Stepping Up, Stepping Back

19 May 2015

ED Letter

Executive Director Column 5/19/15

Arguably, one of the most successful efforts with which CFJC is involved is the GOAT process—Getting Our Act Together. This past March activists, farmers, organizers and policy wonks met in Washington, D.C. for the Fourth Annual GOAT Convening. We will continue to report on the GOAT process but the purpose of mentioning it here and now is to ask for your help.

CFJC was one of a number of organizations represented, but the National Family Farm Coalition and the Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural were the D.C. local hosts, who collected income and expenses for the meetings.

After the final accounting we are a few thousand short, so this is an “ask” that if you are able, please make a donation to either NFFC or RC/CR directly to help clear the books. Either will do, as they have agreed to split anything you can do to help out. Many thanks.

This is actually a good example of what CFJC does; in every effort and collaboration with which we are involved we step up to provide technical assistance, take notes, provide facilitation, help raise funding and yes—and we always ask the hard questions to help change and create a better world for all of us.

But at CFJC we don’t set the agenda. That is up to the countless individuals and community based organizations struggling in these times to hold a vision of equity, fairness and justice in a society that seems to have lost its moral compass.

When I lived in Santa Barbara I often told tourists that it really was a lot like the night time soap opera Santa Barbara that aired on network television from 1984 to 1993. And Tuesday another oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel hearkened back to the tragic Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969.

Today, I tell people things really are reaching a state of the futuristic movies, focusing on drought, fear of pandemic crisis, a Congress out of control, politicians who will say anything to please the deep pockets who fund their campaigns, massive environmental degradation in the name of profits, militarized local police forces, and a handful of corporations continuing to mold the food system into a means to enrich their coffers instead of nourishing people.

I’ve recently had some health issues related to my heart and thus have become even more conscious of nutrition and diet. Odd, how passionate I am and always have been about labor, working conditions, farmers and farms, child nutrition, social and environmental and food and climate justice.

But it is a whole other order of weird to have to read labels every time I go to the store, and realize the games corporations play to disguise the actual content of the addictive products that are marketed, especially to children. But also to people—like me—whose lives depend on truth in labeling and transparency. Thank god for CFJC, and for all those struggling for sanity and sustainability in a culture of greed.

CFJC is entering an exciting phase, having earned credibility and standing over the past five years.

Over that time period we struggled—like many organizations—to articulate what value we add to the larger movement for social, economic, and food justice. We aren’t about colorful presentations to funders; or massive numbers of disadvantaged people in communities selected by funders.

I think of the Valley Improvement Projects in Modesto, where Bianca Lopez and a handful of young people are maintaining and building a culture of equity in the Central Valley; of the Land Loss Prevention Project in North Carolina where Savi Horne’s team has survived devastating budget cuts, and continues to help curtail epidemic losses of Black owned land in North Carolina; Amy Little at NESAWG bringing the vision of mutual collaboration to a growing network in the Northeast, despite her own personal challenges; in Bemidji, Minnesota where Tom Goldtooth and the Indigenous Environmental Network have been keeping the Tar Sands and XL pipeline issues in the forefront since before any mainstream efforts; New Mexico where Jaime Chavez connects Albuquerque activists with RuralCo staff in D.C. to advocate to Congress, and build on success in the New Mexico legislator; Sarah and Ferd at NSAC in D.C. performing their own special magic in partnership with the GOAT process; and on and on.

These are the kinds of heroes we need to celebrate each and every day.

Funding or no funding, it is critical that we all find a way to support those local and community groups who are keeping the vision of what we want our country to be.

I could continue listing many heroes holding the vision of a better United States in spite of politics and business as usual—who get up each and every day to hold the vision for all of us.

At CFJC we know how important it is that we support their work, and provide what logistical and technical support we can leverage so that they can get out of the cycle of fundraising and reporting and struggling to make ends meet.

At CFJC, we step up to help where needed, and step back to let local groups and efforts rise.

Personally, I am not worried about the outcome of the cultural and class conflicts simmering across the country, although I do ache for the individuals who suffer because of the fear that keeps us cowered before obscene defense budgets and under the corporate thumb. I believe in people, and I believe in the work they do every day in communities large and small to change the direction the corporate media is promoting. The work people are doing to keep families and communities together, whole and healthy is humbling.

My health issues are a wake up call.

The state of the Union should be a wake up call for all of us.

Again, we have to act and live like grown-ups.

Last month we introduced the New Bill of Rights project.

To inspire conversations in which you can engage.

For more information contact anyone at CFJC.

Again, we challenge you to take the New Bill of Rights project concept and make it work for you and yours.

You can also read what our intern Luis Ochoa had to say about the project. He took it upon himself to start the conversation.

Its great to be alive at this time, isn’t it?

We look forward to working with you, to help re-create a country we can believe in.

I close with a renewed request for donations. As part of the new CFJC I am available to talk and work with anyone who is thinking about making a donation to CFJC, but wants to learn more about exactly what it is that we do; how does our theory of change operate? Etc.

Don’t be shy to ask questions. It has taken the philanthropic world these past five years to understand and see our value, so if you don’t quite see it, let’s work on it together.

If you can, please consider making a one-time or regularly scheduled contribution to keep CFJC moving forward on behalf of all of us.

Give me a call or send an email, or text, to learn what you need to know to invest in CFJC. Please contribute what you can, when you can.

Once again, on behalf of the Steering Committee, staff and everyone at CFJC, thank you.

All the best.

Armando Signature




Y. Armando Nieto, CFJC Executive Director






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CFJC promotes the basic human right to healthy food while advancing social, agricultural, environmental and economic justice. Through advocacy, organizing and education, we collaborate with community-based efforts to create a sustainable food supply. We envision a food system in which all activities, from farm to table, are equitable, healthful, regenerative and community-driven.

If you believe in these principles JOIN CFJC NOW.

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