Bringing Youth Power to the NESAWG Conference

By Charlene Francois, Youth and Farm Stand Coordinator

This past Thursday, our Youth Leaders attended the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) “It Takes a Region” Conference  in Philadelphia. NESAWG is a network of organizations involved in ‘farm and food system endeavors in 12 states and Washington D.C.’ The conference was intended to serve as a space for the members of these projects to exchange knowledge about their efforts towards creating an equitable food system.

Youth Food Justice Network participants with their CommunitTree

This year, Community Food Action (CFA) was honored to hold our own workshop at NESAWG. Youth and Farm Stand Coordinator Charlene Francois and Crew Leaders Abby Gonzalez, Sandra Nivar, and Diamonte Verde developed a workshop called “Youth Power.” This workshop was open to those seeking advice on cultivating youth leadership and creating community-based food projects. During the workshop, we taught others how we harness youth power to achieve community buy-in at the 170 Farm Stand. We emphasized how our youth have proved to be invaluable resources in performing outreach as well as convincing community members to purchase unfamiliar produce.

Moreover, the workshop showcased how the 170 Farm Stand is about more than sales. The youth leaders have also grown immensely through their outreach responsibilities and interacting with different members of the community.  Perhaps most beautifully, their “youth power,” sense of self, and sense of contribution to the community has deepened. Abby shared how “Real Talk,” a method of delivering constructive criticism and positive feedback to youth leaders, has pushed them to grow not only as employees but as young adults.

Youth Leaders Passion Jackson, Manuel Ureña, and Abby Gonalez
preparing for a busy day of workshops!

Our youth leaders also benefited from invaluable workshops held by other organizations. We participated in “Building Diverse Friendships” held by the Massachusetts Avenue Project. Here, our youth learned how making connections across social boundaries is essential to building an equitable food system.

At NESAWG, we were able to insert ourselves in the larger conversation about food justice endeavors. It was important that this larger conversation included our narrative about how youth of color engage themselves in their community, which systemically has been prevented from accessing fresh and local food, through the 170 Farm Stand. We hope we taught others about the potential of Youth Power because we know our youth are the future!