In early November, more than 80 young farmers, staff, and speakers from 26 states gathered at Old Town Farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for NYFC’s 3rd annual National Leadership Convergence. Farmers from Georgia to Oregon, Minnesota to Arizona came together to sharpen their organizing and advocacy skills, strengthen their networks, and strategize together how to win a farm bill that supports all young farmers.  

Now is a critical moment for young farmers across the country to galvanize their voice as Congress negotiates the next farm bill. The farm bill affects nearly every aspect of food and agriculture in the U.S., from farm financing and beginning farmer education to farmland conservation and nutrition assistance. Convergence leaders returned to their home chapters—now 40 nationwide and growing—with tools for change and a national movement behind them.

Lindsey Lundsford of Tuskeegee, AL, and Eduardo Rivera of Minneapolis, MN.

We began this three-day leadership training by getting oriented to New Mexico. Local farmer, elder, and 2016 Convergence keynote speaker, Don Bustos, moderated an opening panel of chapter leaders from the Rio Grande Farmers Coalition and Northern New Mexico Young Farmers Alliance, as well as Gailey Morgan, a farmer with Tesuque Pueblo.

The panel was followed by a welcome video from Miss Northern Navajo, a welcome letter written by Convergence host committee member Denisa Livingston of the Navajo Nation, and a welcome address by former Miss Indian New Mexico Teen, CarlyJo Chavarria of the Santa Clara Pueblo and Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. After dinner—catered by NYFC member farmers Seth Matlick and Marjory Sweet—executive director of the Western Landowners Alliance, Lesli Allison, offered a keynote address, emphasizing the critical importance of finding your own voice in policy advocacy.

Young farmers gathered at Old Town Farm

The first full day of the training began with a state of the Coalition address by NYFC co-founder and executive director Lindsey Lusher Shute. Following the address, farmers broke out into regional groups to workshop how to strengthen their chapters and build solidarity across their regions. They then brought this energy into a plenary strategy session on how to win a farm bill for young farmers.

In the afternoon, participants chose two workshop sessions to attend from a wide-ranging list, including “Chapter Organizing”; “Advocating for Farmers in Your State”; “FSMA: What Small-Scale Produce Growers Need to Know”; “Working with the Media”; “Get that Money! Chapter Fundraising”; “Engaging Elected Officials”; and “Land & Money: Tools & Strategies from NYFC.”

We closed the evening with a community party with over 160 guests enjoying local tamales and green chile by El Modelo Bakery; live music from Lone Piñon; beer and wine from New Belgium Brewing and Lander-Jenkins; and a raffle with tons of great prizes. Students from the South Valley’s Center for Social Sustainable Systems (CESOSS) led us all through an invocation of the seven directions, and shared their poetry of advocacy, equity, and justice, for the land and for people.

Our last day opened with a commemoration of Veterans Day by NYFC board member, farmer, and veteran Davon Goodwin. Davon’s presentation led us into a plenary panel on building racial justice in the food system, which you can watch on NYFC’s Facebook page here (many other presentations were also livestreamed on NYFC’s page). We wrapped up the day by bringing our focus back to New Mexico with a presentation by local water expert John Fleck, and a plenary panel on Becoming Water Stewards with John and local chapter leaders, some of whom starred in NYFC’s film Conservation Generation.

***

This year we held the first-ever pre-Convergence: a farm tour of chapter member farms in Albuquerque to acquaint participants with the local agricultural landscape. Over fifty tour participants joined us on the tour bus, including Convergence-goers, community members and staff from the offices of Senator Heinrich, Senator Udall, and Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham.

Farmer and Rio Grande Farmers Coalition board member Casey Holland gave us background on agriculture in the city as we made our way to Albuquerque’s South Valley. There we met with Chris Altenbach of Ironwood Farm, whose integrated systems and hand-built technology combine livestock, vegetable production, and aquaponics into a working whole.

From Ironwood, we drove north to Sanchez Farms for a tour of the Armijo Acequia with community elder and mayordomo, Santiago Maestas and executive director of the Center for Social Sustainable Systems, Virginia Necochea. We learned about these ancient waterways that still flow through the city, carrying irrigation water to farms and binding the community together.

In the North Valley we met with Seth Matlick of Vida Verde Farm, who was busy putting up a third high tunnel and spoke with us about accessing land and the importance of season extension to his business.

We wrapped up the tour with a visit to Las Huertas incubator site and community garden with farmer and executive director of the Rio Grande Community Farm, Sean Ludden. Sean spoke with us about the connections between water and soil health, and the work they are doing to reconnect refugees to agriculture.

In the evening we celebrated the local farm community with a potluck co-hosted by NYFC, Rio Grande Community Farm, and the Rio Grande Farmers Coalition. Farmers prepared tasty mizuna salad, local beef chile, cornbread with freshly milled blue corn flour, and more.

***

The 2017 National Leadership Convergence would not have been possible without our guest speakers, presenters, host committee, and generous sponsors.


Thank you to our passionate guest speakers and presenters:

Lesli Allison, Executive Director,Western Landowners Alliance
Don Bustos, Santa Cruz Farm
CarlyJo Chavarria, former Miss Indian New Mexico Teen
John Fleck, Professor of Practice in Water Policy and Governance at the University of New Mexico and director of the university’s Water Resources Program
James Vincent Gleason, CESOSS Leadership Institute
Jennie Greb, CESOSS Leadership Institute
Lindsey Lundsford, Tuskegee University
Alexandria Lyons, CESOSS Leadership Institute
Gailey Morgan, Councilman and farmer, Tesuque Pueblo
Virginia Necochea, Executive Director,  Center for Social Sustainable Systems (CESOSS)
Alfredo Quiroz, CESOSS Leadership Institute
Laramie Sorensen, CESOSS Leadership Institute
Sarah Wentzel-Fisher, Executive Director, Quivira Coalition; Rio Grande Farmers Coalition
Ariana Young, Miss Northern Navajo

Thank you to chapter leaders who also presented:

Tiana Baca, Desert Oasis Teaching Gardens, Rio Grande Farmers Coalition
Chris Bueno, Gem Valley Farm, South Texas Alliance of Young Farmers
Ian Colburn, Rio Grande Community Farm, Rio Grande Farmers Coalition
Tierney Creech, Common Ground Farm, Washington Young Farmers Coalition
Brandon Francis, Four Corners Farmers and Ranchers Coalition
Davon Goodwin, farmer at O.T.L. Farms, NYFC board member
Casey Holland, Red Tractor Farm, Rio Grande Farmers Coalition
Tyler Hoyt, Green Table Farm, Four Corners Farmers and Ranchers Coalition
Taylor Hutchison, Footprint Farm, Vermont Young Farmers Coalition
Nery Martínez, Santa Cruz Farm & Greenhouses
Mike Nolan, Mountain Roots Produce LLC, Four Corners Farmers and Ranchers Coalition
Alex Pino, Revolution Farm, Northern New Mexico Young Farmers’ Alliance
Eduardo Rivera, Sin Fronteras Farm & Food, NYFC board member
Eric Sannerud, Mighty Axe Hops, Central Minnesota Young Farmers Coalition

Thank you to our Convergence host committee for their insight and guidance:

Don Bustos, Santa Cruz Farm
Micaela Fischer, Program Evaluator, New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee
Denisa Livingston, Co-founder & Executive Director, Dine Community Advocacy Alliance
Sean Ludden, Executive Director, Rio Grande Community Farm
Shahid Mustafa, Taylor Hood Farms
Kierstan Pickens, Executive Director, Santa Fe Farmers Market Institute
Alex Pino, Revolution Farm, President of Northern New Mexico Young Farmers Alliance
Sarah Wentzel-Fisher, Executive Director, Quivira Coalition; Rio Grande Farmers Coalition


Thank you to our generous sponsors who made the Convergence a success:


Harvester:

 

 

 


Cultivator:

      


Seed Sower:

Tiller: 

 

 


In-Kind:

             

 

 

   

 

 

 

Leave A Comment