Thank you to the Merck Family Fund for providing support for travel and accommodations so we could attend this conference!
A report back from AV youth farmer Nelly Burgos:
Earlier this month, on November 10 & 11, me and my team at Added Value were able to go on an over night trip to Hartford, Connecticut. We, as a part of the Youth Food Justice Network (YFJN) team, were invited to attend the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) Conference. The YFJN is a collaboration of urban farms and food justice projects in New York City that started in 2015. We are all working towards the same goal, which is to benefit our communities through farming and educating youth. At the Conference, we were excited to network with other youth and food justice advocates, to share our experience with each other, and to build bonds that expand the youth empowerment and food justice movements.
On Thursday night, our YFJN teams all met up around 10-11pm at the Hartford Hampton Inn. We checked into our rooms for the night and prepared for the long conference day ahead. I was able to practice and organize along with several of my other coworkers on a presentation that we were going to give at the conference the next day.
On Wednesday morning, we all woke up extra early to get breakfast and start our day. The conference started at 8:00 am. When we arrived I was astonished by how many people actually attended this regional event. Personally, I’ve attended several conferences and workshops, but this had a certain vibe. Usually we attended events that consist of a couple hundred people, but there were easily close to one thousand at the NESAWG conference. Knowing that for some of my coworkers this was their first conference experience made me feel proud. I was able to be a part of this moment when youth from several states came together to address our issues and give ourselves a voice.
At the first workshop of the day, me and my coworkers from East New York Farms and Friends of the Highline presented in front of at least 80 people. We were extremely nervous but we were able to pull through as we got into the flow of talking about the work that we do. After we finished our presentation, we were able to attend many other workshops that focused on youth leading youth, adultism, and even a workshop that gave the youth a voice to speak on politics following the presidential election.
In the middle of the day, a group of us went to a near by restaurant to have lunch together. We all got pizza and hung out with new folk. We ended up doing one of social media’s trending challenges, The Mannequin Challenge. It basically had all of us freeze in action and take a video with music playing.
After our fun lunch, Corey, the youth leader at Added Value, led a facilitated conversation in order for us to get to know each other better and to talk about how we can better connect with each other in the future from such distance across the northeast. We brainstormed as a large group and ended up coming up with the idea that we would stay in touch through social media and plan more events of our own that would involve the same faces meeting and getting familiarized with each other.
After the last workshop of the day was over, we did once more mannequin challenge before we finished the day off with a dinner that the conference provided—it was marvelous. There we all got to sit and take a break from everything we had learned. I was able to ponder back on my experience, and I realized that going through the time and effort of planning to host workshops and planning how to represent your organization wasn’t for nothing. All of us youth simply attending and giving ourselves a voice, exchanging contact information by will, was spreading promotion of the movement on its own. The idea of networking, speaking up, and connecting to others has become natural as I get accustomed to the conference routine. I was able to learn that we are not the only ones within this movement, and that adultism is becoming a more familiar topic in society. I see that not only youth but some of our adults are passionate about a change that will make space for the youth of this generation to step up.