The Center for MS Food Systems: an emergent space that stewards and supports regional economies and food systems transformation

A few years ago, Black, Indigenous, and Asian American food systems stakeholders and allies from across the state of Mississippi convened together for the first time to dream about transforming the local and state level food systems. In 2016, the Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative was formed, consisting of organizational partners whose work is local, regional, statewide and national in scope. These partners are committed to working in four regions of the state that have historically been some of the most impacted by systemic oppression and divestments: the Delta, Central MS, the Coast and the MS Choctaw.

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The Illinois Stewardship Alliance successfully advocates for state programs

Illinois Stewardship Alliance

The Illinois Stewardship Alliance was a founding member of the National Healthy Soils Policy Network in 2018 and has received financial support through our mini-grant program every year since. In 2019, the Alliance successfully advocated for a state program to give farmers voluntarily adopting cover crops a $5 per acre reward on their crop insurance. State lawmakers passed a resolution in 2022 declaring the first full week of March each year as “Illinois Soil Health Week,” boosting visibility of the issue greatly. In 2023, after 3 years of organizing, they saw the passage of a bill to create the Illinois Healthy Soils Initiative and direct state agencies to collaborate on an accelerated soil health framework. A successful push on the FY2024 budget provided up to $4 million for the new initiative.

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Wild Farm Alliance works to expand the Beneficial Bird Habitat Assessment and Native Plant Tool to the Upper Midwest

Beneficial Bird Native Plant Chart

Wild Farm Alliance: with support from Ceres Trust in 2023, relationships in the Upper Midwest have been built and continue to strengthen, as Wild Farm Alliance works diligently to expand the Beneficial Bird Habitat Assessment and Native Plant Tool to the region. We are finding ways to integrate the tool into the important work aligned partners are already doing to best support beneficial birds. As a result of this coordination, the presence of WFA in the Upper Midwest continues to expand its reach and more growers are bringing nature back to the farm.

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MPEN’s Smart on Pesticides Coalition

MPEN collage

Maryland Pesticide Education Network (MPEN) and its Smart on Pesticides Coalition of 115 organizations and businesses heralded the warning about PFAS being found in the State’s mosquito control pesticide, which we had tested, and is sprayed often weekly in 2,100 communities. MPEN sought media coverage during Maryland’s 2023 Maryland General Assembly session and the resulting press coverage elevated the issue greatly.

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Indigenous Seedkeepers Network

Indigenous Seedkeepers Network seeds

During the fall of 2022, the staff of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance’s Indigenous Seedkeepers Network (ISKN) hosted our first in-person seed sovereignty assessment training since 2020! The ISKN Southwest Seed Sovereignty Assessment Training engaged 25 participants in a 2-day immersive and interactive gathering.

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Hmong American Farmers Association

HAFA Arial view of Packshed

The Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) is a membership-led organization created by Hmong farmers and their children to advocate for systemic change and provide equitable access to the critical resources, training, and financial capital they need to operate successful businesses, earn family-sustaining incomes, and build intergenerational wealth.

HAFA launched a 155-acre incubator farm in 2013, and recently purchased the farm in a landmark racial equity achievement that guarantees affordable land access for current and future generations of Minnesota Hmong farmers. HAFA has also developed a robust bilingual business and agricultural training program that Hmong farmers leverage to access financial capital, earn required certifications, and optimize their farming operations.

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Dream of Wild Health

Dream of Wild Health Farm

The relationships we have created throughout the years of programming at Dream of Wild Health is  extremely important to us. One of our key sayings is “we grow seeds and leaders,” and our alumni are a  perfect example of that. Dream of Wild Health had 7 Garden Warriors return as Interns, and 1 as a full- time farmer. Not only do former youth participants continue to engage in our public events and  volunteer opportunities, but these young adults come back wanting to work on our farm.

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Environmental Advocates Join NYC Parks Department to Celebrate  Pesticide-Free Parks  

NYC Environmental Advocates

Eco-Friendly Parks for All, a coalition of  environmental, public health and political action organizations has teamed  up with Beyond Pesticides, New York City Parks and Recreation Department, and Stonyfield Organic Yogurt to celebrate the success of pilot organic land  management programs at eight sites across the five boroughs. The demonstration programs were initiated by the coalition after the city council adopted new legislation in 2021 prohibiting the use of  chemical pesticides on all NYC parks.

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