Partner Profile: CoFED
The Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive, CoFed, is on a mission to build a cooperative food economy, powered by the visionary leadership of young people of color, that practices cooperative values adn economics through food and land.
We had a chance to speak with Hnin Hnin, CoFED's Director of Aligning Abundance (aka executive director) to hear more about what they're up to.
A little about Hnin: Hnin Hnin brings to CoFED over 12 years of experience in social justice, solidarity economy, and collective liberation work. Their approach to cooperative development is informed by the ancestors, mother earth, and a multidisciplinary analysis that forefronts race, class, and gender.
More about CoFED:
Give us your elevator pitch!
CoFED’s work fills a critical gap in the food movement ecosystem. While there are countless organizations enacting food systems change through place-based food projects, traditional organizing, research, public education and advocacy, there are far fewer working to expand the political imaginary of what’s possible. By creating and holding space for young people of color to unlearn, heal and transform relationships to self and each other, earth and economy, place and power, CoFED encourages a new economic politics of food and land that is committed to envisioning, experimenting and expanding possibilities.
What is one thing that makes your organization stand out?
What stands out most about CoFED is the joyful, loving brilliance of the folx who choose to be in relationship with us. We approach our work with a radical commitment to unlearning and collective healing & liberation. We are guided by values of cooperation, decolonization, pro-Queerness and pro-Blackness in our work.
Are there any organizations or individuals you look to as a role model in your work? Why?(Name just two please!)
Pecan Milk Co-op! They are a 5-year-old Black-owned LGBTQ worker cooperative that makes oat milk and pecan milk. Only 5% of worker co-ops are based in the South and less than half (around 2%) are Black-owned. Pecan Milk is working to grow and change those numbers. Right now, Pecan Milk is raising money for a study the FDA requires in order to pasteurize their products, which will help them sell their all-natural milk made from Georgia pecans outside of Atlanta! Learn more about and support them at www.pecanmilk.com.
Systems Leadership Approach
How does CoFED partner with others to catalyze systems change?
We are in the middle of our Racial Justice Fellowship, which is a 6-month opportunity for young cooperators of color working to bring lasting systems change in their communities. Our Fellows, Kriss Mincey (Baltimore, MD) and Dallas Robinson (Rocky Mount, NC), are working to advance food and racial justice. We have also begun to plant seeds for a national network of cooperators of color advancing food and land justice - myceliYUM. Just as mycelium flourishes in nature, myceliYUM connects cooperators of color to share resources and build resilience for a cooperative food system from seed to plate to compost.
Given what you know now, what is one thing you wish you’d done differently as the organization developed?
We are constantly learning and unlearning how to exist within and challenge the non-profit industrial complex from inside of it. There have been many lessons we have un/learned along the way.
What is one of CoFED’s proudest achievements?
CoFED is QPOC led! We still have more work to do (see below), but our board and staff are majority POC and Black and this strengthens and catalyzes our healing and unlearning work. We are also very excited to build out myceliYUM, a national network of cooperators of color, an embodiment of what we can build together in solidarity and for collective liberation.
What is one challenge you’re facing right now? Anything your fellow FSLN members might be able to help with?
As an organization we still function inside of the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC), while also trying to read, interpret, and heal from the inequities that paint the walls of this complex. We see the opportunity to have a conversation about resources from a place of abundance, even when the NPIC squeezes the nourishment from us. We are also on a hopeful and critical journey of unlearning anti-Blackness and all of the trauma it brings with it in the NPIC.
Any quotes or words of wisdom that you find inspiring during this season?
myceliYUM family member (Linda) shared these words by Sunni Patterson (a New Orleanian spoken word artist): “What does the friend, or the comrade do? They hold us to the vision. And this is what it means to be a field hand of freedom...to know that what it is that we’re doing is cultivating something that is so right and pure, so that we can eat it, and that it brings us life and nourishment and nutrients and everything else that can come from the earth. That can come from a rightly tilled earth.”
Have you created any useful processes/resources that you’re particularly excited about? If so, please share!
We just completed the first webinar in our fall series - How to Unlearn Internalized Capitalism! We are excited to be on this unlearning and sharing journey in solidarity with others. We’d love if you could spread the word about our upcoming webinars on topics such as, How to Practice Trauma-informed Leadership Development. These are rooted in a decolonial praxis and pedagogical format and we are so excited to dream and share these!
Want to stay up to date? Head to CoFED's website or sign up for their newsletter.
Thank you, Hnin! We love what CoFED's about and are excited to follow along and support your efforts.