This classic Willie Nelson tune topped our office soundtrack this winter, as I and other Farm Aid staff were busy clearing desks and packing bags to attend farmer trainings, coalition meetings, policy summits, and food and farm conferences from coast to coast. All in all this winter, Farm Aid staff participated in more than a dozen organized events in ten states across the country, including:
- The National CAFO Summit, North Carolina
- Texas Organic Farming and Gardening Association Annual Conference, Texas
- Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Annual Conference, Tennessee
- Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture Annual Conference, Pennsylvania
- National Family Farm Coalition Winter Meeting, Washington, DC
- National Organic Action Plan Summit, Wisconsin
- Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association Conference, Ohio
- MOSES Organic Farming Conference, Wisconsin
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Inaugural Meeting, Washington, DC
- National Farmers Union Meeting, Washington, DC
- National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, Oregon
- Georgia Organics Annual Conference, Georgia
Travel is a critical part of our work here at Farm Aid, giving staff the opportunity to interact with the many food and farm organizations we fund and partner with as part of the Farmer Resource Network, to swap stories and exchange ideas with family farmers and farm advocates in the field, to strategize around policy agendas and stay informed on legislative developments in DC, and to be inspired and energized by some of the most influential voices in the good food movement.
When we return from our travels, we all take a moment to reflect by circulating a road report around the office. In addition to recounting the when-where-who-why-and-whats of each trip, we like to think about what doors were opened through the experience and what steps we need to take next to advance our mission. My favorite part of the report follows the prompt: “the coolest thing I overheard.” I usually jump to this section first, eager to read any notable quips and to be encouraged by the great work going on across the country to support and strengthen a vibrant and sustainable network of family-farmed agriculture.
As we wrap up this year’s travel season, I am happy to report that countless “cool things” were overheard, and energy is high – not only in our office, but across the country. There are many challenges ahead of us as we face unprecedented economic times, increasing impacts of climate change, and escalating healthcare epidemics. Yet, many good folks are out there working hard in the fields, in our schools and communities, in the halls of congress and (as the song goes) “insisting that the world be turnin’ our way…”