As the Spring Equinox marks a new season of growth on farms across the country, the National Young Farmers Coalition is excited to announce new leadership transitions that have taken place on its Board of Directors. The Young Farmers Board is the majority-farmer, majority-BIPOC governance body that guides our coalition, represents the needs and priorities of our farmer members, and ensures that we meet the targets of our new Strategic Plan. With this year’s elections, the Executive Committee of the Board is currently represented by all farmers! Roberto Meza has stepped into the role of Board President, Melony Edwards now serves as Vice President, Larry Tse as Secretary, and Jason Grimm as Treasurer.
Davon Goodwin preceded Roberto as Board President and his leadership contributions to the National Young Farmers Coalition cannot be overstated. Davon is an Army Reserve veteran, director of Sandhills AgInnovation Center, and owner and operator of O.T.L. Farms in Raeford, North Carolina where he grows muscadine grapes and heritage breed livestock on 42 acres. Since 2012, Davon has also worked with Growing Change, a nonprofit organization transforming former North Carolina prisons into therapeutic farms and community centers.
Davon’s expertise on young farmer issues has informed our work and campaigns since 2014. He was a lead advocate for our ‘Farming is Public Service’ campaign to add farmers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, sharing his personal struggle to farm with student loans with Congress and the press. Davon testified before the Senate Committee on Appropriations, advocating for increased funding for programs that support local food systems and diversified production. He spoke powerfully to the need for a racial equity transformation at USDA with Secretary Vilsack at the Coalition’s National Leadership Convergence in 2021. After successfully chairing the board through a Strategic Planning process which laid the groundwork for the Coalition’s next chapter and dedication to equity in our food and farm systems, Davon is making space for new leadership at the Coalition.
“Davon exemplifies the power of young farmer leaders in influencing the future of our food system. His on-the-ground experience building a farm business as a first-generation farmer despite student loan pressures, high land costs, and an unfriendly USDA office are powerful anecdotes for change in D.C.,” says Sophie Ackoff, co-executive director of Young Farmers. “Davon was not only a strong advocate for young farmers, but believed in the importance of a national young farmer community. The coalition had supported him through difficult start-up years with solidarity and friendship, and he wanted to give back.”
Roberto Meza, previously serving as Board Vice President, brings a depth of experience as a farmer and food systems advocate to the role of Board President. Roberto was recently appointed to Colorado’s Agriculture Commission, where he serves alongside Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, Kate Greenberg, former Western Program Director at Young Farmers. Roberto is founding farmer of Emerald Gardens, a passive solar greenhouse operation that supplies microgreens and edible flowers to restaurants, grocery stores, food pantries, and residents in the Denver/Boulder area year-round. Roberto is also cofounder of the East Denver Food Hub, which promotes equity and inclusion in our food system and expands access to fresh and ethically-produced food. Roberto serves as Chair of Membership and Outreach for Mile High Farmers, the local chapter of the National Young Farmers Coalition, is a member of the Denver Sustainable Food Policy Council, and is a board member of the High Plains Food Co-op.
“Roberto inspires our organization: he brings a grounded and ambitious vision for our work. He’s represented Young Farmers for years – from media appearances to sessions with the USDA Secretary – and each time underscores the creativity, solidarity, and commitment that is characteristic of our coalition,” says Martín Lemos, co-executive director of Young Farmers. “As a board representative on the Strategic Planning committee, Roberto represented his community of young farmers and was the encouragement to place our coalition within a long-tradition of struggle and solidarity. We are grateful to Roberto for stepping into this Board President role and all his contributions to making agriculture more equitable in Colorado and beyond.”
The Coalition is profoundly grateful to Davon for his six years of service on the Board, and welcomes Roberto, Melony, Larry, and Jason into their new roles. We’re excited to see how our new Board Executive Committee contributes their talents to furthering our mission of shifting power and changing policy to equitably resource our new generation of working farmers.
Learn more about our Board Members here.