Community Development

This is our list of our bests for 2020.. we begin this blog post on Dec 7 and will add to it as we approach year end..

Best Report: The Food system: Concentration & Its Impacts by a respected group of authors including our own Douglas Constance from Sam Houston State University. Report presentation video.

Best Books we read: Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas. Gratitude to the National Good Food Leadership Network book club for including this book. Grain by Grain, another winner by Elizabeth Carlisle with Bob Quinn takes the reader through the long process to establish sound, durable businesses based on values of nutrition and retention of footways that are good for people and planet.

Best Virtual Conference: Mission Capital Data Institute Conference. The combination of pre-recorded 15m sessions coupled with 45m live sessions was a lively experience. This is one of the few conferences where I went back and viewed recordings of sessions I’d missed. The main benefit was the relevant topics including How to Make An Infographic and How to Use Pivot Tables in Excel. The agenda was laid out clearly and it was pretty easy find sessions. I found myself rushing a bit from session to session – not that different from in person life. -SB

Best New Way to Think About Food System VisionFood System Vision Prize Themes from OpenIDEO When we look at our work from different perspectives, we see more open doors to creating the new food system we want. (1) Traditional Wisdom & Practices (2) Community-informed Policy (3) Hyper-localization (4) Human-first Technology.

Best Indicators of a Shift in Academic Thinking About Food Systems – National Academy of Sciences workshop “Healthy People, Healthy Planet: Building a More Sustainable, Resilient, Equitable, and Nourishing Food System – A Workshop“, July 2020. The introduction by Dr. Patrick Stover, Dean Texas A&M AgriLife describes changed expectations of our food systems shifting to a more systemic analysis focused on long term health and environmental impact. Dr. Stover draws on the 2015 report, “A Framework For Assessing Impacts of the Food System” as the basis for this shift in expectations. Dr. Ricardo Salvador of the Union of Concerned Scientists walks through one example (among many) of COVID-19 among meat packing plant workers to demonstrate that scientists cannot legitimately address food as system without considering work welfare. Watch the videos here. Stover Salvador

Best New Government Resource – The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Transportation and Marketing Program webinars and resource listings during COVID-19 have been excellent resources, highlighting outstanding COVID responses for us all to leverage across the nation. The website design highlights sharing of the multitude of local food resources offered and gathered by this critical front line agency.

Local Food As Economic DevelopmentWorking Landscapes video. Food processing for schools and rural communities in Warren County, North Carolina. Worth a watch for economic development professionals! they used in depth participatory process called “Community Voice“.


by Kacey Hansen, MPH, Program Manager, UT Dell Medical School, Dept. of Population Health, Division of Community Engagement and Health Equity

This is part of a series of posts from participants in the Texas Local Food Anti-Racism training by the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). Together we are creating an anti-racist food system in Texas.

It was the start of day two of the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) Anti-racism Training.  After a brief review of the previous day, zoom breakout rooms launched. I can still picture it…9 squares with nine smiles on nine BIPOC (black/indigenous/people of color) faces in one zoom room.   

The Texas Center for Local Food took scholarship applications during the summer (2020) to provide a small cohort of Central Texans the opportunity to attend an anti-racism training.  The Center’s leadership understood that where food is grown, who grows it, stores, distributes, and prepares it is part of a larger and older story, which includes structural racism.  I come to my work as a public health researcher who has implemented several projects over my 20-year career, primarily centered on food – “go, slow and whoa” foods; fast and slow food; how food effects blood sugar; cancer prevention foods; food pantries, “food deserts”; and now drive-thru food pick-ups and produce delivery.  I am also a trained pastry chef and sit on the Austin/Travis County Food Policy Board. Significantly, I self-identify as Black/African American.

Like most of us, our office transitioned to virtual meeting spaces like Zoom and Teams in March due to the pandemic.  Every weekday from 8am – 5pm, for the past 6 months prior to the training, I had been in at least three meetings a day using this platform.  I am sure you are familiar with the drill: click a link; a room opens to people in squares; scroll to see who all attended; notice no one is smiling; aware that I may be the only black person attending (…that last part may not be part of your drill).   The training day started with the normal drill. I knew who all would be there, as it was day two, but this day was different.  I was in zoom exclusively with people of color.  Immediately, I felt like I belonged. I felt safe.  I did not want to leave the zoom room and the people in the other eight squares may have felt similarly, as the eight smiles emerged.

Maybe you do not “see” color and you believe all people are the same.  We talked about this and how nice it sounds, but how dismissive that phrase is. Why dismissive? …Others see my color and you probably do too.  By ignoring it, one dismisses the real experiences of people of color, experiences that are unique to those who do not benefit from the social construct, called race.  I am not treated the same as a person who is lighter skinned and/or identifies themselves as white.  

One other training topic was culture.  Attire, hair, speech, tone, volume, cleanliness, time, and food were included on the short list of things determined by one’s culture.  I, as an African-American woman, must think about this short list daily in order to traverse the “right” or later declared “white” culture.  As a person of color in a “white” culture, I experience micro-aggressions, like being told: 1) what foods cannot be heated in the microwave at work that are part of my culture, due to the smell, or 2) “I thought you were white”, when meeting in person after an initial phone conversation.  The intent with sharing my experiences during the training were not to shame people but to increase awareness or reveal blind spots.  If we say slavery is a “thing of the past”, but some still benefit from it, talking about those benefits and deficits, as well as the bias and privilege can change hearts and minds.  Those individual changes can improve the way we work, play, live and pray together.

Attending the Anti-Racism training was difficult for me.  It is hard talking about personal prejudice and racism. Equally, I felt vulnerable talking about how I navigate everyday life with people who do not share my experiences.  Though I contributed as a person of color, I witnessed newfound awareness and the start of changed minds.  These courageous conversations, whether one-on-one or group discussions are necessary.  If we narrow in on food, think about the type/quality, origin, quantity, and preparation methods you prefer.  Everyone needs food. Few grow it, but most buy it and many do not have enough of it.  Further, when we look at who is growing, packaging, distributing or selling food, a familiar story is revealed.  It is not an accident that white people in the US own more land, businesses, and capital when compared to people of color.  And I know those making the decisions around food do not look like those nine faces in those nine squares, sharing the same race or lived experiences around race as BIPOC in the United States.  We must do more than have conversations to achieve equity, but little will change if we do not start with the conversations.  One question I asked during the training, which I will continue to ask moving forward is, “Are those who are at the table, thinking about those who aren’t at the table and how their decisions as non-BIPOC will impact those who are BIPOC?”  Being anti-racist is not just not being racist; it is about dismantling racism in boardrooms, research labs, on farms and at your dinner table.  

by Holly Park

This is part of a series of posts from participants in the Texas Local Food Anti-Racism training by the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). Together we are creating an anti-racist food system in Texas.

Racism. I wrote it. You read it. It is a nasty reality that we live with but to fix it we can’t be afraid to talk about it. So say it again. Racism.

The National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) Anti-Racism training sponsored by the Texas Center for Local Food was an invaluable opportunity to start tough conversations, and learn how to continue them productively. Our trainers at the NCCJ sessions guided us towards truths I have a hard time seeing as a white person benefiting from the systemically racist culture and systems that currently rule America. Equally as important, this training also gave us the toolkit we need to further explore our own privilege (white and POC) and to productively combat the pervasive and thriving white supremacy in the world.

At the very beginning of the training, the leaders clearly defined rules to ensure everyone felt comfortable and understood how to be respectful of each other. In a safe place, for everyone from every background, we discussed what racism is and what it means. We covered some of the historical roots of racism, what exactly systemic racism looks like, the real world impact of racist policies, and some lived experiences of racism. We separated into a POC identifying group and a white identifying group to discuss any feelings and thoughts we had but weren’t comfortable sharing with the larger group. We also discussed why it was important to separate and give that space to everyone. Even though we are in this together and racism affects everyone, it does not affect us equally or in the same ways. Most importantly there were no stupid questions, no shaming, and no judgement. Best of all we were given resources to continue education ourselves and advocating for equitability. 

My most treasured takeaways from the training are things I wish I could share with everyone on the planet. They are concepts that seem so simple, but when patiently explained to me, mean so much.

  • Impact and intent are two (sometimes very) different things
    • What you say and what you mean are not always the same thing, even if you don’t know it. In the context of someone else’s life the words you choose will hit someone else in a way you may not intend, but is still very real. For example, you may think telling someone you are “colorblind” will signal to them you do not feel racist. However, you are signaling you would rather not think about race or racism. And while that may be easy for you, it is not a choice for many. “Colorblindness” erases the history of inequitable race relations as well as people’s current lived experience. So while you may intend to be “colorblind” as a way to not be racist, the real impact is you are perpetuating racist attitudes and propping up systemic racism by ignoring the problem or glossing over it. Just remember, not meaning to hurt someone doesn’t make the pain go away. 
  • What you don’t know can hurt you and the people around you
    • Continuing with the example of “colorblindness”, you may not know that it is a dog whistle for racism. But saying it, even if you want to use it in a different way, is still racist. You may not know better, but that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt someone. Another example is a company policy about acceptable hair styles. Policies about “professional hair” can discriminate against anyone with non-white hair. If an African-American woman wants to work in an office, she may not feel comfortable, or worse may not be hired, if she has Afro-textured hair and chooses to wear it naturally or in braids. While you may think a policy is about good hygiene and a neat appearance, not recognizing how ethno-centric and exclusive the policy is doesn’t change the damage it does.
  • It’s not anyone else’s job to educate you
    • You may still not understand why “colorblindness” or specific dress codes are racist and hurtful. Google it. It is not the job of any POC you may know or meet, not anyone’s job, to ensure you understand. Racism is a stressful and emotional topic. It can literally be life or death for some people. There are lots of public resources like websites, podcasts, books, articles, and more where people have chosen to speak up about systemic racism, personal lived experiences, and everything in between. As a human being it is on you to walk your own journey of compassion, empathy, and understanding. I encourage you to educate yourself for your piece of mind, for your own personal growth, for the people around you, and for the people you don’t know that are being hurt and killed by racism every single day. 

We were asked towards the end of the training to imagine what the world would be like if there was no more racism. What the exercise highlighted is that not only is that world beautiful, it doesn’t have to be fictional. How do we stop racism? We talk about it.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in the small town of Elgin, Texas, the Texas Center for Local Food (TCLF) teamed up with The Common Market Texas, and Elgin Independent School District (ISD) to distribute Farm Fresh Veggie Boxes to families in this town of 10,000 with a child poverty rate of 19%.  With grant funds not yet available, the Texas Center for Local Food sold boxes to those who could afford them and used those funds to donate boxes to children with diet-related illness through the Family Health Center at Elgin ISD. Beginning on March 24, 2020 the 11-week program provided 1,665 boxes of Texas-grown fresh vegetables to 486 families.  With an outpouring of compassion for community, over two dozen volunteers joined in and many folks who purchased boxes delivered them to neighbors in need.  One buyer bought an extra box each week for their dog sitter who was now out of work. Other groups of neighbors took turns buying a box for a family on their block. 

Staff of Elgin ISD’s ACE (Texas Afterschool Centers of Education; Texas Education Agency) and USDA-funded Farm-to-School program expanded the Veggie Box program to engage families in home cooking of these fresh Texas veggies.  Students and their families cooked meals together each week and shared their marvelous creations on the Elgin ISD ACE Facebook page.  Peer-to-peer learning and engagement was a big hit.  Elgin ISD distributed 485 boxes to families in just 3 weeks.  https://www.facebook.com/ELGINISDACE

Elgin student wearing chef's hat with the beautiful she made

 

In the summer of 2020, inspired in part by the Elgin ISD program, the Austin Independent School District kicked off its partnership with The Common Market Texas.  Funded by the Susan and Michael Dell Foundation, the project delivered over 9,000 boxes of Farm Fresh boxes to Austin students and their families. “With school closures, we leaned on our mission to support our school communities during these difficult months,” said Margaret Smith, Director at The Common Market Texas. “We are thrilled to partner with Austin ISD through our Farm Fresh Box program to increase healthy food access for children and families so they are ready to learn and grow. These farm to school partnership support Texas farmers, providing an important outlet during a time of great disruption in the supply chain.” 


In October, 2020 the Texas Center for Local Food received funding from the St. David’s Foundation to restart the Farm Fresh Veggie Box program with Elgin ISD’s ACE and Farm-to-School programs.  “Elgin families are deeply engaged in cooking together; students and adults love the freshness of these Texas-grown vegetables.  We are thrilled to be part of this effective collaboration,” said Caroline Johnston, Director of Elgin ISD’s ACE program and a member of the Farm-to-School team. Elgin student making zucchini pancakes


“Our collaborative, community response to this pandemic demonstrates the deep commitment of Austin ISD and Elgin ISD to Farm-to-School in Texas. Change begins with youth and families.  These engaging programs are exactly what we need to be doing to improve students’ health, and in turn increase their ability to learn while expanding economic opportunities for our Texas farms. It’s a win-win-win.” said Sue Beckwith, Executive Director of the Texas Center for Local Food.

The Common Market Texas is a nonprofit aggregator and distributor of local farm foods.  Their mission is to connect the good food from sustainable family farms to communities.  For over 12 years, The Common Market has worked with farmers and ranchers across the country to connect them to new markets including schools, hospitals, universities, and other community institutions and are proud to serve Texas farmers and communities since 2018. Website: www.thecommonmarket.org

The Texas Center for Local Food is a non-profit organization providing education, research, and technical assistance to create regional food systems in Texas that support prosperous family farms, healthy Texans and vibrant rural economies.  TexasLocalFood.org

Elgin student eating a fresh carrot and making a happy face
For more information, contact Margaret Smith, The Common Market Texas
margaret@thecommonmarket.org or Sue Beckwith, Texas Center for Local Food sueb@TexasLocalFood.org

This post is a living list of resources. Please use the comments below to add your resources and we’ll add them into the permanent post as we go.

Reading list from GoodReads

Training from the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ).

Community-Engaged Research Course is a class offered in 2019 as a pilot by Huston-Tillotson University to advance equity and data activism in central Texas. This topic is related to data collection and evaluation.

While not a direct resource, this meeting guide will help support meetings where all feel welcome, heard and valued. (Scroll down past their calendar). This guide is courtesy of Iowa State University via the Farm-Based Education Network.

The Case for Reparations, The Atlantic, June 2014

Identifying and Countering White Supremacy Culture in Food Systems, from the Duke World Food Policy Center, Sept, 2020. Excellent overview of white supremacy in food systems and clear direction for food policy organizations to follow – Now. — Sent by Errol Schweizer.

by Adam Orman

This is part of a series of posts from participants in the Texas Local Food Anti-Racism training by the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). Together we are creating an anti-racist food system in Texas. This post is by Adam Orman, General Manager and Owner of L’Oca d’Oro restaurant in Austin, Texas and founding member of Good Work Austin.

I have been in the restaurant industry for over 20 years.  I have advocated for restaurants to support their local economies, reduce waste, increase food access to communities in need.  My restaurant does not pay $2.13/hr and shares a mandatory service charge with all of our employees to create greater equity inside our walls.  In the last four years, we became members of a national restaurant labor organization that advocates for higher wages and educates about the racist history of tipping, the racist patterns of tipping and the connection between the tipped minimum wage and sexual harassment.  We are at the far progressive end of our industry but it is only now that anti-racist training is something that independent owners are talking about seriously.  Those who are less progressive are only now talking about overcoming implicit bias without treading in the swamp of wage inequity and theft, sexual harassment and the exlpoitation of undocumented workers.

I needed this training and our industry desperately needs this training and for more in our industry to be able to speak this language.  I learned better definitions for things as simple as race, prejudice and discrimination and more nuanced, complete definitions of white supremacy and white privilege.  I left better equipped to have sensitive conversations with our staff about why we’re going to pursue a different more inclusive model.  We have a toolkit from One Fair Wage to help us implement more equitable systems, have sought out combo virtual/in person trainings for our staff and Good Work Austin now that I see their value and have begun negotiations with OFW to hold online trainings for an Austin restaurant cohort of restaurant owners in the beginning of 2021. 

I am grateful for being pushed to greater action and hopeful that GWA and L’Oca d’Oro can effectively proselytize, change the way Austin’s restaurant’s go about their business and serve as examples of businesses that must do more for our communities instead of only being concerned about how much we can extract from them.  Thank you for this invaluable opportunity.

by Carolina Mueller

The Texas Center for Local Food invited Carolina Mueller to share her impressions of the training in support of our collective work to create anti-racist food systems in Texas. We are grateful for her willingness to share. Carolina is a food systems practitioner, part-time farmer and full-time graduate student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Carolina is the volunteer President of the Central Texas Young Farmers Coalition. Over the past decade, Carolina has worked in a number of positions all along the food chain. Her work in food spans from the big-picture national policies down to the personal experiences of individuals and communities.

In August 2020, I had the pleasure of attending the Uprooting Racism in the Food System training organized by Soul Fire Farm. I would like to share some of my experiences and takeaways from this training in the hopes that it contributes to the formation of a collective learning community that explores the effects of race, class and power in food. Food Justice and equity are phrases that many of us have been thinking and talking about recently as we consider how to fix our very violent food system. Two questions that I keep asking myself are: 1) what is equity really and truly in food systems and 2) how are we embodying it in our work? Sprinkled throughout, you will see more questions that I ask myself and ask you. The Soul Fire Farm training helped me get closer to answering these questions through historical education, poetry, personal reflection in addition to sharing tools and action items.

The training began by setting expectations that we would not expect to solve anything in these three hours. I appreciated the acknowledgment that centuries of harm won’t be solved in just one training. This was followed by calling in our ancestors, someone who came before us who we carry in our lives and work. For me it was my paternal grandmother, Ingeborg Keller, who passed when I was just a baby but is my closest familial connection to food production. The summoning of over 130 other names was such a powerful place to start and to acknowledge that the past is present. It also awakened in me the desire to dig more deeply into how those who lived before me have gotten me to where I am now. Who came before you that you want to learn more about? How does their life, personality or values connect to you?

Next, we moved on to a brief but important history lesson to contextualize how our (not broken, functioning just as it was built to) food system came to be. I learned about the Discovery Doctrine and The Tuskegee Institute Movable School established by Booker T. Washington. The Discovery Doctrine is the idea that European monarchies have a right to colonize and claim land in the name of spreading christianity. This notion, upheld by Justice John Marshall in the Supreme Court in 1823 (spoiler alert: Marshall owned land that he would have lost claims to without this decision) is the toxic sludge from which our current food system emerged. This is just one example of our messed up history, but we didn’t only focus on what was wrong with our history. Another big focus of what we learned was the notion of Indigenous and Black joy, resistance and resilience against the system of White Supremacy, like the Tuskegee Institute Movable School. I was in awe that those kidnapped and enslaved had the foresight, imagination and hope to braid seeds into hair, bringing with them the potential to plant a new future. If we let ourselves dream and imagine, what kind of food system could we create?

One of the tools that we were provided was a rubric to evaluate to what extent our organizations are complicit with the culture of White supremacy. Having worked in food nonprofits my whole career, this rubric really illuminated just how far the Central Texas food and farming community has to go. We could all benefit from this kind of critical introspection, and I urge our predominantly White nonprofit community to consider this training and apply the rubric to their work. Then, after finding opportunities for growth, making those shifts in leadership, power and vision. Who is allowed to be seen as a leader? How does current leadership make power or take power in our community?  Equity is more than a buzzword that organizations can drop into a mission statement or a job title; in order to have any meaning at all, it must be anchored in the desire to radically upend how we structure our work. That work will need to happen inside of us, inside of our organizations and inside of our larger communities.

Whether you are acting as an individual, a farm or an organization, here are some action items from Soul Fire Farm that you can explore, reflect on and manifest. Below are the action items that stood out most to me.

  • Reparations: person-to-person reparations
  • Policy: Fairness for Farmworkers (HR 40) and Breathe Act
  • Rematriation: Returning land
  • Solidarity shares: CSA sliding scale option
  • Divest/invest: supporting farms, businesses, organizations, institutions advancing food justice
  • Create good jobs and hire equitably

Before contacting Soul Fire Farm, learn about their work. Register for their Uprooting Racism training. Support the work of Soul Fire Farm.

by Alejandra Rodriguez Boughton

This is part of a series of posts from participants in the Texas Local Food Anti-Racism training by the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). Together we are creating an anti-racist food system in Texas.

My name is Alejandra Rodriguez Boughton, I’m originally from Monterrey, Mexico, but I’ve called Austin home for the past 12 years. I’m the owner and operator of LA FLACA–an urban farm in southwest Austin that grows global ingredients through sustainable practices for local restaurants. In a previous life, I worked as a corporate banker but I was unsatisfied with corporate life, so I eventually found a purpose in sustainable agriculture, and more recently food justice. 

Both in my time in business and food, I’ve witnessed and experienced pervasive, systematic racism. Many times I’ve been ill-equipped to properly respond to racist incidents in a constructive manner so I’m very grateful for the scholarship I received from the Texas Center for Local Food to attend NCCJ – The National Conference for Community & Justice week-long anti-racism workshop under the expert guidance of Nyaunu Stevens and Kris Wraight.

This training is so worthwhile for anyone looking to be a more effective anti-racist, no matter the color of your skin. From providing an eye-opening history lesson to creating a safe space for hard conversations with a focus on action, community, and healing. It was a transformative experience–now that you know better, you have to do better. I cannot recommend it enough! 

Big thanks to Sue Beckwith from Texas Center for Local Food for getting together a diverse group of professionals in the food industry to take this anti-racist training. Also to the funders of this scholarship the San Antonio Food Policy Board (Leslie Provence, Robert Maggiani), and the St. David’s Foundation. I cannot stress enough the value of this training as we work together to build a more equitable food system and would be grateful for any similar future opportunities.

#localfood #community #antiracism #antiracisteducation #leadership #foodjustice

From our friends at The Counter, this excellent overview of the history of Black farmers and current actions to dismantle racism in our food system.

Farmers market managers take note and count on us at the Texas Center for Local Food to support your shift to a more diverse customer base. “… the recent movement in the U.S. to promote healthier and more sustainable eating by supporting local farmers’ markets among other things was overwhelmingly white. So though there has been a boom in farmers’ markets in recent years — they grew by 76% from 2008 to 2014, and another 6% since then, according to the USDA — they typically serve affluent white populations and too often have erected barriers that discourage farmers and other vendors of color.

Black farmers’ markets work to “redesign the food system”