“A long, loving look at the real” is the meaning of contemplation, or being contemplative. I have loved this definition ever since I learned of it from Fr. Richard Rohr and want to give you all a reflective look back on this last year; one that’s less of a grocery list of achievements or a monologue of highlights, and more…real.
When I take that “long, loving look” back at our movements in Rebuilding Local Food Systems, and just try to sit with the grace to witness everyone and the experiences that unfolded, here are some threads I found and honestly, that I’m still trying to grasp and embody as we come into 2024:
“This work is messy, incremental, and wrapped up in imperfect politics.” There are so many different visions for good food, community, and even rural. How we even get there (process) and what we carry (values) into local food systems means that we are aware of the varying definitions from place to place, admitting that our strategies will be imperfect, different, and maybe even contradictory.
We started not just a food hub (My Foodshed), or wholesale distributor, but a nonprofit food hub that’s focused on feeding our rural communities with the same farmers and ranchers in their backyard. This meant our economics wasn’t based on efficiency, but on the needs of our farmers and communities across the plains. A quote I have heard from Darryl Birkenfeld, loosely paraphrased, is that once you’ve been to a small town, you’ve been to just that one, small town. This was wildly true as we uncovered so many ideas of “good food” and debunked the notion of any set of “community values,” as if all communities are defined by the same monolithic set of values. Stewarding a values-based supply chain coordination across large geographic terrain and with multiple visions of local food, that’s able to work across difference, and hopefully make a difference for everyone, has actually meant “unlearning” so much. How we stitch together different visions of environmental and bodily health, good food, and community enables change beyond the “local.”
Being Reflexive, and not just Resilient. Being resilient has come to be a hallmark trait and virtue presently. And rightfully so, as we work still, to shed some pandemic isolation, experience challenging growing seasons, and frankly, just live in the margins with most of us reading this newsletter dwelling in rural or frontier communities. Resiliency isn’t a luxury, it’s often mandatory. But a key finding from 2023, has been that maybe being reflexive is equally important to the moment; not having a set of standardized values, but a group of people committed to a process of making a better (, not perfect) food system through imperfect actions and changing circumstances. What would it look like to be committed to a clunky, emergent process of a food system that truly tends to rural communities, instead of some vision of what we believe it should look like?
I want to leave the more academic thoughts, and end with a more personal story. This is part thank-you-letter and part illustration to what I’m trying to get at above. I would leave my house for a vegetable pick-up in the Mora Valley anywhere from 5 – 7-something a.m. to arrive at Kristin’s farm. Once, before I departed, her husband and dad got on the ground to tighten my ball hitch ahead of pulling out. We would swap melons, seeds, and field walks in the early morning bitter air, regularly. I would then arrive at a little grocery store we were selling to in Colorado, often receiving a warm scratch-made breakfast burrito as I continued my route, finishing at another rural grocery store, roughly 400 miles in all, with a “friend-soda” in hand from Katie, the owner.
I know these gestures seem small and trivial, but I think it speaks to something so honest and resilient. We, as in the larger rural plains culture, aren’t doing/buying/living local out of transactions. Our localism and what we can build food systems on, is authentic relationships.
We are excited for 2024. There are so many movements, events, gatherings, and just flat-out relationships we are thankful to be in. As always, thanks for the fidelity to all the ways you’re stewarding place.
Alkon, Alison and Agyeman, Julian. (2011). Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, & Sustainability. The MIT Press
Our Team Expanded in 2023
Tucumcari & La Cueva, NM
Berlin joined us! This was a desperately needed and huge gift to the expansion of our organization and to the Rebuilding Local Food Systems movements as well.
She has brought so much stability to our work and being a small-scale, mixed-produce grower herself, she brings a deep, authenticity to personally supporting farmers.
And, again in 2024
Chris is joining us now at the start of the new year! He’s a backyard poultry raiser, a small-scale vegetable grower, a father, a husband, and one of the kindest, most gentle spirits you’ll ever meet. And lastly, a huge servant’s heart.
We’re grateful for the experience and background he’s bringing to Ogallala Commons. He’s going to be a great spirit in the Rebuilding Local Food Systems work and movements.
Local Food Producers Monthly Call
We’re beginning our virtual gatherings again for 2024 with our regular 10 sessions throughout the year. Held the second Tuesday of the month, these calls are a place to
- Share living and working knowledge around place-based, diversified vegetable production
- Engage in peer-to-peer learning and deep community connection
- Have your voice heard and supported as food producers and land stewards.
The same format and content will be followed as last year, basing it on the growing calendar and how we approach our farming operations with the seasons. We’ll look to do an array of educational talks from experienced practitioners, virtual farm tours, and structured dialogue.
If you are interested in presenting in any of these content areas throughout the year, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
We would love to have a wildly diverse group of diversified vegetable producers and regions represented this year.
Colorado Food Summit | December 7th-8th
Location: Denver | Colorado
We were able to attend the Colorado Food Summit in early December, being a part of a “Farm-to-Loading Dock Landscape Assessment prior to the event, to help coalesce and support movements in the farm-to-institution experience across the state. Pictured below is myself, blaze, Berlin Arellano, and Sabra Lovejoy out of Campo, Colorado. We were the only three representing the southeastern portion of the state at a breakout table.
The Food Hub
We are taking a winter pause in deliveries. We’re orienting towards finishing out our cold storage infrastructure, crop planning with anchor producers, and building a stocked inventory of dry goods and staples across the high plains.
Look out for us hitting the road again in early spring!
OUR VALUES AS A FOOD HUB
If you are one of the following, we would love to connect with you in either providing the product for you as a buyer or helping to open up market access for you as an agricultural producer:
- Food Service Director of a Rural School or regional institution (i.e. hospital)
- Farmer or Rancher
- Retail Outlet (i.e. grocery, corner store, co-op)
Because we are a nonprofit-based food hub, subsidizing our routes through providing technical assistance and support to farmers and ranchers, as a producer, you…
- keep 100% of the food production value (i.e. you set the price, and we don’t take a cut)
- have the pickup, travel, and delivery organized for you, with us as your distributor,
- and feed communities within a 150-mile radius.
And as a retail outlet or regional school/institution, you…
- get connected with farmers and ranchers in your area,
- are provided with marketing materials on your growers,
- centralize a point of contact, instead of coordinating with several producers,
- and feed your community with local products.
You can reach out to email@example.com for any questions or support!