Entering into a Community-University Collaboration
Reflections from East New York Farms!
Keywords:Reflective Essay, Food Dignity, Community-based Organizations
I worked as the director of the East New York Farms! (ENYF) Project for seven years, from 2006 to 2013. As media interest and general excitement about sustainable food grew during that time, assessing potential opportunities for “partnership” and participation in the broader world of sustainable food work (that is, outside East New York) became an increasingly important part of my role and an increasingly significant way in which we defined what we were, and were not, about.
The route to participation by ENYF in Food Dignity started with Megan Gregory, a Ph.D. student at Cornell, inviting our then farm manager, David Vigil, and some of our youth leaders to speak at a conference in Ithaca, New York. I remember David coming back and telling me that “they treated us like royalty,” as he described being picked up in Ithaca, taken out to dinner at the world-famous Moosewood Restaurant, and generally welcomed and appreciated by Megan and the other hosts at Cornell. We accepted the invitation to this conference largely because of the leadership-development opportunity it afforded to our youth members to share their experiences in food justice work and hear from others. Had it been an invitation for just our staff to speak, we may not have felt that we could justify committing the time to this; invitations to food-related conferences were frequent, but we always prioritized our work on the ground....
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