming a Certified ACRE Facilitator allows you to teach the ACRE Process to others, for example at a conference, a workshop, or in a higher education setting. There are three steps to certification:

1. Completing the online self-paced course.

2. Taking the Certified ACRE Facilitator Exam (scoring a minimum 85 on the 2-hour, 20 question short answer exam).

3. Demonstrating your facilitation skills in a practicum (e.g., completing two ACRE workshop exercises in a real or simulated setting).


From more information, contact Duncan Hilchey at

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