A conversation with Sophie from the National Young Farmer’s Coalition!
September 2, 2015

We got a chance to sit down with Sophie Ackoff of NYFC and ask a few questions about the amazing work that they do!

Sophie is the National Field Director for NYFC, and helps farmers across the country launch and grow NYFC chapters. She leads their grassroots campaign work and manages ther corporate partnership and membership program. While a Biology and Environmental Studies student at Wesleyan University, Sophie founded a campus food politics organization to source local produce and meat in cooperation with dining services and local Connecticut farmers. She has worked for Food & Water Watch in education and outreach and has farmed on several CSA farms in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York.

nyfc

1. What is NYFC ​and how do you​ ​all ​support local and sustainable agriculture?

We are farmers, ranchers and consumers fighting to create opportunity for young people in sustainable agriculture in the United States. Through grassroots advocacy, we work to reform policy to make land, capital and training accessible for beginning, diversified and organic farmers. We have a network of 28 chapters in 28 states across the country — these social and business networks are entirely young farmer-led and forge collective success for new farmers through communication and collaboration.

We’re currently working to add farmers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program which offers loan forgiveness after 10 years of income-based payments to doctors, teachers, government employees and non-profit workers. Student loans are preventing young people from finding success in agriculture– and with only 6% of US farmers under the age of 35– its critical that our government incentivizes this important work.

2. How long has NYFC been active, and where did it get its start?

NYFC got its start back in 2010 when three young farmers in the Hudson Valley of New York were struggling to grow their farm businesses on rented land. Land in the Hudson Valley can be prohibitively expensive and when they looked around for organizations focused on land access and the success of the next generation they found no one. At that time, young farmers were beginning to organize in Washington state, Michigan and Connecticut. Together, we decided to create a national coalition to leverage our voices to make change at the national scale.

In order to make farm policy more supportive of young farmers, we knew we needed a voice in the Farm Bill process. NYFC partnered with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to write the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act. Through calls, emails and meetings with young farmers and their members of Congress across the country, the act won bi-partisan support in Congress and many of its provisions were included in the final Farm Bill in 2014. We won full funding for beginning farmer training programs, a permanent micro-loan program, and decreased experience requirements on Farm Service Agency farm ownership loans. In between Farm Bill cycles, we have been working directly with USDA to make its programs more accessible to beginning, diversified and organic farmers.

​3.​ How can people get involved with NYFC in their community?​


If you’re a young farmer interested in starting a chapter in your region, check out our organizing handbook and videos at youngfarmers.org/organize. There you’ll learn what other chapters are up to across the country and learn the steps to getting one started in your community.
You should also consider becoming a member of NYFC! In addition to gaining representation in DC and supporting our work, NYFC members enjoy discounts at agricultural companies such as Johnny’s, High Mowing, FarmTek, Chelsea Green Publishing, Growing for Market and more.

4. ​What’s your favorite part of our film, Growing Cities, and why?

I love how optimistic Growing Cities is. It tells the stories of people who saw a need in their communities and did something bold to address it. There is no shortage of young people passionate about sustainable agriculture (both in our cities and in rural areas), our work is to make sure they have what they need to succeed. If young people are able to grow food for their communities, the future of food in America is bright.

5. What’s one issue in the food movement you wish people were more aware of?

The next generation of farmers are increasingly coming from non-farming families. In a survey of 1000 young farmers, we found 78% did not grow up on a farm. These young people face incredible hurdles in getting started including a lack of access to land and capital, and often tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt. It’s almost impossible to learn how to farm and start a farm business while making monthly loan payments. We’re seeing an entire generation of farmers trapped by their student loan debt. Fortunately, the Higher Education Act is up for reauthorization and with it, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) which forgives student loan debt after 10 years of income-based payments for professionals in public service careers. Our legislation, the Young Farmer Success Act, would add farmers to the PSLF Program. It was introduced into the House on June 1st with bi-partisan support. But to get the bill included in the Higher Education Act, we need you to reach out to your member of Congress and encourage them to co-sponsor the bill. To take action, check out farmingispublicservice.org.

Thank you Sophie!

A conversation with Sophie from the National Young Farmers Coalition!
September 2, 2015

We got a chance to sit down with Sophie Ackoff of NYFC and ask a few questions about the amazing work that they do!

Sophie is the National Field Director for NYFC, and helps farmers across the country launch and grow NYFC chapters. She leads their grassroots campaign work and manages ther corporate partnership and membership program. While a Biology and Environmental Studies student at Wesleyan University, Sophie founded a campus food politics organization to source local produce and meat in cooperation with dining services and local Connecticut farmers. She has worked for Food & Water Watch in education and outreach and has farmed on several CSA farms in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York.

nyfc

1. What is NYFC ​and how do you​ ​all ​support local and sustainable agriculture?

We are farmers, ranchers and consumers fighting to create opportunity for young people in sustainable agriculture in the United States. Through grassroots advocacy, we work to reform policy to make land, capital and training accessible for beginning, diversified and organic farmers. We have a network of 28 chapters in 28 states across the country — these social and business networks are entirely young farmer-led and forge collective success for new farmers through communication and collaboration.

We’re currently working to add farmers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program which offers loan forgiveness after 10 years of income-based payments to doctors, teachers, government employees and non-profit workers. Student loans are preventing young people from finding success in agriculture– and with only 6% of US farmers under the age of 35– its critical that our government incentivizes this important work.

2. How long has NYFC been active, and where did it get its start?

NYFC got its start back in 2010 when three young farmers in the Hudson Valley of New York were struggling to grow their farm businesses on rented land. Land in the Hudson Valley can be prohibitively expensive and when they looked around for organizations focused on land access and the success of the next generation they found no one. At that time, young farmers were beginning to organize in Washington state, Michigan and Connecticut. Together, we decided to create a national coalition to leverage our voices to make change at the national scale.

In order to make farm policy more supportive of young farmers, we knew we needed a voice in the Farm Bill process. NYFC partnered with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to write the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act. Through calls, emails and meetings with young farmers and their members of Congress across the country, the act won bi-partisan support in Congress and many of its provisions were included in the final Farm Bill in 2014. We won full funding for beginning farmer training programs, a permanent micro-loan program, and decreased experience requirements on Farm Service Agency farm ownership loans. In between Farm Bill cycles, we have been working directly with USDA to make its programs more accessible to beginning, diversified and organic farmers.

​3.​ How can people get involved with NYFC in their community?​


If you’re a young farmer interested in starting a chapter in your region, check out our organizing handbook and videos at youngfarmers.org/organize. There you’ll learn what other chapters are up to across the country and learn the steps to getting one started in your community.
You should also consider becoming a member of NYFC! In addition to gaining representation in DC and supporting our work, NYFC members enjoy discounts at agricultural companies such as Johnny’s, High Mowing, FarmTek, Chelsea Green Publishing, Growing for Market and more.

4. ​What’s your favorite part of our film, Growing Cities, and why?

I love how optimistic Growing Cities is. It tells the stories of people who saw a need in their communities and did something bold to address it. There is no shortage of young people passionate about sustainable agriculture (both in our cities and in rural areas), our work is to make sure they have what they need to succeed. If young people are able to grow food for their communities, the future of food in America is bright.

5. What’s one issue in the food movement you wish people were more aware of?

The next generation of farmers are increasingly coming from non-farming families. In a survey of 1000 young farmers, we found 78% did not grow up on a farm. These young people face incredible hurdles in getting started including a lack of access to land and capital, and often tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt. It’s almost impossible to learn how to farm and start a farm business while making monthly loan payments. We’re seeing an entire generation of farmers trapped by their student loan debt. Fortunately, the Higher Education Act is up for reauthorization and with it, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) which forgives student loan debt after 10 years of income-based payments for professionals in public service careers. Our legislation, the Young Farmer Success Act, would add farmers to the PSLF Program. It was introduced into the House on June 1st with bi-partisan support. But to get the bill included in the Higher Education Act, we need you to reach out to your member of Congress and encourage them to co-sponsor the bill. To take action, check out farmingispublicservice.org.

Thank you Sophie!

Spiral- Empowerment Through Permaculture
May 9, 2015

What a magical thing to stumble upon a beautifully unique, yet timeless experience… that’s how one feels when reading about Spiral- a summer intensive permaculture program for young women at Dig In Farm in MA. To learn a bit more about the structure here is an excerpt from their website:

“Offered at Dig In Farm (a ten-acre perennial farmstead) in western Massachusetts, Spiral is a month-long residential Permaculture Design Course, aimed to empower young women through regenerative agriculture. Permaculture is a design process that helps people design systems (be they agricultural, social, financial, or other) that nourish the earth, care for people, and bring a more just world into being. Students will graduate from the program with internationally recognized Permaculture Design Certificates”

Too good to be true? Well it gets better! Spiral is a program where hard work, play, observation and mentorship intertwine to create community and empowerment! Just take a look at some of their photos to get a sense of the beauty of the program and land:

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Can’t wait to hear the strength, stories and joy that come out of their first summer… stay tuned and learn more here!

 

An Inspiring Conversation with Noreen Springstead of WhyHunger
April 30, 2015

A 23 year veteran of WhyHunger, Noreen brings a combination of marketing, fundraising, program management, operations and executive experience to shape the vision and leadership of the organization. With two decades of steadfast commitment to the mission of WhyHunger, Noreen has directed program services to develop, support and replicate innovative grassroots solutions and established the fundraising and marketing department, guiding its growth over the years. She has led the cultivation of high-level corporate partnerships and built long-term relationships with notable artists, management and record labels resulting in millions of dollars in support to WhyHunger and its community based partners. Noreen is a graduate of Rutgers University with a BA in Political Science and completed an Executive Education Certification Program given by the Harvard Kennedy School. She has served on the board of numerous community and civic organizations.

whyHunger1

1. What is WhyHunger ​and how do you​​ support local and sustainable agriculture? 

WhyHunger was founded in 1975 and has always advocated looking at the root causes of hunger to create system wide change.  More recently, we’ve evolved more fully to be a grassroots support organization working with community-based organizations, and networks and alliances around the world to solve the problems of hunger and poverty through solutions that meet people’s immediate food needs today while organizing to ensure that healthy food is available to everyone through sustainable and dignified means well into the future.  We invest in grassroots solutions in the U.S. and in more than twenty countries around the world.  We seek out partners who share our core values, are community led, utilize agroecological practices, and focus on nutrition.  We also share the stories of sustainable food solutions from grassroots leaders in their own words.  Storytelling is a powerful way to help us build the movement to end hunger.

2. How long has the program been happening, and where did it get its start?

​Defining ourselves as a grassroots support organization began about five years ago.  We wanted to differentiate WhyHunger from other organizations addressing hunger and demonstrate that we go beyond the charitable feeding model and support innovations that empower local communities to envision and build towards a world free of hunger through nutrition, sustainable farming, and economic development. We see a clear distinction between “feeding” and “nourishing” as a solution to hunger.  WhyHunger’s work builds capacity, provides technical assistance, shares stories, makes grants and addresses hunger and poverty on a local level while operating from a national and international framework rooted in the belief that food is a human right.

3.​ How can people get involved with WhyHunger?​

We want to build our base of readership and support so subscribing to our newsletter and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is a great way to start.  Then you can engage us further in our activities and events. We also have a newly launched digital storytelling site (http://grassroots.whyhunger.org/ ) that features 60+ incredible stories of communities based leaders across the US and around the world who are innovating, creating and changing their local food systems. It’s a great way to educate yourself about what’s happening in your own backyard or across the country, and to learn about the folks who are leading the movement from the ground up!

4. ​What’s your favorite part of our film, Growing Cities, and why?

My favorite part of the film is that it highlights the community leaders, organizations and folks directly involved in these local projects, providing a platform for them to share their own stories and examples of the impact of urban farming in communities. From conversations with folks like Malik Yakini, Karen Washington and many others, the film offers viewers a chance to hear the voices of leaders in the growing food justice movement. At WhyHunger, we believe deeply in the power of storytelling ­- and specifically the power that comes when communities tell their own stories – to catalyze change in our broken food system. Taking the time to shine a light on these important local stories gives the film an authentic voice and heartbeat.

5. What’s one issue in the food movement you wish people were more aware of?

I think the idea of intersectional organizing is really key to ending hunger. The charitable model of distributing food coupled with shrinking government nutrition programs, though critical to meeting immediate needs, are not ending hunger.   We are hopeful that we can build a social movement that prioritizes food as a human right and illuminates the intersection of food with health, economic justice, racial justice and environmental justice. They all go hand in hand. And we need to work together with folks across these borders to make lasing change. Until we start really talking about and dismantling the systems that perpetuate the injustices that lead to hunger, we are missing the opportunity to not just reform, but transform our broken food system.                                  

6. Anything else you’d like to add? 

After decades of doing this work, I am more hopefully than ever. There is a renewed consciousness and awareness that we can’t keep operating in this broken system and that our people and planet are depending on change. You look at the organizing in last year’s People’s Climate March, the International Forum on Agroecology in Mali, the CIW’s Fair Food Program,  the organized demands for a living minimum wage, #BlackLivesMatter and on and on. The momentum is building for real lasting change and WhyHunger is actively supporting those communities and leaders who are at the forefront of this growing social movement for a just, nourished society for us all.

Thank you Noreen!

 

 

Humans of New York Captures Dreams of Farming
March 23, 2015

It’s inspiring to think about how many kids are learning about urban farming!

Thanks Humans of New York!

“I’m going to be a farmer. I know how to grow two types of crops. One crop is the normal kind. The other kind uses aquaponic systems. We have an aquaponic system in our classroom. It has a one ton tank with nine tilapia fish in it. It used to have ten fish but the biggest one died over Christmas break. His name was Frank. Anyway, the water in the tilapia tank gets filtered into another tank, where we are growing kale, hybrid spinach, and lettuce. Afterward, it gets funneled back into the tilapia tank and starts all over again. Everyday we have to measure nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, and one other thing that I forget the name so let’s not mention that one. Anyway, at the end of the year we are going to harvest everything that we grew. Then we’re going to make fish tacos.”

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