Nourishing Voices in Food and Farming at Edible Institute - American Farmland Trust

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Nourishing Voices in Food and Farming at Edible Institute

In November, American Farmland Trust again sponsored the Edible Institute, which Edible Communities hosted. Held in Santa Fe, NM, this year’s theme was The Hands that Feed Us. AFT’s Events team had the pleasure of attending this event and having the opportunity to speak with writers, regional Edible publishers, and thought leaders in the food and farming space. Additionally, we hosted two of our Brighter Future Fund (BFF) grant awardees to participate in the conference with us. These honored guests were Cherilyn Yazzie and Mike Hester of Coffee Pot Farms in Dilkon, AZ and Bobbi Smith and Dalton Morehead of Rockin’ Bar B Ranch in Cumby, TX. Also joining us was Liza Thuy Nguyen, the 2023 American Farmland Trust Agriculture Communications Intern at AGDAILY, who writes with a focus on helping to amplify diversity and minority voices in agriculture.

Being present for sessions such as Indigenous Foodways, Cooking to Sustain People and Cultures, and Rural Communities and Farming Legacies, it was evident that multitudes of hands are involved in every stage of feeding us all. Every presenter openly offered their personal story delving into why the source of their food is intertwined with the value of what they produce. Listening to first-hand accounts of what goes into producing was powerful as it’s these stories of connection which uncover why producers choose professions, whether farming or ranching, that are not for the faint of heart. Immense dedication and frequent affirmation of one’s “why” are essential for being a successful producer.

Bobbi, one of AFT’s BFF grantee recipients, shared her ranching experience and how she has utilized her grant funds to implement infrastructure to repair her five-acre lake which has positively impacted her operation. She discussed her life before becoming a cattle producer and how her many professional experiences influenced her to pursue ranching. The energy in the room during her presentation was palpable.  She illustrated her struggles with ranching, and the success she has had through integrating agritourism to financially supplement the ranch. She explains, “Unfortunately, what’s happening now is that the older farmers’ kids move out, have their own careers, and then return later in life with some money, but they don’t know how to farm. They’re not sure they really want to come back, and eventually, their ranch might be sold off and divided. And once it’s divided, it’s done. That’s what I’m seeing…if you want to keep small farms, you’ve got to pivot. My pivot was agritourism.”

At the end of the event, the seven of us gathered over a superb meal to discuss takeaways from the conference, what was next in store for our guests’ farms, and how receiving funds through AFT made a difference in their lives. Once we parted ways, packed up, and reflected on this nourishing day, our sights reset on the work ahead. We’re looking forward to the collaboration that will ensue from our connections with those whose goals align with our own: protecting agricultural land, promoting environmentally sound farming practices, and keeping farmers on the land. Each one of us can be a part of supporting the hands that feed us in food and farming.

*To hear Bobbi’s presentation at Edible Institute, please visit her YouTube page.

About the Brighter Future Fund:

American Farmland Trust’s Brighter Future Fund provides grants to help farmers nationwide improve farm viability, access, transfer or permanently protect farmland, or adopt regenerative agricultural practices. In 2022, the fund began prioritizing funding for farmers who identify as BIPOC, Veterans, LGBTQIA+ and beginning farmers who had limited access to financial resources in the past. Since 2020, AFT, with the support of Tillamook, Tractor Supply, and others, has provided approximately $4.5 million in grants directly to more than 2,000 farmers across the nation.

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Rachel Newcomb

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