Summer Inspiration: 24 Food and Farming Change-Makers

Some of the most inspiring people we’ve covered this year are working to make the food system more just, sustainable, and equitable.



Editor’s note: Civil Eats is taking the week off. To tide you over until we resume our regularly scheduled programming on August 12, we are highlighting some of our recent coverage of inspiring people working across the food system. These diverse leaders are chefs, farmers, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and more, and their stories reveal solutions to supporting communities and creating a healthier future nationwide.

 

Darren Chapman in the field at TigerMountain urban farm.

Darren Chapman: A Phoenix Urban Farmer Growing Hope for the Formerly Incarcerated

Since 2005, the founder of the Tiger Mountain Foundation in Phoenix, Arizona has recruited and worked with thousands of formerly incarcerated people, teaching them practical, on-the-job skills for growing food, maintaining landscaping, and more. The foundation grows produce for 12 of the region’s farmers’ markets, and has helped more than 1,000 entrepreneurs launch their businesses.

 

Kate Greenberg, Colorado Department of Agriculture Commissioner

Kate Greenberg: Shaping Colorado’s Farmland for the Next Generation

The 31-year-old advocate and policymaker has her work cut out for her: How to preserve the state’s farming and ranching traditions amidst a wave of farm retirements, development pressures, and climate change?

 

art cullen and his brother john at the newspaper printing pressArt Cullen: Putting Rural Politics on the National Stage

The Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaperman from Storm Lake, Iowa, has used his “tenacious reporting, impressive expertise, and engaging writing” to get readers to look closer and think harder about the political, economic, and environmental challenges unfolding in the Midwest.

 

Rev. Floyd D. Harris Jr. harvests cabbage from Freedom School Fresno’s demonstration farm. (Photo © Joan Cusick)

Reverend Floyd D. Harris, Jr.: Changing the Narrative about Farming for Black Youth

At the Freedom School Demonstration Farm in Fresno, California, Harris offers cultural, educational, and job skills programs to at-risk students in grades K-12, while reclaiming the history of Black farmers in California’s Central Valley and feeding their communities.

 

Vincent Medina, Louis Trevino, Crystal Wahpehpah: Indigenous Chefs Reviving Native Cuisines

Medina and Trevino’s Café Ohlone and Chef Crystal’s Wahpepah’s Kitchen are at the forefront of a wave of Native restaurants reclaiming their land, history, culture, and food traditions in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

Patrick and Bobbin Mulvaney (photo courtesy of Mulvaney's B&L)

Patrick Mulvaney: Building a Support System for Restaurant Workers

After losing a dozen members of Sacramento’s restaurant and hospitality community in 2018 to suicide and substance abuse, Chef Patrick Mulvaney has been working with fellow chefs, entrepreneurs, healthcare providers, and more to create “I Got Your Back,” a peer-to-peer program to provide counseling, support, and education to help stop an epidemic in the industry.

 

Chef Silvana in front of a mural outside one of her Barrio CafesSilvana Salcido Esparza: Fighting for Equality from the Kitchen

The Phoenix-based queer, Latina chef has earned five James Beard Award nominations and Food & Wine’s Best Mexican Chef designation, but in addition to serving comida chingona—badass food—she’s fighting for equality, diversity, and immigrant rights in the kitchen and the world.

 

melony samuels in a hoop house providing food for Brooklyn residentsReverend Melony Samuels: Changing the Way Brooklyn Eats

As the founder of The Campaign Against Hunger, the borough’s largest food pantry, Samuels and her staff and volunteers now serve healthy food to 30,000 people in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood every month.

 

Haile Thomas in the classroom in 2017.

Haile Thomas: The Gen-Z CEO Reinventing Nutrition Education

Now 18, the founder of HAPPY has brought a peer-to-peer education model to young people around the world. Based in New York state, she’s empowering students to make healthy lifestyle choices and minimize the occurrence of preventable health issues.

 

Raphael Wright.

Raphael Wright: Trying to Build Detroit’s Only Black-Owned Grocery Store

The entrepreneur is in the midst of a more than two-year-long effort to fill a vacuum in Black-owned and operated full-service grocery stores.

 

Chef Lois Ellen Frank teaching an indigenous foodways classLois Frank: The Nativore Chef Spreading Healthy Eating to Indigenous Communities

The Sante Fe-based Kiowa chef has dedicated her life to teaching people about Native American food, with a focus on resolving the pervasive health problems in Native communities through diet.

 

amanda beal, maine state agriculture commissionerAmanda Beal: Creating a New Vision for New England’s Food System

As Maine’s new commissioner of agriculture, Beal is uniquely positioned to help bring about a robust, conservation-minded, sustainable, and just New England food system.

 

Rosalinda Guillen. (Photo courtesy of C2C)

Rosalinda Guillen: A Force for Farmworker Justice

For the past 30 years, the organizer and labor activist and founder of Community to Community Development in Washington state, has worked to strengthen local and global movements toward social, economic, and environmental justice.

 

William Padilla-Brown holding reishi mushrooms near a beehive.

William Padilla-Brown: The 25-Year-Old Bringing Mushroom Cultivation to the Masses

The self-taught, Pennsylvania-based mushroom farmer, entrepreneur, and educator is working to make mushroom cultivation accessible to everyone, in particular to people of color, who are often underrepresented in the mycology community.

Farmer Profiles

In addition to these profiles, each month, Civil Eats profiles a pioneering farmer, showcasing their work and the ways it has advanced our understanding of sustainable agriculture, climate change mitigation, social justice, and new visions for regional food systems. Get caught up with some of this year’s farmers-of-the-month.

Cory Carman portrait © Nolan Calisch.

Cory Carman: How an Oregon Rancher is Building Soil Health—and a Robust Regional Food System

The fourth-generation rancher holistically manages 5,000-acres that serve as a model for sustainable meat operations in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Andrew Abrahams

Andrew and Krista Abrahams: At This Small, Family-Run Dairy, Animal Welfare Comes First

At Long Dream Farm in the California’s Sierra Nevada foothills, the Abrahams allow their heritage breed cattle to live out their lives and serve as partners in food production.

 

Farm manager Gabriel Vega has worked for San Xavier Co-op for 13 years. (Photo by Rudri Patel)

San Xavier Cooperative Farm: An Indigenous Community Deepens its Agricultural Roots in Tucson

After securing much-needed water rights, the co-op farm on the Tohono O’odham reservation in Tucson, Arizona is honoring thousands of years of the tribe’s farming history.

 

Jorge and Ana sit on the remains of one of their structures destroyed after Hurricane Maria in 2017. (Photo © Sarah Sax)

Ana Elisa Pérez Quintero and Jorge Cora: Finca Conciencia Is Building Food Sovereignty on Vieques Island

The only agro-ecological farm on the Caribbean island is feeding people who have long struggled with food access—and working to advance social and political freedom in the process.

 

Rick Clark standing in his field of crimson and balansa clover cover crops.

Rick Clark: Regenerating the Soil Transformed this Indiana Farm

On his 7,000-acre property, Rick Clark uses non-GMO seeds, no-till farming, crop rotation, and cover crop diversity to regenerate soils and turn a profit.

 

Heinz Thomet of Next Step Produce in MarylandHeinz Thomet: A Maryland Grain Grower Takes Regenerative Agriculture to the Next Step

Thomet works in balance with nature to grow highly sought-after specialty crops, while sequestering carbon and building a regional food economy.

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