Partner Profile: Community Farm Alliance
In this month’s partner profile, we’ll hear from Maggie Smith, Communications Director and Kelsey Voit, Organizing Director at the Community Farm Alliance in Kentucky. Kelsey attended the FSLN’s Network Leadership Retreat back in May, and we’re excited to learn more about the work she does for her fellow Kentuckians!
Before we get started, tell us a bit about yourselves:
Maggie, native to Eastern Kentucky comes from a long line of farmers, gardeners, and cooks. They passed down their love for the land, their passion for people, and their way of connecting the two through food to her. Due to the way she was raised, she always knew she wanted to pursue a career that preserves and educates Kentuckians about local farms and food. She is a graduate of Berea College with a B.S. in Agriculture and Natural Resources with a minor in Appalachian Studies. She is a writer for the Richmond Register, publishing Homegrown Recipes related to cooking with local food.
Kelsey lives in Louisville and is dedicated to working toward sustainable, equitable, and liberatory communities. Kelsey has worked on several organic vegetable farms and holds a B.S. in Geography and minor in Social Change. She brings her years of community organizing experience to CFA, and continues to build people power and food sovereignty in her community with the Louisville Community Grocery and the New Roots Fresh Stop Markets.
Community Farm Alliance Background:
- Mission: We work to organize and encourage cooperation among rural and urban citizens through leadership development and grassroots democratic processes to ensure an essential, prosperous place for family-scale agriculture in our economies and communities.
Vision: We envision a food and fiber system that provides nutritious food for Kentuckians in a manner that is socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable. We envision a system vital to the state’s economy.
Give us your elevator pitch!
Community Farm Alliance was formed during the farm credit crisis in the 1980s by a group of Kentucky dairy and tobacco farmers who concluded that the problem wasn’t “on the farm”, but a lack of equity in the system resulting in bad public policy. Their first action was direct service to their neighbors by setting up a suicide hotline. They then formed CFA to bring the grassroots voice to public policy. CFA has continued to work for over 34 years to support Kentucky’s small, disadvantaged family farmers and the communities that depend on them.
- What is one thing that makes your organization stand out?
In my opinion, and supported by long-time member Kenny Mattingly, “no other organization in the state is doing the work CFA does, the way CFA does it. This organization is a venue for people to have a voice, and speak out about the thing they feel strongly about. I always found it so powerful to see people you’d meet on the farm become a part of the organization, and see CFA as a place where they could stand strong on the things that mattered to them. Then seeing them become connected with others who have the same interest and seeing the power in the relationships. CFA’s organizing work is as important now, as it was then.”
- Are there any organizations or individuals you look to as a role model in your work? Why? (Name just two please!)
CFA was formed based on Kentuckians for the Commonwealth’s model of community organizing and leadership development. Though CFA has developed its own organizational culture, we still look to KFTC for inspiration and with whom we share many members. As a National partner, CFA shares in the grassroots driven farm policy development model of the National Family Farm Coalition.
Systems Leadership Approach
- How does Community Farm Alliance partner with others to catalyze systems change? (100 words max)
We believe in the power of relationships, networks, and connections. We create partnerships with organizations and initiatives on the local, state, and national level to help move this work forward. The process at which we hope to create change is displayed in the diagram below, CFA’s Theory of Change. This informs every sector of the work we do.
Community Farm Alliance Learnings:
- Given what you know now, what is one thing you wish you’d done differently as the organization developed?
As a membership organization, leadership development is critical. CFA’s leadership development efforts have waxed and waned over the years for a variety of reasons but creating a clear transparent leadership development theory and structure, especially for senior leaders such as past Board members and officers would have allowed for better leadership retention and avert leadership burnout.
- What is one of Community Farm Alliance’s proudest achievements?
CFA has passed or defeated over 25 pieces of state legislation. Shaping and passing HB 611 in 2000 that dedicated $1.5 billion over 25 years to diversifying Kentucky agriculture has created fundamental change for Kentucky agriculture.
- What is one challenge you’re facing right now? Anything your fellow FSLN members might be able to help with?
CFA’s hallmark has been as an innovator in program and policy development, from organic and sustainable agriculture, to local food system development, and access to healthy food. People recognize and adopt innovation and but often forget the innovator. All of CFA’s innovations were a result CFA’s members and leaders who often step back for a breather after success. Building the next generation of leaders is and remains the greatest challenge.
- Any quotes or words of wisdom that you find inspiring during this season?
- Have you created any useful processes/resources that you’re particularly excited about? If so, please share!
We have recognized that Community Farm Alliance has a lot of work to do in order to continue to bridge the urban-rural divide, resonate with people of color, and support disadvantaged populations. Therefore, Community Farm Alliance has pledged to move beyond words and commit to an intentional, proactive strategy that addresses issues of equity and diversity within our organizational culture and the system and institutions we seek to influence. Read our Commitment to Equity here: https://cfaky.org/equity/
Thanks so much Maggie, Kelsey, and all the folks at Community Farm Alliance for the work that you do!