Finding My Place

If you follow on Facebook you might have caught word that I was in Oakland attending the Community Food Conference: Food Justice: Honoring Our Roots. Growing the Movement.  Around 1,000 people from almost every state and from 5 continents attended the annual conference hosted by the Community Food Security Coalition and the local hosts Food First and the California Food and Justice Coalition.  There were 3 full days of conferencing preceded by 2 days of optional tours giving attendees a closer look at bay area food movement(s) historically and now.grow and resist community food conference oakland food justice people's grocery

I somewhat timidly went, not sure what I’d find. Or even what I expected to find. I only knew I felt a need to be there. I blog. I cook. I grow and source organic food for my family. I am fairly well versed in the ills of our broken food system.  I have an edible garden consulting business. I’m a critical thinker. An advocate for social and economic justice. Passionate about anti-oppression work.

And yet. Blown away. I got overwhelmed.  The conference itself was heavy on policy and legislation, an area that, while extremely important, is not necessarily ‘my thing.’   The sessions also assumed a level of previous engagement in grassroots organizing, of which I have none.  I am familiar with them and how they run, because of people in my life, yet they are something I have never participated in formally.

I quickly felt out of my league. Like I didn’t fit in. An imposter. Were the attendees my people? Was I faking it? Really, I went down a rabbit hole of self-doubt before I knew it. In the scary zone that is my head I had myself back being a nurse and abandoning the dreams of my edible garden consulting business.  I felt anxious. Alone. Isolated. Yet, so curious. So hopeful. So full of possibility. And so stuck. Afraid I am doing it all wrong. Scared there isn’t actually a place for me in food movements that felt right for where I am, what I want, and who I am.  And if there isn’t, then what?  What does that mean?

Doubt, doubt, doubt.  How bad?  Well, I watched an episode of Real Wives of Beverly Hills. Followed by (pre-wedding-and-immediate-though-not-shocking-divorceKeeping up With the Kardashians in attempt to rest my brain.  Yeah, I know. Don’t make me talk about it. Keep going and forget I ever admitted that.

I decided to bail out of a session, have a lovely pomegranate margarita, and get my shit together.  I doodled. I made lists. I pondered. I came up with 5 possible paths.

  1. Ignore all that I learned and pretend it didn’t happen (which I know isn’t actually possible.)
  2. Change focus of business and partner with an existing community or grassroots organization.
  3. Have a part or branch of my work be nonprofit and/or grassroots organizing
  4. Continue my business as is and become more involved in organizations separately and write on Grow and Resist as I want on related topics.
  5. Forgo original business plan and immerse completely in grassroots organizing by changing business model and goal.

Yes, I was all over the map.

What I finally realized is that I don’t have to become someone I am not in order to be involved in food movements.  I don’t have to change my work to become something it isn’t to fit in. There is a place for me.

My place is currently developing my business.  My business is designing edible gardens, advising on urban chickens, and developing plans for pollinator and wildlife habitats in an urban setting.  My business is geeking out on gardening.

I write this blog. I am interested in becoming more involved in outside organizations as it becomes clearer to me what I want to pursue. I reach people one-on-one in coffee shops, elevators, and friendships and I do make a difference. I realized that my engagement in food movements is different, but no less important.  And, life is dynamic and I expect this will change, expand, and develop. Just as food movements have historically.

I am part of the food justice movement.  And I found it at the bottom of a margarita glass.

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12 Responses to Finding My Place

  1. Memaw Elise says:

    Wow, Meg. I loved reading this and am glad that you came to the conclusion that you did that you are part of the food justice movement and that you do make a difference. I have told so many people about your garden and how my granddaughter has been picking and eating fresh strawberries, beans, lettuce, kale (yes raw kale), tomatoes, rosemary, mint, nasturtiums, blueberries, etc. since she could crawl! Thank you for giving her that and for teaching me! Elise

  2. Stacy says:

    Meg, this post is beautiful! You are totally living my dream right now. I am so, so proud of you for starting this business! You are most definitely a gem in the food movement. It’s easy to take for granted all the lessons you’ve learned and what it takes to juggle a serious urban farm, while also being a working woman, but that is just one way you’re being an active participant in this movement. By being a model, practicing what you preach, and teaching others so that they can do the same. You have a place here and I feel lucky to have met you because of it. Keep on keepin’ on!

  3. Christina says:

    Meg- I ponder this question and jump down that exact rabbit hole on a regularly scheduled monthly freak out- as I too am in transition. I am with you!!

    I go back & forth in my head about FSC and its place in the vast world of the food movement as I take it to the next level of doing more & more public events- “community tabling” at local farmers markets & organizing food swaps, ect. Where do we go from here as I take it to the next level and make it a business. Are we making a difference? Should we be doing more? if so, what?

    Funny thing, my first reaction when reading your possible paths list was: “No Meg, you don’t need to change your biz focus. You are an important piece in the food movement puzzle”….. Now, if I could only say that to myself over & over again. Beautiful post- as always.

  4. Britin F. says:

    I enjoyed this post as well from the perspective of a burgeoning food-activist! We show our passion and committment currently through our bakery and are discovering so many ideas for skill-sharing and food-related, community-rooted businesses. My hubs and I also feel like we are in transition – in a position to potentially make a wider difference in our community, and the world at large. It all starts at home, though I think. And then we all begin to branch out! Every little bit helps. I always say: You’re not just one person cultivating community benefits, you’re one MORE! The things you (and we as a collective society) are doing add up to making a big difference. That said, more of us need to get involved in local and national government to enact change on a larger landscape.

  5. word. I can so relate to much of this post. A wise woman said to me today, that she had no intention of waiting until she was a crone to acknowledge her wisdom, and that we do not need to get to our destination to be called a traveler. Nor is it fair to us, or the world, to wait until we are the only traveler on the road to legitamize our journey. You have worthy things to share, and you don’t need to do it any other way than the way you’re doing it. Way to let your heart lead you !

  6. Meg I love this. Over the last 3 years I’ve also been all over the map. At first I wanted to do as much outreach as possible. Then I wanted to help as many farmers as possible. Then I wanted to spend my time with consumers. All the while I’ve been doing bulk buys and encouraging folks to ditch industrialized foods (including big box organics).

    It’s all related. You are teaching them to fish (in the dirt). You are doing outreach. You are supporting local farmers. You are encouraging local consumers. I’m so glad that you went because you made valuable contacts that will play into your future in years to come. You just don’t realize it yet.
    xo, Annette

  7. Chandelle says:

    Meg, this is so fantastic. I feel similarly out of place with food policy wonks. I believe that work is important, but that is not where my heart lies. I wish I was doing even as much as you were doing. I don’t know how to do everything I want to do around everything I have to do. I think you are doing amazing work, and if you don’t fit in that mold, GOOD! <3

  8. Agnes says:

    Thank you for your words Meg, it is difficult to admit the truth to oneself, but to expose it for all to see…you are a strong one. I stand for your ideas and support your growth!

  9. Pingback: Top Posts of 2011 | Grow & Resist

  10. It’s hard when our eyes see more way to help than our hands can carry out. If you can’t be like Durga – the compassionate self-sustaining fighter with enough hands for every weapon – working to the calling of your own hands seems the best answer to me.

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