Fighting for Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice in Minnesota

From foodtank.com by Clare Algozin
Fighting for Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice in Minnesota

The Minnesota Food Association (MFA) operates a number programs and initiatives that build a more sustainable food system based on social, economic, and environmental justice. They seek to impact local food production, grow more sustainable food producers, and enhance their connections to markets and resources within the St. Croix River Valley and the Twin Cities Metro Area of Minnesota.

Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Hilary Otey Wold, Executive Director of the Minnesota Food Association.

Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?

Hilary Otey Wold (HOW): MFA staff, volunteers and program participants are guided by our core values in our education, training, and partnership development. These include:

  • Sustainable Organic Agriculture: We use and promote food production practices that protect and improve farmers’ livelihoods, the environment, public health, and future generations’ ability to do the same.
  • Opportunity: We create opportunities for knowledge exchange, access to resources, and experiential learning in order to build a more sustainable food system.
  • Learning and Leadership: We recognize that each individual has something to learn and something to teach. We value intercultural and intergenerational exchange to ensure all stakeholders have opportunities to both learn and lead.
  • Collaboration and Community: We believe in partnership and collaboration as the best ways to build a strong community.
  • Equity: We strive to respect the needs and represent the perspectives of the individuals we serve so as to support them in leading change in the local food system and farming.

FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of? Please explain.

HOW: In addition to our extensive on-farm and community outreach, education and advocacy work, MFA also operates Big River Farms, a Certified Organic educational farm that provides hands-on training opportunities for beginning farmers from historically underserved communities. Some of Big River Farms activities include:

  • Big River Farms Training Programs provides aspiring farmers with the guidance and support they need to start up successful farming businesses.  Trainings are designed to address the unique needs and challenges of historically underserved, immigrant, and minority growers. The trainig programs are comprised of a comprehensive curriculum, provided through classroom sessions, mentorship, in-field training, and access to the infrastructure and resources available at Big River Farms.
  • Big River Farms Food Hub promotes equitable access to locally-grown, healthy, organic food for community members, and valuable marketing opportunities for farmers.  Boasting a CSA that serves 240 different households, multiple wholesale accounts with restaurants, co-ops, institutions, and a new farmers’ market program, our Food Hub has supplied tens of thousands of pounds of fresh produce to the greater Twin Cities community.

FT: What are your goals for 2015 and beyond?

HOW: Our goals include:

  • Continuing to develop and deepen partnerships to broaden our participant base and diversity; strengthen our core training programs; and further develop our networks to support food access and food justice. 
  • Increased community engagement by doubling the number of on-farm events during the season to provide opportunities for attendees to connect with their food and learn more about the farmers who grow it as well as the importance of sustainable organic agriculture. 
  • Develop and launch the new Youth and Family Engagement program to educate young people on sustainable agricultural practices; engage them with the people and processes responsible for the food that they eat; and introduce small-scale farming as a viable career option.
  • As our Food Hub grows, we have made it a priority to focus especially on developing new, alternative markets, which increase access to fresh produce for those with limited resources without compromising the farmers’ profitability.

FT: In one sentence, what is the most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system?

HOW: Know that your food choices matter; support local farmers whose sustainable practices improve your health, strengthen your community and local economy, and help to ensure your planet is cared for so that resources are available for future generations. 

FT: How can individuals become more involved in your organization?

HOW: There are a number of ways to get involved!  Visit our website at www.mnfoodassociation.org, follow us on Facebook or join our mailing list to stay updated or get more information:

  • Join our 18-week summer or fall Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program or visit our stand at local farmers markets (see website for more information)
  • Visit one of our monthly educational and fun community events at the farm throughout the season
  • Join our team of volunteers!  There are a variety of opportunities including physical work supporting farmers or our food hub, administrative tasks, board of directors support or working groups/committees, youth program support, etc.
  • Visit our website to make a financial contribution to support on-going operations or contact us if you're interested in capital investments, special projects or in-kind contributions

Download the 2014 Good Food Org Guide HERE.

Submit your suggestions for the 2015 guide HERE.

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