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  • Inner grey ring is work that we organize and undertake ourselves.
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Originally published in the June 3, 2019 issue of VermontBiz.

Vermont Business Magazine Vermont still ranks at the top of the Strolling of the Heifers Locavore Index, meaning that it has the strongest producers and consumers of local food of any of the 50 states. But the rest of the Index has been considerably shaken up by new data derived from the recent Census of Agriculture conducted by the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

The Index has been published annually since 2012 by Strolling of the Heifers, a non-profit food advocacy organization based in Brattleboro, Vermont.

“When we first launched the Index, there was very little data available indicating how much local food was consumed in each state,” said Orly Munzing, founder of Strolling of the Heifers. “We were looking at the numbers of farmers markets and CSAs (consumer-supported agriculture entities) on a per capita basis. It was an indirect measure, a proxy for the real metric, which would be the dollar value of local food produced and sold in each state.”

That information is now finally available. Last month, the USDA published the results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture, which gathers information on the output and business practices of all of the nation’s farms. The Census of Agriculture is conducted every five years.

The 2017 Census included two questions about local food:

  1. The value of food sold by farmers directly to consumers (at farmers markets, farmstands, CSAs and direct online sales). This was first included in the 2012 Census.
  2. The value of agricultural products sold by farmers directly to local retailers, institutions, and food hubs. This was included in the Ag Census for the first time in 2017.

“Having this information allowed us to revamp the Index completely,” said Martin Langeveld, compiler of the Index. “These two metrics, combined, paint a picture of how much food is produced and sold locally in each state, through all channels. We looked at that on a per-capita basis, and ranked the states accordingly. So the methodology is much simpler, but also much more accurate.”

As a result of the incorporation of the new USDA data, there have been some major shifts in the ranks. For example, California, which ranked 27th in 2018, is now No. 2. Hawaii, which was 8th, is now third. And Washington jumped from No. 11 to No. 4. Other states with strong upward moves included New Mexico, Wyoming, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Several New England states slid to lower spots: New Hampshire moved from 5 to 16; Massachusetts from 6 to 22; Rhode Island from 10 to 33; and Connecticut from 17 to 27. Another major decline was registered by Montana, which was third in 2018 but is now 28th.

In Vermont, at the top of the list, the total local food sales per capita came to $166.22, compared to California’s $129.88 and Hawaii’s $107.29. “This is a combination of retail and wholesale sales,” Langeveld said, “so actual consumer spending on local food is more. But, when compared with per capita food consumption, including food away from home, of about $5,000 per capita, it could still grow quite a bit more.”

“That’s why we’ve been publishing the Locavore Index,” said Munzing. “The purpose of the Index is to stimulate conversations and efforts in every state aimed at increasing the amount of local food sold and consumed. That’s great for the farmers and great for consumers.”

Anson Tebbets, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets, commented: “This index shows how the Vermont public increasingly supports local food. This consistent backing, and the evidence of solid data, tells an important story. It’s clear Vermonters like what they are buying and are supporting local agriculture. Thanks to the public, farmers, and food companies, our rural communities are stronger. Let’s build on the good news here.”

Looking at the U.S. as a whole, locavorism has clearly been growing rapidly. The value of food sold directly to consumers via farm stands, farmers markets, CSAs and online, was measured in both the 2012 and 2017 Censuses. It more than doubled during that period, from $1.31 billion to $2.81 billion — a strong indication that consumer demand for food fresh from farms is growing by leaps and bounds. The new Census metric of food sold to local retailers, institutions and food hubs was not measured in 2012 but came in at $9.04 billion in 2017.


Because the Census of Agriculture doesn’t cover Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, those areas were dropped from the Index this year.

And going forward, Strolling of the Heifers plans to update the Index only every five years, following the release of Census of Agriculture data. The next Census takes place in 2022; results, and the next Index, will be published in 2024.

Strolling of the Heifers offers 10 reasons for people to increase their use of local foods, stressing that local foods are more sustainable, healthier, better for the environment and economically positive than foods sourced from large-scale, globalized food systems.

Strolling of the Heifers’ 10 reasons to consume more local foods:
  1. Supports local farms: Buying local food keeps local farms healthy and creates local jobs at farms and in local food processing and distribution systems.
  2. Boosts local economy: Food dollars spent at local farms and food producers stay in the local economy, creating more jobs at other local businesses.
  3. Less travel: Local food travels much less distance to market than typical fresh or processed grocery store foods, therefore using less fuel and generating less greenhouse gases.
  4. Less waste: Because of the shorter distribution chains for local foods, less food is wasted in distribution, warehousing and merchandising.
  5. More freshness: Local food is fresher, healthier and tastes better, because it spends less time in transit from farm to plate, and therefore loses fewer nutrients and incurs less spoilage.
  6. New and better flavors in each season: When you commit to buy more local food, you’ll discover interesting new foods, tasty new ways to prepare food, and a new appreciation of the pleasure of each season’s foods.
  7. Good for the gene pool and the soil: Local food encourages diversification of local agriculture which preserves genetic diversity and reduces the reliance on monoculture — single crops grown over a wide area to the detriment of soils.
  8. Attracts tourists: Local foods promote agritourism — farmers markets and opportunities to visit farms and local food producers help draw tourists to a region.
  9. Preserves open space: Buying local food helps local farms survive and thrive, keeping land from being redeveloped into suburban sprawl.
  10. Builds more connected communities: Local foods create more vibrant communities by connecting people with the farmers and food producers who bring them healthy local foods. As customers of CSAs and farmers markets have discovered, they are great places to meet and connect with friends as well as farmers!
About Strolling of the Heifers:

Strolling of the Heifers is a farm and food advocacy and economic development organization based in Brattleboro, Vermont. It has built a record, since 2002, of spotlighting the benefits of strong local food systems and encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in farm and food businesses. While Strolling of the Heifers is best-known for a whimsical weekend of events built around an agriculturally-themed parade, featuring well-groomed heifer calves led by future farmers that takes place this year June 7-9, the organization has focused its year-round programs on economic development work in the farm and food sectors, with the specific goal of creating jobs by working to foster small business entrepreneurship. It does this through Windham Grows, a business accelerator that aims to build the food and agriculture sector by connecting startup and early-stage businesses with critical services, resources and financing; the Slow Living Summit, an annual farm/food entrepreneurship conference; and the Farm-to-Table Culinary Apprenticeship Program, which trains under-employed individuals for careers in the culinary field.

On the web: www.StrollingoftheHeifers.com(link is external)www.SlowLivingSummit.org(link is external)www.WindhamGrows.org(link is external).

For further information about the Index, please contact Martin Langeveld, Strolling of the Heifers —newsafternewspapers@gmail.com(link is external) or 802-380-0226.

For information on the prior year Indexes, visit these pages:

Here is the 2019 Strolling of the Heifers Locavore Index ranking of the states (with the 2018 rank in parentheses):

  1. Vermont (1)
  2. California (27)
  3. Hawaii (8)
  4. Washington (11)
  5. Maine (2)
  6. Oregon (4)
  7. Idaho (12)
  8. New Mexico (24)
  9. Wyoming (21)
  10. Arizona (48)
  11. Pennsylvania (23)
  12. Michigan (16)
  13. Delaware (25)
  14. Wisconsin (9)
  15. Utah (45)
  16. New Hampshire (5)
  17. North Dakota (19)
  18. New York (28)
  19. Georgia (40)
  20. Virginia (32)
  21. North Carolina (34)
  22. Massachusetts (6)
  23. New Jersey (42)
  24. Colorado (30)
  25. Maryland (29)
  26. Minnesota (13)
  27. Connecticut (17)
  28. Montana (3)
  29. Indiana (36)
  30. Ohio (33)
  31. Florida (47)
  32. South Carolina (26)
  33. Rhode Island (10)
  34. Illinois (43)
  35. Missouri (38)
  36. Iowa (15)
  37. South Dakota (18)
  38. Alaska (22)
  39. Arkansas (35)
  40. Kentucky (31)
  41. Tennessee (41)
  42. Texas (52)
  43. Nebraska (20)
  44. Louisiana (50)
  45. Mississippi (37)
  46. West Virginia (14)
  47. Nevada (51)
  48. Kansas (39)
  49. Oklahoma (46)
  50. Alabama (44)
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We are honored to offer this guest post for this year's 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge by John Fisk, Director of Strategy and Partnerships at the Wallace Center.

What does it mean to center racial equity and inclusion in our work?  For us, a national level organization seeking to shift our food system, the answer is a journey, both a personal and organizational one.  When the Wallace Center was founded 35 years ago we aimed to support the growing movement working to create more environmentally sound agricultural systems. The Center was part of a group of organizations focused on fundamentally changing the U.S. food system which had developed a treadmill like reliance on synthetic fertilizer and pest control, monocultures, and federal subsidy programs, all contributing to water pollution, soil degradation and the loss of hundreds of thousands of family farms.  At that time, there was not a lot about racial inequity in that narrative that we could see or sought to address.  

In the early 2000’s we expanded the Center’s focus from the farm, to include more of the food value chain. Systemic racism and inequities became clearer across every link in the chain, from farm to fork. It is apparent in farmland ownership, to labor rights, from organizational power structures to food access. Yet, even as we expanded the thematic focus of our work, for the most part we remained willfully ignorant of these undeniable realities. 

Taking a Different Path

Over the last ten years this started to change. We began doing some work to address the disparities experienced by people of color in food systems.  We managed a small grant and technical assistance program  helping establish and expand businesses addressing healthy food access, most of which were led by people of color.  Similarly we provided resources and assistance to black led organizations in the deep south that were building wholesale value chains for black farmers.  There are other examples; however, these efforts were limited, and disconnected.  We were not an organization focused on systems to improve racial equity.  We did not apply a racial equity lens to any aspect of our work or our organization. But these programs helped to start us on the path.  We had a subtle but growing awareness of structural racism in the food system and a sense that without greater understanding we may unintentionally be contributing to it.  

In hindsight, with new eyes and expanded awareness, I now see there is a lot about racial inequity in our original narrative of industrial agriculture driving environmental degradation and collapse of rural communities.  It has always been there, we just did not see it or chose not to address it if we did, which is a symptom of being white and privileged in a society where people with race privilege are socialized not to see the benefits of their own privilege.  Black farm and land owners have lost their farms earlier and faster than white farmers, have not had the same access to technical knowledge and support and financing that white farmers have (more about the class action lawsuit against USDA won by black farmers here). Even harder to reconcile is the fact much of our agricultural land was taken through deception or force from the people of the First Nations and/or cleared and made productive through slavery. Today the vast majority of farm workers are Latinx or Hispanic, while the vast majority of farm owners are white.  

Navigating the Terrain 

Facing the reality that our food and agricultural system has extensive roots and current dependence on structural racism is challenging.  As a white man helping to lead a food system organization it means accepting responsibility both at a personal level and organizationally helping to shift how we operate and what we focus upon.  Just a over a year ago, with the support of our staff and an external racial equity advisory committee, I addressed participants at our National Good Food Network Conference in Albuquerque, and, committed Wallace Center to the journey of embracing a racial equity lens and applying it to all that we do.  We started with the conference agenda, subject matter and speakers reflecting this commitment and we featured and promoted the 21 Day Racial Equity Challenge. Once the conference was over, we formed a racial equity working group among our staff which has led our journey since then.  We engaged The Justice Collective to facilitate an internal racial equity training for our entire staff, to help pull back the curtain on racial inequity and identify practical ways to integrate a race equity lens in our processes, operations and programs. We have an optional racial equity coffee chat every other Thursday morning providing informal time to talk about what we are learning and our experiences. We have rotating facilitation and topics each time we meet, as a way to give all Wallace staff members an opportunity to teach and learn together. Each program area within the Wallace Center is using these tools to understand racial inequity within their area and identify ways to internalize it operationally and programmatically. For each of our initiatives this presents challenges and new opportunities. For all of us it urges us to work with greater intentionality and mindfulness. 

Looking Ahead

Deepening racial equity and inclusion in our work will be an ongoing journey. It means accepting the inextricable link between structural racism and our food system and our society at large, and incorporating it in our theory of change, our strategies, our organizational culture, and our day-to-day decision making. It means acknowledging the ways we have failed to do so throughout our organizations history and committing to changing this for our future. It also means accepting and embracing that as a white man in a position of leadership, I have a personal journey of awareness and learning to take. That, as Robin Diangelo says in White Fragility, “The racial status quo is comfortable for white people, and we will not move forward in race relations if we remain comfortable. The key to moving forward is what we do with our discomfort.” Over the past year I have gotten more comfortable with being uncomfortable. 


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Guest essay by Ken Payne exploring the connection between the structures of our world, especially for the 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge

Okay, this is tentative.  Writing what follows takes me out of my comfort zone.  The assertions I am making are provisional.  They question the bases of my own well-being and way of life.  

Where and how we live shape our everyday thought and constitute the world as it is for us.  Our external reality informs our internal reality.  The mind-body, culture-nature dualisms, on reflection no longer stand, if they ever did. But now they’re dysfunctional.  The institutional structures in which we participate and support our life, significantly define who we are.  If this is the case, then coming to grips with institutional racism is vital to breaking down other forms of racism. 

Three things I read during the year 2017 – 2018, put how I understand the primary function of local government in a different light.  What if local government serves fundamentally, the closely related purposes of protecting property values and preserving racism?  This possibility troubles me.  

Through the 1920s most of the population of my state lived in industrial cities.  Now most of the population lives in suburban communities.  According to the US Department of Agriculture there are no rural counties in the state.  The suburban towns are overwhelmingly white.  The old industrial cities are the home of state’s black and Hispanic population.  The manufacturing jobs, which once supported an urban working class, are largely long-gone.  About seven percent of employment is in manufacturing.   The major National Bureau of Economic Research Paper “Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States” by Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Maggie R. Jones, and Sonya R. Porter, 2018, (https://www.nber.org/papers/w24441), shows that black households had much lower rates of upward mobility than white households and much higher rates of downward mobility to which black males are particularly susceptible.  Comparable rates of white - black intergenerational upward mobility were found in few communities.  Where this happened were places that had low levels of poverty, low levels of racial bias among whites, and a high presence of fathers in black households.  I couldn’t think of a community in my state where these three conditions together were strongly present.

Two other works I read the previous year, suggested that this outcome was not accidental but an outcome of intentional policy and modes of thought: Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law, A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (2017) and Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped From The Beginning, A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2017). 

Local governments here have few functions: police, fire (which often includes ambulance services), public works, parks and recreation, planning and zoning, and support for k–12 public education.  Public education is overseen by school committees, and local property taxes are the major funding source. This short list of local public services has changed little in fifty years, and all of these services can be seen as protecting residential property values,.  This holds true even for education: more affluent households want to live in communities with good schools.  

Town and city councils struggle to keep property taxes low.  In towns especially, growth can be seen as expensive precisely because it may increase the need for public services.  Measuring the cost impact of development is commonplace for local planning boards, and the per capita cost of public services is a standard metric.  Households with children are costly.  High-end development, “McMansions,” generates more revenue per person than low and moderate housing, and therefore is favored. 

The structuring of local policies and services to protect property values is politically logical.  For most households in the US, the value of their home is their largest financial asset.  As housing values increase, home owners feel more economically optimistic and willing to spend.  The trouble is that this source of “wealth” is substantially mal-distributed by race.  Might not this reality contribute to the absence communities with conditions conducive to black household upper mobility. 

The modernist platitude, drawn from architecture, holds that form follows function.  If the form of local government services is consistent with the function of maintaining property values, could it be that institutional racism is thus an embodied attribute of local government? 

When one looks at the architecture of town and city halls in this state, this painful possibility has visual confirmation.  The architecture of town and city halls is an expression of white power and privilege, across historic periods.  

In 2014, when the state planning agency proposed an economic development plan that gave major consideration to social justice and environmental sustainability, a fire-storm of opposition broke-out in suburban towns; the fear was that there would be a loss of local control and ability to keep suburban communities safely as they are.  

Is unacknowledged institutional racism thus quietly but powerfully informing our collective daily life?

Ken Payne is a long standing member of the FSNE Network Team and the FSNE Process Team. He hails from Rhode Island.

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Guest blog by Renee Brooks Catacalos, author of The Chesapeake Table, Your Guide to Eating Local


When I took over Edible Chesapeake magazine in 2006, I made a conscious decision to include my photo with the publisher’s letter each quarter. I wanted to be recognizable, and not just because I’ve always dreamt of being a minor local celebrity. Frankly, I knew that sustainable agriculture was an overwhelmingly white world, even more so than it is now. I was often the only person of color, or one of a scant handful, at agriculture meetings or some farmers markets across the region in those days. I never felt unwelcome, and I don’t know how much having my picture out there as a hedge against surprise or even hostility might have had to do with that, but I know that I hoped it would help. I had never heard the term “white privilege” then, but I did know that a white publisher would not have had to expend the same level of mental energy I did around the reaction their color might have elicited.


This realization has been part of my journey of learning to connect the dots between subtle and systemic racism in our society, and some of the injustices present at all levels of the food system. It’s been eye-opening for me as a middle-aged black woman and non-confrontational Libra, who has generally tried not to attribute all societal ills to racism, to see the way some organizations and advocates have put an examination of structural racism at the center of their work around creating alternative and sustainable food choices for all. 


I’ve benefitted from hearing farmers and activists who are black, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian share their experiences, their consciousness and their resolve to put these issues on the table and force discussions that can lead to potential solutions. I’ve been fortunate to be part of the Chesapeake Foodshed Network and its Community Ownership, Empowerment and Prosperity pilot, a proof of concept around shared leadership, valuing lived experience, democratic decision-making, and participatory budgeting and grantmaking. We are experimenting with these initiatives as ways to dismantle dominant culture practices that stem from structural racism, and hoping to help seed these practices across our region and beyond to effect real change in our local and regional food systems.


If I had any lingering doubt that racism is actually built into our American culture, it was erased by a recent trip to Montpelier, the Virginia plantation of James Madison, considered the Father of the Constitution. The exhibit “The Mere Distinction of Colour” at Montpelier is a startlingly blunt and thorough look at the direct trajectory from the economy of enslavement that drove the wealth of both the Southernand Northern colonies, to today’s reckonings with racism through Black Lives Matter and other social movements. Most shocking to me was the description of the ways the Constitution protected and institutionalized racism against millions of people based on “the mere distinction of colour,” which Madison himself decried as resulting in “the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.” Yet, he did nothing to prevent it, either on his own plantation or in our founding national statement of principles.


America’s founding concept of racial discrimination against people who were not white has evolved into the socio-economic stratification we see in today’s food system and throughout society. Yet, the food system is an excellent entry point for work toward dismantling structural racism because every single person in the country has a stake in it and can do something to change things. We can buy from local farmers of color, support cooperative stores and urban farms in neighborhoods that have been ignored by commercial grocery stores, contribute to double-dollar programs at the farmers markets where we shop, and push to see the leadership of local nonprofits made up primarily of people from the communities they serve. We can support municipal and state regulations that lower barriers to entry for small entrepreneurs who want to farm, make food products or open food businesses. We can listen to farmworkers’ calls for action to improve their working conditions and pay, so they can live with dignity and with the potential to one day farm their own land. We can take seriously calls for land reparations to dispossessed Native American communities and black family farmers. For me, keeping the kinds of questions the Racial Equity Challenge has raised front and center in my mind helps me see more opportunities to take action every day.


Renee Brooks Catacalos is the author of The Chesapeake Table: Your Guide to Eating Local and serves on the Steering Team for the Chesapeake Foodshed Network. She recently joined the staff of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders as member and strategic partnerships manager. Find her on Facebook and Twitter, @reneeeatslocal, or on her website, reneeeatslocal.com.

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Our food system is built on stolen land and exploited labor. Here’s what we can do to fix it.

Guest blog by Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, New York.

Racism is built into the DNA of the United States’ food system. It began with the genocidal theft of land from First Nations people, and continued with the kidnapping of my ancestors from the shores of West Africa. Under the brutality of the whip and the devastation of broken families, enslaved Africans cultivated the tobacco and cotton that made America wealthy.

But the story doesn’t end with the Emancipation Proclamation. Later came convict leasing, a form of legalized slavery that kept many Southern black people on plantations—in some places until the late 1920s. Just a few decades later, Congress created the migrant guest-worker program, which imported agriculturalists from Mexico and other countries to labor in the fields for low wages.

All of this history combines to produce the racism I see today in my work as a farmer and activist for food justice. Farm management is among the whitest professions, while farm labor is predominantly brown and exploited. Meanwhile, people of color tend to suffer from diet-related illnesses such as diabetes and obesity, and to live in “food apartheid” neighborhoods—high-poverty areas flooded with fast food and corner stores, but lacking healthy food options. While some writers refer to these areas as “food deserts,” I prefer the term “food apartheid” because this is a human-created system of segregation, not a natural ecosystem.

Our food system needs a redesign if it’s to feed us without perpetuating racism and oppression.

Just as our ancestral mothers braided seeds of rice and okra into their hair before boarding slave ships, believing in a future of harvest in the face of brutality, so must we maintain courage and hope in these terrifying times.

As we work toward a racially just food system, abandoning the “colonizer” mentality that first created the problems is crucial. The communities at the frontlines of food justice are composed of black, Latinx, and indigenous people, refugees and immigrants, and people criminalized by the penal system. We need to listen before we speak and follow the lead of those directly affected by the issues. Here are three things BIPOC (Black-Indigenous-People-of-Color) farmers are asking us to do.


Over ¾ of our food is grown by workers who were foreign born, predominantly Latinx or Hispanic. Yet, only 3% of farms have Latinx or Hispanic managers. Farmworkers are excluded from many protections under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) such as collective bargaining rights, overtime limits, child labor restrictions, and workers compensation insurance. Many farmworkers receive wages based on “piece-rate,” e.g. 85 cents per 90 pound box of oranges. This practice results in ⅓ of farmworkers earning below minimum wage. Large corporations now control 50% of the food production in this country and push to keep farm labor cheap for maximize profits.

What can we do? Support the Fairness for Farmworkers Act of 2019. The people who feed our families deserve full protection under NLRA and FLSA, including a living wage, safe housing and transportation, breaks, overtime pay, workers comp and unemployment insurance, protection from pesticide exposure, and the right to collectively bargain.


Europeans colonizers seized 1.5 billion acres of land from Native Americans and the United Nations says that the U.S. should give it back. African Americans are also victim to land grabbing. In 1920, 14% of all land owning U.S. farmers were black and today less than 2% of farms are controlled by black people, a loss of over 14 million acres. In 1982, the US Commission on Civil Rights determined that discrimination from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was the primary reason black farmers were dispossessed from our land. The growing disparities between white and black people in land ownership in this country mirror the widening wealth gap, which has increased from 8:1 in 2010 to 13:1 in 2013. Ralph Paige of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives put it simply, "Land is the only real wealth in this country and if we don't own any we'll be out of the picture."

What can we do? Contribute to the BIPOC-led land trust work of the National Black Food and Justice Alliance, Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network, and the Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust. Support BIPOC farmers in your area by purchasing their products and offering to volunteer your time.


About 50 million Americans are food insecure, with half of those individuals living in food deserts, where it's difficult or impossible to access affordable, healthy food. This trend is not race neutral. White neighborhoods have an average of four times as many supermarkets as predominantly black communities. This lack of access to life-giving food has dire consequences for our communities. The incidence of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are on the rise in all populations, but the greatest increases have occurred among people of color, especially black and indigenous people. These illnesses are fueled by diets high in unhealthy fats, cholesterol, and refined sugars, and low in fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes. In our communities children are being raised on processed foods, and now over one-third of children are overweight or obese, a fourfold increase over the past 30 years. This puts the next generation at risk for lifelong chronic health conditions, including several types of cancer.

What can we do? Healthy food is a basic human right, not a privilege to be reserved for the wealthy. To honor this right, we need to resist the administration’s attempts to eviscerate the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).


For a complete list of action steps toward a just and equitable food system, check out Soul Fire Farm’s platform. If we are not acting to change the system, we are complicit, casting our silent vote to maintain the status quo.  


Leah Penniman is a Black Kreyol farmer, author, mother, and food justice activist who has been tending the soil and organizing for an anti-racist food system for over 20 years. She currently serves as founding co-executive director of Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, New York, a people-of-color led project that works toward food and land justice. Her new book isFarming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land. Find out more about Leah’s work atwww.soulfirefarm.org and follow her @soulfirefarm on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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In 2019, for our fifth annual 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge, you can experiment with our new "Discussion Guide" for groups that are doing the Challenge together!

Groups at schools, colleges, businesses as well as in government agencies, non-profits and in faith communities are joining together to dismantle racism in our food system and in our daily lives. The new Discussion Guide is a way to support that even more!

Download the FSNE Racial Equity Challenge Discussion Guide (Printable PDF)

The primary authors of the Discussion guide are Curtis Ogden and Karen Spiller, longtime participants in the Food Solutions New England network and co-chairs of our Racial Equity committee.  Curtis & Karen also share the Thomas W. Haas Professorship at the UNH Sustainability Institute, where the FSNE network is hosted.

Other contributors to this first edition of the Discussion Guide include:

  • Shannon Grimes, Maine Farmland Trust
  • Joanne Burke, UNH, Department of Agriculture, Nutrition and Food Systems
  • Lisa Fernandes, UNH Sustainability Institute
  • Jamie Picardy, USM Food Studies Program

If you have questions about the guide or suggestions on how we can improve this first edition for future years, please contact FSNE!

The Discussion Guide is offered in the spirit of collaboration and forward momentum. If you use any portion of this beyond its orginal format, please give attribution back to Food Solutions New England.  Not for commercial reuse.

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Racial Equity in Action: What Does Food Have to Do With It?

Join us for this kickoff to the 2019 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge! During this webinar, we’ll dig into the purpose and goals of the Challenge, get oriented to how it works, and hear from Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr. and Dr. Marguerite Penick-Parks, two of the original co-authors of the Challenge and others who have taken this 21-day experience into their work and into their lives. Hear how this experience of daily practice has been affirming and awakening, empowering them to action 365 day a year. 

Webinar Guest Speakers: Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr.

Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr. has pursued and achieved success in academia, business, diversity, leadership and community service. In 1996, he started America & MOORE, LLC [www.eddiemoorejr.com] to provide comprehensive diversity, privilege and leadership trainings/workshops. Dr. Moore is recognized as one of the nation’s top motivational speakers/educators especially for his work with students K-16. Dr. Moore is the Founder/Program Director of the White Privilege Conference (WPC), [www.whiteprivilegeconference.com].  His interview with Wisconsin Public Radio won the 2015 Wisconsin Broadcasters Association's Best Interview in Medium Market Radio, 1st Place, and he is featured in the film “I’m not Racist….Am I?”

Under the direction of Dr. Moore and his inclusive relationship model the WPC has become one of the top national and international conferences for participants who want to move beyond dialogue and into action around issues of diversity, power, privilege, and leadership. In 2014 Dr. Moore founded The Privilege Institute that engages people in research, education, action and leadership through workshops, conferences, publications and strategic partnerships and relationships. He is co-founder of the on-line journal Understanding and Dismantling Privilege, and co-editor of Everyday White People Confront Racial and Social Injustice: 15 Stories, The White Women’s Guide to Teaching Black Males, and The Diversity Consultant Cookbook: Preparing for the Challenge (Forthcoming, March 2019).

Dr. Marguerite Penick-Parks

Dr. Marguerite W. Penick-Parks serves as Chair of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Her work centers on issues of power, privilege and oppression in relationship to issues of curriculum with an emphasis on the incorporation of quality literature in K-12 classrooms. Her recent work includes an article on creating safe spaces for discussing white privilege with pre-service teachers and she is a co-editor of Everyday White People Confronting Racial and Social Injustice:15 Stories, The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys and The Diversity Consultant Cookbook: Preparing for the Challenge (Spring 2019).


Anna Muhammad

SisterAnna Muhammad is a backyard gardener that began gardening based on a request from her husband.  After realizing that gardening assisted with lowering their food costs and provided some additional income, Sis. Anna began studying gardening more intensely.  As a past Board Member of Gardening the Community in Springfield, MA, she began learning more about organic growing while serving her neighborhood at the same time.  Sis. Anna is also a member of the Massachusetts Northeast Organic Association for 5 years and she currently works for NOFA/Mass as the Food Access Coordinator and Webinar Coordinator.  She also graduated from their Beginning Farmers Program. Sister Anna wants to see all residents of the Mason Square Area and all communities in  Massachusetts have the access they deserve to fresh, wholesome food and to assist all that wish to grow food in their homes.


 Register Now! Webinar Team:
  • Kalila Booker-Cassano (co-host)
  • Karen Spiller (co-host)
  • Joanne Burke (panelist)
  • Curtis Ogden (panelist)
  • Lisa Fernandes (support)



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Unlocking Our Food Systems Change Capacity: A Network Leadership Retreat

May 7-10, 2019

University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire


Are you a local, regional, or national network leader looking to increase systems-level collaboration for food systems change? Eager to connect with fellow network leaders, learn new skills, and challenge old ways of thinking? Then join the Wallace Center’s Food Systems Leadership Network, Food Solutions New England, and 25 of your peers at the University of New Hampshire’s retreat center in Durham, New Hampshire this May for a unique convening and retreat for food systems network leaders. Register for a 30-minute informational callabout the retreat, taking place February 27 at 1:00 CT.

This retreat will focus on three interconnected skills of network leaders:

  • The ability to see and understand the whole system we are trying to change (systems thinking);
  • The skill of enabling others to see the system for what it is (facilitation of reflection and dialogue); and
  • The ability to serve as a leader grounded in racial equity, inclusion, and a shared vision for the future (leading from the future).

What You'll Gain:

Over the course of 2.5 days, you can expect to walk away with:

  • Inspiration: a new way to see your work and your leadership from a systems-change lens.
  • Improved facilitation skills: whether you have led one meeting or hundreds, you will have the opportunity to practice facilitation skills that you can take home to help you bring your community together.
  • Systems thinking tools: moving beyond theories of change, you will get tools that help you diagnose the vicious cycles that keep your community from creating the future it wants - and how to change that.
  • A way to unlock the learning and wisdom of individuals in groups: you will experience peer coaching, a structured tool to help leaders and community members answer their own questions with support from others.
  • New ways to see: we will connect with several transformative food systems change programs in the region to learn about the models used to successfully coordinate networks across New England. 
  • A peer support network: you will meet and spend meaningful time with fellow network leaders who share your passion for change and wrestle with similar challenges, and in the months following the retreat you'll have opportunities to remain in relationship and solidarity through peer and one-on-one coaching.

The retreat will be hosted by the Wallace Center and co-led by Karen Spiller of KAS Consulting and Curtis Ogden of the Interaction Institute for Social Change. Both Karen and Curtis have been deeply involved in the work of Food Solutions New England and are experienced facilitators. In addition, they share an appointment as Thomas W. Haas Professors of Sustainable Food Systems at the University of New Hampshire.


Register for a 30-minute informational call about the retreat, taking place February 27 at 1:00 CT.

Applications will be open through March 6. Access the application and learn more about the retreat here:https://foodsystemsleadershipnetwork.goentrepid.com/pages/retreat


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Please feel free to use these resources to help spread the word to your friends, family, colleagues and networks. 

For inquiries about the FSNE 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge, please contact:

Curtis Ogden, Interaction Institute for Social Change

Karen Spiller, KAS Consulting

Lisa Fernandes, UNH Sustainability Institute



The FSNE 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge (sometimes called the 21-Day Challenge or the Racial Equity Challenge)



shortlink: fsne.info/FSNEEquityChallenge


Every year in April. In 2019 the Challenge runs from April 1 through April 21.


A self-guided learning journey examining the history and impacts of racism, different kinds of racism, how it is connected to our food system, examples and tools on how to undo racism and build racial equity and justice.

The Challenge consists of:

daily email prompts (readings, video, audio) that take about 10-15 minutes each.

a launch webinar (recorded so that late joiners can view it as well)

a Discussion Guide to support groups at schools, colleges, businesses, churches or other organizations that may want to do the Challenge together

online discussion forums for those who may want to talk about the daily prompts and other learning along the way

2019 Planning Team:

Karen Spiller, KAS Consulting, UNH Haas Professor

Curtis Ogden, Interaction Institute for Social Change, UNH Haas Professor

Lisa Fernandes, UNH Sustainability Institute

Joanne Burke, University of New Hampshire

Kalila Booker-Cafasso, Harry P. Kendall Foundation

Julius Kolawale, African American Alliance of Rhode Island

Abel Luna, Migrant Justice

Betsy Skoda, Healthcare Without Harm

Jamie Picardy, University of Southern Maine

Becca Story, Northeast Dairy Council

Anna Mohammed, NOFA-MA

Shannon Grimes , Maine Farmland Trust



When you create social media posts about the Challenge, please use hashtags #FSNEEquityChallenge (primary) and #foodjustice #foodsovereignty (optional). We will be encouraging and moderating discussions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram based on the primary #FSNEEquityChallenge hashtag.

Newsletter/Email/Blog Language:


Sign up for the FSNE 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge coming up in April! In its fifth year, the Challenge is a great way to learn about the history and impacts of racism on our current food system while inspiring participants with resources and tools to build racial equity in their work and lives. People from all over the country participate in the Challenge, coordinated by the Food Solutions New England network in order to raise awareness, shift attitudes and change outcomes. This year a Discussion Guide will be available for groups who want to do the Challenge together.  Visit the FSNE Challenge website for more information or to sign up.


Please join (your organization's name here) as we embark on the FSNE 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge together! As an organization, we are committed to understanding and undoing racism in our food system. The FSNE Racial Equity Challenge, with small daily email prompts delivered every morning from April 1 through April 21, we can all easily participate in this transformative effort at our own pace.  Visit the FSNE Challenge website for more information or to sign up and contact (person at your organization) who will be coordinating some discussions for our group during the Challenge so that we can apply what we are learning to our own work.

Facebook and Instagram Language:

Sign up for this year's @FoodSolutionsNewEngland 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge running from April 1-21! Help dismantle racism in our #foodsystem, raise awareness, shift attitudes & change outcomes. #FSNEEquityChallenge #foodjustice http://fsne.info/FSNEEquityChallenge

Twitter Language:

Sign up for this year's @FoodSolutionsNE 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge! Help dismantle racism in our #foodsystem #FSNEEquityChallenge #foodjustice http://fsne.info/FSNEEquityChallenge




Get Twitter & Facebook Graphic



Get Instagram Graphic








Get One-Page Flyer

Get NEW Racial Equity Challenge Discussion Guide for Groups (coming soon)

Get Printable Racial Equity Challenge Tracking Log (PDF)


Get Register Now Button (and point to fsne.info/FSNEEquityChallenge)

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