Jordan Treakle hails from the mountains of western North Carolina and recently graduated with a degree International Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a student he was a founding member of the UNC student group FLO (Fair, Local, Organic) Food. Jordan directed the organization’s goal of promoting institutional purchasing of sustainable foods in collaboration with the Carolina Dining Services (CDS) and helped build new supplier partnerships that promoted local food purchasing and consumption. His efforts have insured that FLO Food and CDS together are developing a successful model for sustainable food to be served at a flagship, public university. His work with the Real Food Challenge, a national student-led NGO working to build the youth sustainable food movement, has helped to establish working relationships with a range of local community groups and regional non-profit organizations in the Southeast as part as the RFC’s national campaign to increase direct farm-to-university links in the food chain. He is currently organizing farmers around hydraulic fracturing issues at the Rural Advancement Foundation International.
CE: What issues have you been focused on?
JT: For the past three years I’ve focused on student and youth organizing around agriculture issues in North Carolina and the Southeast. I initially became interested in industrial hog production in North Carolina and the effects it has on the land and the people in my home state. This led to analyzing the institutional food purchasing of my university and how students can advocate for universities to invest in sustainable food systems.
CE: What inspires you to do this work?
JT: I first learned about environmental justice at UNC and had the opportunity to visit some farms in eastern North Carolina and talk to African American farmers in Tillery, North Carolina which is a community that has faced incredible struggle and oppression both from political marginalization as well as the hog industry that operates in the region. I was shocked to learn from these community members about how hog waste lagoons and the environmental damage resulting from this industry degrades these people’s quality of life. So the realization of the environmental injustices in our own back yard of eastern North Carolina inspired me to get involved.
CE: What’s your overall vision?
JT: I’d like to see sustainable agriculture become an important and passionate issue for young people. Whether that’s more youth becoming farmers or students becoming activists in their communities and schools and advocating for regionalized, sustainable and just food systems, I believe young people have an important role in this movement.
CE: What books and/or blogs are you reading right now?
JT: I’m reading Tim Tyson’s Blood Done Sign My Name about the Civil Rights movement in North Carolina which takes place in Sanford about 20 miles from where I live now. I also enjoy reading Tom Philpott on Grist and, of course Civil Eats.
CE: Who’s in your community?
JT: I live in Carrboro which is a pretty small town and used to be a mill town. We’re really fortunate to be surrounded by a strong agriculture community and there are a lot of innovative small farms nearby. Participating in farmers markets and food events in my community is something I really value.
CE: What are your commitments?
JT: Although I’m no longer a student I’m committed to staying involved in the youth sustainable food movement. Social justice issues in agriculture brought me into this movement so continuing to address these issues is also an important goal for me. And I believe my work at the Rural Advancement Foundation International on hydraulic fracturing issues has the potential to have significant impacts on farmer rights and works toward that commitment.
CE: What are your goals?
JT: To continue to stay invested in my community and the farming community here. To staying connected to local growers and learn from these farmers and expand my knowledge of the food system. And to create opportunities for young people to become engaged in their local food system.
CE: What does change look like to you?
JT: Change looks like young enthusiasm. I think we need youthful energy to promote justice and sustainability in our food system and young people need to realize that change can be fun and beneficial on so many levels, whether its the environment, social justice, personal health, or economic development. But change requires a positive energy and enthusiasm and I think young people can be a driver for that change.
CE: Regarding the practicalities of enacting change, what planning is involved? What kind of outreach?
JT: A diverse coalition of different stakeholders is a very important component. One of the limitations of working on a college campus is that by nature students are people privileged with the opportunity of education. So outreach and the development of working relationships with groups and individuals outside the framework of privilege is crucial. All backgrounds and perspectives have a role in this movement and so we need to create diverse coalitions to enact change.
CE: What projects are affiliated with yours?
JT: So many issues relate to agriculture and food and one of the great benefits of working as an organizer is the opportunity to work with a wide variety of campus and community groups and collaborating toward a common goal. So working with and learning from environmentalists, farm worker advocacy groups, nutrition experts, and animal rights activists, to name a few, greatly expanded my perspective of how youth organizing for sustainable food systems can contribute to positive change in our society.
CE: What projects and people have you got your eye on or are you impressed by?
JT: The Durham Inner-city Gardeners (DIG) is a very inspiring group of teenagers dedicated to building the urban gardening movement and youth leadership development. I’m also very interested in the growth of the Domestic Fair Trade Association which is working to bring fair trade organizations together to organize around forward thinking fair trade labeling and standards.
CE: Where do you see the state of agriculture/food policy in the next 5-10 years? Is real policy change a real possibility?
JT: There are plenty of challenges ahead both at the local and federal level but I have hope that important issues like promoting organic agriculture, supporting just farm labor standards, and strong regulation of GMOs will be addressed at the federal level. And I believe that grassroots movements for sustainable agriculture and youth involvement in these political campaigns will be an important driving factor for real forward thinking policy change in the future.
CE: What does the food movement need to do, be or have to be more effective?
JT: Illustrating the economic benefits of sustainable agriculture I believe is a very important aspect of building this movement. We’ve all heard the criticism that sustainability produced food is more expensive and therefore elitist. So developing an economically viable system in which farm labor can be fairly compensated, farmers can get a just price, and all people have equal access to healthy sustainably food is the most important goal in my mind.
CE: What would you want to be your last meal on earth?
JT: Pasture-raised pork chops from my friend Eliza MacLlean’s Cane Creek Farm, roasted stuffed peppers from Alex Hitt’s Peregrine Farm, steamed kale and sweet potato pie eaten around the kitchen table with friends.