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.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-divorce) Keeping 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.
- Ignore all that I learned and pretend it didn’t happen (which I know isn’t actually possible.)
- Change focus of business and partner with an existing community or grassroots organization.
- Have a part or branch of my work be nonprofit and/or grassroots organizing.
- Continue my business as is and become more involved in organizations separately and write on Grow and Resist as I want on related topics.
- 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.