SWFF Coop & Growing Partners’ Community Leadership Training

Usually with such early Spring weather it is a challenge to sit through a group work session. Community leadership training on food justice issues is certainly an exception! I had the honor of spending the day with over 20 men and women from Pagosa Springs, Bayfield, Cortez, Mancos, and Durango. We spent our morning divulging, formulating, and nurturing the seeds for community change. We focused on the issues of unequal access to healthy foods, living wages for local producers, and resilience in our regional food system. As Richard Male (a world renowned organizer) shares, “issues are problems with solutions”. The beauty is this change starts with people willing to commit and be actively involved. For a moment this felt daunting, but really we all have a function we can focus on.

Ole Bye, our General Manager, expressed this while speaking on the role of Southwest Farm Fresh for small producers in our area. Though we cannot always offer amazing low prices, we are representing the producers in getting a fair price. There isn’t much capitalizing in a producer cooperative. All net profits cycle back to the farms, the operations, and the continual development of our local food system. Ole noted that some of the greatest issues we face as a distribution cooperative are the crop supply and price point needs of producers. With so many creative minds ready to organize maybe we can find a way to finally bridge the gap of equal access and fair price for local products.

We were also lucky enough to visit the Cortez Middle School with Nina Williams of the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project. Amazingly they’ve planted 75 trees next to the football field. These will serve for genetic preservation, historical research, economic revitalization, and fresh apples in the schools! We also spoke with Travis Custer, a Board Member for the Montezuma School to Farm Project. This organization has expanded to schools all over the county and is now deepening its roots in the education system, showing new generations of local food eaters how to grow their own.

Travis Custer shares the impact school farms are having with kids and families.

Rachel Bennett
CSA Coordinator for SWFF Cooperative