MESA staff and several Stewards and alumnni recently convened on the stunning coastline of Asilomar, California at the annual Ecofarm Conference. Organized by the Ecological Farming Association, its goals are “to nurture healthy, just, and ecologically sustainable farms, food systems, and communities by bringing people together for education, alliance building, advocacy, and celebration” – so MESA was certainly among friends!
Here are reflections from EcoFarm 2015 with Co-directors Leah and Lauren, and MESA Steward Vic:
What were your key takeaways from EcoFarm 2015?
Lauren: We are all connected! Although MESA has historically sponsored international exchange farmers coming to train with pioneering U.S. farms and companies, the many farms we’ve partnered with throughout the country are so thankful for our role in strengthening cross-cultural bonds shared by all small-scale farmers, and adding valuable perspective and new resources to help existing farms become better mentors to beginning farmers.
R-L: Natalia Pinzon, Leah Atwood, Lauren Augusta, and Aileen Suzara at MESA’s booth!
Leah: At MESA, we often say that in the face of multinational corporations and an industrialized food regime, we need more multinational grassroots organizing between farmers, activists, educators and innovators. We need to preserve and share the traditional wisdom of our ancestors.
At Ecofarm I’m reminded of the shared vision to impact social and environmental change in the food system by building bridges between generations. MESA’s role is through longer-term experiential and interpersonal exchanges, and Ecofarm’s role is through intense and celebratory exchanges. Both strive to support existing farmers and the next generation, and both are connecting heritage with innovation to strengthen earth stewardship, just economies and diverse, grassroots alliances. In some ways, Ecofarm is like an intensified and condensed microcosm of MESA’s exchanges!
What was your favorite thing about this year’s Ecofarm?
Vic: Ecofarm was a place for farmers who need and value friends and networks. I think it was the most useful because you can talk, learn and have fun with people. I learned more from other farmer’s experiences. You will learn how they support each other and share resources. The conference is like place you will meet your old friends. I think its important farmer can offer their help with new generations, and they can learn together.
L-R: Aspen Kvicala (MESA Peru program steward and co-owner of Foolish Hens Farm in Sunol, CA), Timothée Lesage (2014 MESA Steward from Chambéry, France), and Wichuda Khwanchum (2014 MESA US Program Steward from Nonthaburi, Thailand).
Leah: My favorite thing was the breadth of sharing and interfacing between generations. As inspiration and action grows in the community dedicated to building better food systems, I think more multigenerational collaboration is essential. The many Ecofarm sessions that work to harness the shared perspective and bridge the gaps between youthful aspiration and sage soundness continue to be a huge source of inspiration.
Personally, I was overjoyed to see new sessions this year focusing on seed stewardship, food sovereignty in tribal communities, natural beekeeping, permaculture, carbon sequestration, and lessons shared by our sisters and brothers preserving ancestral wisdom in the Global South.