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Monadnock Farm & Community Coalition Introduces New Local Food Resource, "Cultivating Community"

Antioch University New England (AUNE) students Elizabeth Mirra and Rachel Brice at Westmoreland Garden ProjectThe Monadnock Farm & Community Coalition (MFCC) has announced the launch of a new resource for Coalition partners and community members: a visual and narrative portfolio depicting the array of work people in the Monadnock Region are doing around issues of local food and the ways these individuals experience, relate with, and find meaning in the work. The photographic and written depictions, available to the public through MFCC’s website, can be used by organizations and stakeholders to enhance their own efforts, whether to inform promotional or educational programs, engage new members, apply for funding, or support collaboration. The collection can also provide a tool for farmers, service providers, educators, and others to reflect upon and communicate the value of their work and build on existing capacity to ensure a food system that works for everyone.

The “Cultivating Community” series consists of eighteen vignettes representing businesses, nonprofits, agencies, and independent efforts that contribute to a just and thriving local food system. Participants’ stories range from a vegan farmer faced with an unruly gang of turkeys to gleaning volunteers who harvest from gardens, farms, and orchards to tackle both waste and hunger; from community supper organizers creating spaces to nourish both body and soul to conservation specialists working with landowners to keep agricultural soils healthy and productive. Images and stories convey the interconnected nature of the participants’ work. Collectively, the gallery invites people to see themselves in the larger picture of food systems, framing an awareness of what the work looks like through the eyes of those most directly engaged in it.

Many of the photos are from the participants themselves; others are contributed by doctoral fellow Jess Gerrior, who worked alongside volunteers, conducted informal interviews and focus groups, organized potluck and coffee table conversations, and curated the collection as part of a self-designed service learning project. Subjects include sites such as The Community Kitchen in Keene, The Cornucopia Community Garden in Peterborough, and Sun Moon Farm in Rindge, as well as events such as the Monadnock Food Co-op’s and Cheshire County Conservation District’s annual meetings, a fermentation workshop with Rooted in Clay at Tracie’s Community Farm, and Keene Housing’s Farm to Family pick-up days. Themes among participants’ experiences include learning, resilience, economic progress, and appreciation for and identity with both the culture of the Monadnock Region and the land itself.

MFCC Board members and Director Roe-Ann Tasoulas see the project as filling a need for more and better visuals that can draw people in to learn more about the issues of local food systems. Their intention is to ensure this resource can be used by anyone who shares the vision of “a vibrant, safe and efficient local food system that enhances the health of our community, is profitable for farmers and producers, is accessible to all community members, conserves natural resources and is sustained by strong leadership and commitment in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire.” Tasoulas emphasizes that the project lends itself to the addition of more photos and stories, building outward to include more farms and more diverse efforts.

 

MFCC is a regional coalition of 82 member organizations and 46 individual members to support a sustainable food system by cultivating community action and building collaborations to implement effective programs, projects, and policies. The “Cultivating Community” project is available through the MFCC website at www.MFCCoalition.org. For more information about the process and information represented in the project, contact Jess Gerrior at jgerrior@antioch.edu.

Jess Gerrior is a Doctoral Fellow at Antioch University New England and Director of the C&S Workplace Organic Gardens Project. She is a former Board member of the Monadnock Farm & Community Coalition and former Project Manager for Monadnock Food Co-op, a home and community gardener, and is currently is proposing dissertation research involving community gardening as a practice of food empowerment.

Photo: Antioch University New England students Elizabeth Mirra and Rachel Brice at Westmoreland Garden Project


Featured image courtesy of John Benford Photography