Recent Articles About Faces & Visions

Faces and Visions of the Food Movement: Leigh Adcock

Leigh Adcock is a powerhouse in the food movement. She has been executive director of Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN) since 2008. Prior to that, she was a board member for the organization for 2 years, and served from 2003 – 2008 as executive director of the Iowa Farmers Union. Leigh has been instrumental in expanding WFAN’s scope to a national level, increasing membership more than six-fold, increasing funding from under $30,000 to $250,000 per year, and creating successful programs such as Women Caring for the Land SM,  a conservation program for women farmland owners, and Harvesting Our PotentialSM, the on-farm apprenticeship program which this grant proposal seeks to expand. She is also co-creator of the Plate to Politics project, a collaboration of WFAN, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) and The White House Project, designed to recruit and train more rural and farm women all over the U.S. to run for public office at all levels, from the community to the White House. She grew up on a 360-acre conventional grain and beef cattle farm in northwest Iowa, which she currently co-owns with her mother. She and her husband and two teenage sons live on an acreage north of Ames, IA. Read more

Faces and Visions of the Food Movement: Adam Brock

Adam Brock is an urban permaculturalist currently serving as Director of Operations at The GrowHaus, a nonprofit food justice center based in a half-acre greenhouse in Colorado’s most polluted zip code. He is a graduate of NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a concentration in Ecological Design and has been active as an urban agriculture practitioner and advocate since 2008. Adam is a member of Denver’s Sustainable Food Policy Council and collaborates with numerous sustainability- and social justice-oriented groups in the Denver area.

Adam’s passion for permaculture design extends into creative endeavors, including a sincere effort to create a regionalized cuisine in Colorado and work with hip hop artists to communicate good food ideas.

What issues have you been focused on?

Our work at The GrowHaus is about creating a hub for new ways of relating to our food, particularly in our neighborhood where the food system is pretty much broken. We believe in a holistic model that tackles food production, food distribution and food education simultaneously to rebuild our food system from the ground up.

Permaculture is a big part of our mission and organizational culture – we teach permaculture classes for all kinds of people, and it informs everything from how we grow food to how we relate to our neighbors. Read more

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Denise O’Brien

Denise O’Brien is a farmer and community organizer from Atlantic, Iowa. She has farmed with her husband, Larry Harris, for 37 years in the southwest of the state and maintains 16 acres of fruit and vegetable production. Denise also raises turkeys and chickens for market.

For over 30 years Denise has helped develop agriculture policy on the state, national and international level working specifically on local food systems and conservation issues. She is the founder of Women Food and Agriculture Network and recently returned home after a year working as an USDA agriculture adviser in Afghanistan.

Denise has spent years as an activist farmer, raising children and crops, milking cows and being politically engaged. Now, she wants to restore prairie, save seeds, support women landowners and encourage the next generation of women activists. Read more

Untimely Loss of Dairy Activist is Call to Arms

At a time when our nation’s family dairy farmers are in jeopardy of losing their farms and the independent dairy industry is in a state of volatility due to the price of milk paid to farmers, higher feed costs, corporate consolidation in the supply chain–and what many believe is a flawed pricing strategy–it was a huge loss when on August 7, 2012, Bryan Wolfe, a dairy farmer and activist, was tragically killed working his haybine on his farm in Rome Township, Ohio. He was 55.

According to Arden Tewksbury, Manager of the Progressive Agriculture Organization (Pro-Ag), Bryan was a well-known and respected dairy farmer activist who continually worked to obtain a fair price for all dairy farmers. He felt very strongly that a cost of production formula should be developed (like S-1640; the Federal Milk Marketing Improvement Act) to ensure all dairy farmers would have a fair chance to survive this RAT RACE that many dairy farmers are experiencing. Read more

Ben Taylor: Roots and Rhythms

Ben Taylor, son of legends James Taylor and Carly Simon, has roots as deep in the soil as he does in music, and he uses the stage as a way to spread awareness about local agriculture. He is an avid supporter of the Island Grown Initiative, a multi-faceted project based in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts that sponsors its own farm-to-school program, organizes a cadre of volunteer gleaners to harvest crops that would otherwise go to waste, educates beekeepers, and provides processing facilities for local poultry farmers.

Having heard about the program from his cousin Noli Taylor, Island Grown Schools’ Program Coordinator, Ben noted that the organization “tickled his fancy” for promoting a strong sense of connectedness within the community to the place they call home. Civil Eats recently spoke to Ben about his involvement in good food issues.

As a musician, how did you become involved with issues regarding food and agriculture?

Before I wanted to be a musician, I was looking for anything else that I could do. I’d been on a lot of wilderness excursions and I loved being in nature. When I first moved out of my home as a teenager, I went to New Mexico and worked on an organic farm out on San Juan Pueblo and that was just really cool. The guy that I worked for was this incredible natural mystic and I developed a profound respect [for him] and a different idea of what it meant to be a gardener. Read more

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Albert Straus

Albert Straus is a dairy farmer and President of Straus Family Creamery located on the beautiful shores of Tomales Bay and the Point Reyes National Seashore, 60 miles north of San Francisco. He is an outspoken advocate for sustainable, non-GMO dairy production, farmland protection and environmental stewardship.

Albert’s family farm, which has been operating for more than 65 years, began when his father, Bill Straus, began farming there 1941 with just 23 cows. Ellen Straus, Albert’s mother, read the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in the early 1960s and began the family’s strong commitment to environmental sustainability.

In 1993, the farm became the first certified organic dairy west of the Mississippi River, making Albert an industry innovator and organic pioneer. The creamery, which he founded in 1994, is a leading producer of the highest quality organic milk, yogurt, butter, sour cream, and ice cream. In 2004, Albert introduced methane-digester technology to convert dairy waste into energy, which today not only powers the farm but also powers his car. The extensive sustainability program that Albert implemented at the dairy and creamery also includes a closed-loop water reuse system; production of milk in reusable glass bottles; and an employee carpool program.

What issues have you been focused on?

Primarily it’s the financial viability of our family farm. Specifically, the lack of availability of certified organic, verified non-GMO feeds for cows. There’s pressure on farmers to grow GMO crops for fuel and not for food. I’m also focused on helping consumers and farmers keep GMOs out of our food supply. Read more

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Y. Armando Nieto

Over 1,000 people have gathered in Oakland, California to attend the Community Food Security Coalition Conference today, an annual gathering that, as Nieto says, is “a real opportunity to organize and a call to action to take back our food system.” We are just steps from the tent city housing a lively group of Occupy-ers and the boarded Bank of America and Wells Fargo storefront windows along Broadway Street. In light of these converging movements and the urgency of communicating the needs of the 99 percent, it’s fitting to highlight and champion the work of Y. Armando Nieto, Executive Director of the California Food and Justice Coalition. A child of the 60s, he is a staunch supporter of rising up and speaking your mind. Nieto is also a veteran of the environmental movement and a seasoned executive and development professional who is applying his business acumen towards good food for all. Let him inspire you to rise up and take a stand for what matters most to you and your community. The time is now. Read more

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Ken Meter

Ken Meter is a very smart guy. He’s also incredibly friendly and, I hear, very fun to hang out with. He’s vocal about how the government needs to stop throwing cash at commodities and start investing in communities and as author of 70 regional farm and food economy studies, his job is to shed light on the realities of food systems change with the hardcore lens of economics. One of the most experienced and dedicated food system analysts in the United States, Ken’s work integrates market analysis, business development, systems thinking, and social concerns.

As president of Crossroads Resource Center, Ken has over 39 years of experience in inner-city and rural community capacity building and is passionate about engaging low-income people in creating solutions for themselves. His pioneering study of the farm and food economy of Southeast Minnesota, Finding Food in Farm Country, helped strengthen a collaborative of food producers and led to the creation of the Hiawatha Fund, a regional investment fund. His work serves as a national model for analyzing rural economics and has been adopted by 45 regions in 20 states across the U.S. and in one Canadian province.

What issues have you been focused on?

I focus on how local farm and food economies work and how to foster an effective movement to build stronger locales. Read more

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Deborah Kane

Deborah Kane is the Vice President of Food and Farms for Ecotrust, a Portland, Oregon-based conservation and economic development group that has their hands in a variety of powerful pots including a USDA-backed online service called FoodHub that helps connect farms of every size with schools, hospitals, caterers, restaurants, and distributors. Deborah is also the publisher of Edible Portland. She was invited to the White House a few weeks ago to brief President Obama on FoodHub, which she hopes will go national next year.

What issues have you been focused on?

I’m very focused on connecting producers to domestic markets. Read more