This is the fifth and final installment in a blog series featuring the winners of our 2022 Muck Boot Chapter Capacity Grant Program. The grant program awarded five Young Farmers chapters with $5,000 to compensate their organizing efforts or to cover expenses for a specific project, such as COVID-19 response efforts, racial equity trainings, or virtual platforms to increase connectivity.
The Bay Area Young Farmers chapter, based in Santa Cruz and Mendocino County, California, is a new Young Farmers chapter led by, and seeking to support, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) farmers in the region. The chapter will focus on direct support for local farmers by creating a vibrant local support network for each other, taking part in advocacy and policy opportunities, and sharing tools and resources through the organizing of small-scale events throughout the year.
Farm bill policy advocacy and supporting local food system development will also be major goals of the new chapter. Funds from the Muck Boot Chapter Capacity Grant Program will be used to host a strategic planning process to clarify the chapters’ short and long term goals, and to provide stipends to compensate dedicated chapter leaders.
A group of young farmers in Santa Cruz first considered forming an official chapter in Northern California in 2019. While there was interest, the demands of year-round farming created a lack of capacity for many who were wanting to get organized. And then the pandemic put plans to form a chapter on hold until 2022. The intervening three years, however, became an opportunity to envision what a supportive and sustainable chapter could look like in their community.
Throughout 2020 and 2021, chapter leaders Veronica Mazariegos-Anastassiou, Cole Anastassiou, and David Antonio Robles realized they needed to set up a resilient network for folks to tap during increasingly common natural disasters, like droughts and wildfires. In order to support the next generation of farmers, they wanted to develop resources for farmers that could provide immediate relief. Due to COVID-19, chapter leaders saw a great rise in community-supported agriculture (CSA) sales, as well as demand from folks suffering economic hardship due to the pandemic. The soon-to-be chapter wanted to use the public’s interest in local, organic foods to leverage policy change that would ensure folks have access to this food and that farmers are resourced appropriately.
The Bay Area Young Farmers chapter held its first official meeting in June 2022. The gathering brought together a trusted group of farmers and community members that laid the groundwork for building a strong base of leaders. Chapter leader David Antonio Robles said that “before we invite the general public to be part of our chapter network, we wanted to make sure we had a strong network of leaders first.” David noted that it would have been hard to establish consensus in the chapter without first building a foundation for chapter members to trust their leaders.
“Now that we have a base we can build on, we hope to build the network one layer larger.” The chapter’s second meeting will focus on building a second round of leaders, and the third meeting will be for next generation farmers, farmworker families, and people from local agricultural organizations. The chapter members are excited to finally be meeting in-person and for the exciting organizing ahead.
Chapters of the National Young Farmers Coalition are the purpose for and partners in our mission to shift power and change policy to equitably resource our new generation of working farmers. Check out our website to see existing chapters in your area and email us at email@example.com to discuss starting a chapter.