Introducing Kaitlin Downs to the AFT Midwest Team
Some people play sports, others like music, but I like food: Every facet of it, from the eating, baking, fermenting, foraging, and growing. Growing up, I was incredibly lucky to live in the woods of Northern Wisconsin. My childhood was surrounded by tall pine trees, a small apple orchard, and spanning acres of berry bushes and wildflowers. My summers were filled with tending to the ever-growing gardens, weeding, watering, and eventually reaping the bounty of all our hard work. I’ve always loved vegetables, getting my hands dirty, and the magic of how one small seed can transform into incredible vines of huge pumpkins and trellises full of ruby tomatoes. But it wasn’t until many years later in college, where my passion for agriculture really deepened.
While researching my senior capstone project, I became incredibly passionate about land access and agrarian reform in Africa. It was through this project that I realized I wanted to work in agriculture, specifically for non-profits. I wanted to be a part of something that would help the earth and those who steward the land. This took many forms, as I began to seek out any opportunity that would make a positive impact on my community.
I had several internships ranging from the Milwaukee Courthouse to the Victory Garden Initiative, which worked to implement garden education and build gardens throughout the city. I worked with the University of Wisconsin-Extension to engage and elevate neighborhood support for a new community garden site. My passion for food and gardening seem to form a perfect nexus for my future career endeavors.
Over the past six years, I worked with the Biodynamic Association, which is one of the oldest sustainable agricultural non-profits in the country. Their mission is to promote the use of biodynamic agricultural practices, which are rooted in the work of Rudolf Steiner, creator of Waldorf education, who foresaw the issues around chemical agriculture in the 1920s. Much of my work centered around community engagement and our national farming conferences, where I helped to coordinate presenters & workshops, and strengthen our relationships with our business sponsors and community members. It was a fulfilling experience getting to work with farmers, gardeners, wine makers, and foodies alike who were so devoted and passionate about caring for their land, animals, and health of their communities.
I aim to bring this same level of dedication to my new role as AFT’s Midwest Operations Coordinator. I’m so happy to be grounded within the Midwest, my home, to do my part in helping to support the protection of farmland, promoting sound farming practices, and keeping farmers on the land!