Voices from the Grassroots

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Submitting Voices to JAFSCD

If you would like to submit a Voices from the Grassroots essay, contact Voices editor Regina Bernard at voicesfromthegrassroots@foodsystemsnetwork.org.

Voices from the Grassroots are cross-published at the Voices from the Grassroots blog by the North American Food Systems Network (NAFSN, a sister program of JAFSCD).

Please see NAFSN's Voices from the Grassroots blog for previously published Voices essays—and for additional blog posts not published as JAFSCD articles.

A Community Engagement Case Study of the Somerville Mobile Farmers' Market, Erica Satin-Hernandez and Lisa Robinson

Diversity Education at Land-Grant Universities from the Perspective of a Female Student of Color, Olivia A. Peña

To the American Food Justice Movements: A Critique That Is Also an Offering, Marcelo Felipe Garzo Montalvo

A Native Perspective: Food Is More Than Consumption, Rachel V. Vernon

Decolonizing a Food System: Freedom Farmers' Market as a Place for Resistance and Analysis, Gail P. Meyers

Privilege and Allyship in Nonprofit Food Justice Organizations, Danny W. Tarng

Concerning the Unbearable Whiteness of Urban Farming, Antonio Roman-Alcalá

Engaged Advocacy and Learning To Represent the Self: Positioning People of Color in Our Contemporary Food Movement, Regina A. Bernard-Carreño


Get Your Story Published! 

While JAFSCD is a scholarly journal, we believe that publishing stories from professionals, activists, and program participants in the food movement enriches knowledge, policy, and practice. For authors, it provides a professional development opportunity. Sharing your voice or the voice of a client you work with is also a way of educating researchers, scholars, and students who study food systems. It is a means of "telling it like it is"—the challenges of food systems work as well as the opportunities, best practices, and innovative strategies. It can serve as a way to help prepare anyone who wishes to visit your community and collaborate with you on a project.

Voices from the Grassroots essays are cross-published as blog posts by the North American Food Systems Network (NAFSN), a professional development organization of food systems practitioners. So your story is shared broadly with food systems scholars, students, and researchers, and practitioners and activists at community organizations and those working at broader levels.

Type of Stories

Reflective essay (in the first person: I did this, we did that): 1,000 words max.

Case study (always third person: they do/did this or that): 2,500 words max.

Project evaluation summary (we did this and that): 500–1,000 words max.

Innovation story (we or they did this or that): 500–1,000 words max.

Examples of Topics

  • A strategy that worked and why
  • A strategy that did not work and why (we call this a post mortem case study)
  • A unique perspective on an issue from someone whose voice is rarely heard
  • Proposed state and local laws and ordinances related to food and agriculture
  • Best practices (approaches to problems that are tried and true)
  • A narrative that includes bulleted lists of dos and don'ts
  • A review of a new tool or resource that is particularly helpful
  • Ask a question and solicit answers/thoughts/experiences from colleagues (e.g., a challenge they are facing that is likely to be a universal challenge across state and even national boundaries)
  • Experiences adapting something you learned from a JAFSCD paper, conference, workshop, or colleague

Dos and Don'ts of Story-writing 


  • Do always ask permission to quote someone.
  • Do get signed releases for photos.
  • Do always present the limitations of your advice. Rarely use the word “should.”
  • Do always sound reasonable, balanced, thoughtful, and matter-of-fact.
  • Do avoid clichés and commonly known and generally accepted truths (e.g., poor people are hungry, or farmers are struggling). The audience is mainly people already familiar with the issues, but they are struggling with the how-tos.
  • Do be careful about describing people as victims; they have agency, and we disempower them when we think we know what they need and then do it for them.
  • Do be humble; admit to failures. Practitioners and professionals highly value frankness and candor.
  • Do get into the nitty-gritty details of a problem and a solution, but don't go on tangents.
  • Do give interviewees a chance to see what you've written about them and give you feedback.
  • Do use probing questions, but don’t lead an interviewee where you want them to go. Keep it real, not a preconceived narrative you have in mind.
  • Do let the people you are helping speak: use quotations, paraphrase, and give them credit for ideas.
  • Do not create straw-man arguments.
  • Do point out exceptions to rules, but acknowledge when a case is exceptional, not common. Of course, exceptions can inform practice guidelines and policy-making.
  • Do back up anything you present as a fact with a citation or with your own tried and true experience.
  • Do question the motives and knowledge of authorities and experts, but in a respectful way.
  • Do send anyone you interview or quote a link to the published essay so they can share their contribution to the food movement.


  • Don’t paint things in black and white terms. Shock value is of little value to your professional colleagues. The world is complex, nuanced, and gray all over.
  • Don’t grind an ax, be petty, or make personal attacks.
  • Don’t be hyperbolic (emotionally charged) unless that is the expressed voice of an interviewee.
  • Don’t be self-congratulatory; let your actions speak for themselves.
  • Don’t present things in absolute terms: “Grocery stores hate hearing from our local farmers”; “Our local residents are either hungry or obese.”
  • Don’t announce that something is a “model” unless you mean that it is a work in progress, not a proven ideal.
  • Don’t put words in interviewees’ mouths. Be patient and give them space to speak and figure out the words themselves.
  • Don’t submit a project report unless it is brief and useful to other programs. Keep it short, sweet, and matter-of-fact.