This weekend, our Co-Founder Eugenia Manwelyan attended the 34th annual Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) conference. Over the next few weeks, she will be sharing some of her thoughts, and the ways that the things she learned will impact our programs moving forward.
Farm Workers Need a Place at the Table
One of the keynote speakers at this year’s NOFA-NY conference was Rosalinda Guilien, a farm worker and rural justice leader. Ms. Guilien began working in the fields when she was ten years old, has worked within the labor movement with Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers of America, and has represented farm workers in dialogues of immigration issues, labor rights, trade agreements, and strengthening the food sovereignty movement. Her speech and subsequent workshop were powerful reminders that farm workers are, too often, the invisible power behind our food system. Meeting farm workers, be they migrants or residents; native, legal, or undocumented; brown, black, or white; has, to this point, not been part of our curriculum. But, we are committed to changing that. For our upcoming summer Eco Practicum Catskills, we will engage the issue of farm worker in/justices and meet with regional stakeholders to play our part in the struggle for a culturally and environmentally regenerative food system. Here is a prayer, written by Cesar Chavez, that Rosalinda shared with us at the beginning of her workshop, I am proud to share it with our Eco Practicum community.
PRAYER OF THE FARM WORKERS’ STRUGGLE
Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
So I will know my people’s plight.
Free me to pray for others;
For you are present in every person.
Help me take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.
Grant me courage to serve others;
For in service there is true life.
Give me honesty and patience;
So that I can work with other workers.
Bring forth song and celebration;
So that the Spirit will be alive among us.
Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
So that we will never tire of the struggle.
Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world.
Hello alumni, prospective participants, community partners, friends of friends, family members, and blog-readers extraordinaire. I’m thrilled, nervous, and especially excited to announce that I’ve taken on the role of Program Director for the upcoming year of Eco Practicum!
My participation in Eco Practicum has been gaining momentum from the moment I stepped foot onto the grounds of Camp Shomria for Eco Practicum Catskills in 2012. I completed the full four-week program, and after I’d left the idyllic grounds, the encouraging learning environment and (let’s be real) the baby goats, I entered a bit of a slump. I felt like the program was calling me to act - I just didn’t know how.
That summer I came up with my own highly personal answer, a process I’m sure each and every Eco Practicum alum has had to undergo. I decided that my route, the course of action that felt most like, well, action was to stay involved with the program itself, to continue engaging with it and to help it generate impact on the community around it in the same ways it had impacted me. Almost four years later, I’m still here.
As someone who participated in the program shortly after its inception, I’ve watched it grow and develop in ways that allow it to better serve those who support it, and to adapt to a changing world. What began as just a four-week Catskills program has expanded into an equally necessary and engaging New York City practicum, has spawned fantastic partnerships with Good Food Jobs and Our Name is Farm, with many more exciting announcements waiting in the wings. My own role at Eco Practicum has been through just as much flux as the program itself - I’ve been a participant, an intern, a sometimes-photographer, a nanny for Eugenia and Tal’s incredible two-year-old (my favorite role so far?) and here I am now, as a Program Director.
As this new role and this new year begin, I have a lot to look forward to. I’m looking forward to surprising myself - this is the biggest leadership role I’ve had to date and I’m excited to rise to the challenges it presents. I’m looking forward to engaging with the New York City and Catskills communities in new ways, bringing on new partners in addition to the old, and seeing another generation of participants get as inspired by our curriculum as I did a few years ago.
Eco Practicum has given me an unbelievable amount of knowledge, confidence, support, and excitement, and it’s my turn to imbue those same qualities back into the program tenfold.
- Rachelle Klapheke
We ask our network of alumni, experts, and educators to consider the state of the world and their role in it ... here's what they have to say.