Program Manager Laura Brookshire at the 2016 Farm Aid Concert in Bristow, Virginia
Program Manager Laura Brookshire at the 2016 Farm Aid Concert in Bristow, Virginia

Blog | January 25, 2017

Meet Laura, Farm Aid’s program manager

by Laura Brookshire

Hello!

I joined the Farm Aid team in late August of 2016. Before Farm Aid, I worked in agricultural economic development in local government, owned a small farm in North Carolina and studied sustainable agriculture, food systems and nonprofit administration. I am beyond thrilled and honored to serve as Farm Aid’s Program Manager. I have the privilege of working with the dozens of food and farm organizations across the country that participate in our grant program.

Farm Aid’s Grant Program

Since the first concert in 1985, Farm Aid has granted over $22 million to more than 300 organizations. That amounts to over 2,000 grants given! These grants strengthen the viability of family farming in America by helping farmers thrive, growing the good food movement, or taking action to change the agricultural system to one that is more supportive of family farming. Our grantees are on-the-ground partners, and we rely on them to keep us informed of, and inspired by, the work being done for and by family farmers.

Our grantees are on-the-ground partners.

This past fall was my first time involved in Farm Aid’s grant review process. I was so inspired and humbled by all of the work highlighted in the proposals we received. For the 2016 grant cycle, more than $500,000 was granted to 79 organizations in 35 states and Washington, DC. Each year, the Farm Aid concert allows us to meet new organizations in the concert region who then become first-time grantees. For 2016, the concert region included Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Washington, DC. We are so excited about our new partnerships and the work these organizations are doing! I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to one of them.

Meet One of Our Grantees

Dreaming Out Loud works in Washington, DC’s Wards 7 and 8, which experience higher rates of unemployment, poverty and food insecurity in comparison to other parts of the city. The organization started as a youth leadership development organization in 2008 to address these issues. They shifted their focus to the food system because they noticed that a lack of access to fresh, healthy food negatively impacts youth. Dreaming Out Loud operates under the principle that community members—and not outside entities—should control their own food resources. Through community-based urban agriculture, Dreaming Out Loud is rebuilding an urban food system that increases access to healthy food, improves community health, supports enterprises from communities with low income, and creates employment opportunities for at-risk residents, including youth.

Dreaming Out Loud Director Chris Bradshaw with Dave Matthews at the 2016 Farm Aid Press Event

With funding from Farm Aid and others, a strong network of collaborative partners, and engaged community members, Dreaming Out Loud will expand its food justice and food sovereignty work by developing a 2-acre urban farm behind the Kelly Miller Middle School in Ward 7. The Farm at Kelly Miller, as it has been named, will provide much more than food for the community. It will also provide educational opportunities for youth and adults; employment and economic opportunities for local farmers, markets and entrepreneurs; restorative environmental benefits; and leadership development and community building.

If Dreaming Out Loud or its leader Chris Bradshaw, sounds familiar to you, it’s because they had an active presence at Farm Aid 2016 in Bristow, Virginia. In preparation for the concert, we scoped out DC’s food and farm scene and the people behind it, including Chris. You can read an interview with him in one of our blog posts from last summer. Dreaming Out Loud taught concertgoers who visited the HOMEGROWN Village about urban agriculture through the lens of food justice with an engaging and interactive exhibit. Chris spoke on the Farm Aid stage during this year’s press conference, and Willie Nelson praised him for his work.

It’s hard to sum up the amazing work done by Dreaming Out Loud in one blog post, so please visit their website to learn more about their community-changing programs, sign up for their newsletter, and be inspired to take action in your own community to grow the Good Food Movement!

More to Come

Stay tuned for more stories about the on-the-ground partners of Farm Aid. I’m honored to work with these inspiring people and groups, and I’m excited to share their work and stories with you as we all work together to grow a family farm food system.

Watch a video, featuring Chris Bradshaw, of some of the people growing DC's urban agriculture scene and healing communities with urban gardens.

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