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Young Farmers Fellowships Train Water Leaders in the West

My name is Megan Davey and I am the Water Fellowship Coordinator with the National Young Farmers Coalition (Young Farmers). Young Farmers believes that farmers are leaders and change-makers. Through programs like the land fellowship, our newly launched Power in Land, Agriculture, Climate and Equity (PLACE) Fellowship, the California fellowship, and our water fellowships, we see resourcing BIPOC and young farmers as key to shifting power and advancing equitable policy. The PLACE fellowship will resource ten farmers in a majority-BIPOC space to contest the corporate climate narrative and build true resilience.   

The fellowship model is particularly close to my heart. I’ve called Colorado home for the majority of my life, and have been operating a diversified vegetable farm with my partner in the Southwest corner of the state for the last several years, growing food for several small grocery stores and restaurants. While I have the pleasure of now serving as Young Farmers’ Water Fellowship Coordinator, my journey with our fellowship program goes back to early 2020, when I was chosen to join the inaugural cohort of the Colorado Young Farmer Water Fellowship. Amidst the beginning of the global pandemic, I joined nine other young farmers and ranchers across Colorado to learn about the history, administration, law, and challenges regarding water in the Colorado River Basin (check out our recent blog post about some of the current water conditions in the American Southwest). 

I was initially drawn to the fellowship because of the focus on building representation of farmers of color and women in decision-making roles for water issues across the state. These groups have been left out of water policy in our state, and I was yearning to see myself and other farmers like me represented.

One of the components of our Water Fellowship is exactly that – seeking out and running for leadership opportunities such as a position on a local water board. For my journey, I looked to regional basin roundtables, but ultimately chose to join the board of my local Soil and Water Conservation District. Initially, I faced some barriers as conservation districts required board members to also be landowners. Instead, my farm has a lease agreement, and because of our land tenure we weren’t able to be a part of decision-making. After gaining authorization to represent my landowner, I have now successfully been a part of the board for almost two years. By seeking out and filling positions like these, we can start to change the composition of decision-making boards and pursue policy solutions that can support farmers who are young and BIPOC.

As my time in the Colorado Water Fellowship closed, I had the opportunity to join Young Farmers as a staff member. Now, I coordinate our Water Fellowship Programs and we currently have a cohort of fellows in New Mexico, and we’ll be hosting another program in Colorado this fall! 

Stay tuned for more information and applications to open in September.
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