Taking a weekend out of their summer schedules, four Farm Fresh Choice youth represented the Ecology Center at the Rooted in Community conference in Portland, Maine. Nakia Dillard, Christian Ramirez, Kad Smith, and Shawn Stewart presented skits, toured gardens, and networked with youth from around the country over the first weekend in August. Rooted in Community is a national grassroots network that empowers young people to work for food justice in their own communities, offering a space for youth from excluded communities to have a voice and influence on their own futures.
Moving to a new city each year, RIC creates opportunities for youth to increase their skills by working at urban agriculture programs, preparing and eating fresh local foods, and engaging with their peers around food culture, social, and environmental justice issues. Attendees can explore new cities and schools and take time to enjoy natural areas.
Out of the many experiences at RIC, Nakia Dillard was impressed by the coordination of bike trips for a hundred riders to six garden work project sites. Dillard hadn’t ridden a bike in years and felt inspired and energized throughout the journey. She appreciated the blowing wind, the burning sensations in her leg muscles, and remembers her joy as her comrades smiled back at her.
The group ran a skit, “Whose wealth is it, anyways?” which imagines strategy sessions in corporate food industry boardrooms as well as a game, Health Awareness Jeopardy, that increases awareness of predatory fast food marketing schemes, the detrimental impacts of the industrial food system, and in contrast, the value in sustainable agriculture. “Our participants gave us positive and constructive feedback, and we took note of it all,” says Dillard.
The crew returned from the trip happy to have met some allies from across the nation. The late July and early August trip was very helpful in providing the Farm Fresh Choice participants an opportunity to know that youth just like them are doing similar work all over the United States!