So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye!

To quote Beyoncé, “thank God I found the good in goodbye.”

Fair Farms launched in December of 2015. I joined the campaign right around that time, and it was a heady mix of meeting new people, familiarizing myself with the technologies used to manage the campaign and of course diving in on the substantive policy issues presented by the current state of agriculture and farming (and food) in my treasured home state of Maryland.

After a short 18-month tenure, I’m leaving Fair Farms for a new job. The campaign will carry forward with a new campaign manager to be announced in the coming weeks.

While I don’t want this note to come off as an Oscar®-style speech, I would like to take a few moments for some acknowledgments.

First my boss, Betsy Nicholas, the founder of Fair Farms and executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake, who entrusted me with her tremendous idea. Fair Farms launched as a way to change the conversation — from one that pitted environmentalists against farmers to one that lifted up sustainable farm practices.

Taking the Fair Farms message on the road has been inspiring. There are so many people who are working in the good food movement. It has been an honor to tell their stories.

For example, we went to St. Mary’s County to meet with a farmer and a chef to learn how they work in tandem to grow foods and prepare them so that people can eat the very best of local, organically-grown flavors. We spent a half-day shooting a video, which we edited down to four minutes. So much of their story got left on the cutting room floor — like how Robert Plant of Elements Eatery hires and trains people through a county workforce development program, giving people who have hit hard times an opportunity to start or reboot their careers in the culinary industry.

I got to meet the farmer who not only helped the Obamas to plant their White House vegetable garden but has been an organic farmer since before there were rules surrounding USDA organic certification.

We brought people together to talk about school food and local procurement. Ella Rose Preston, who manages the Hyattsville Farmers Market, taught me about preparing vegetables by spiralizing. I recently saw that Wegman’s is offering pre-spiralized veggies in their produce section, so you know it is officially a thing. I learned about it first from a local market demonstration.

Our campaign consultant Dan Furmansky has been a joy to work with. Not only does he have a lovely singing voice, but he also works tirelessly to preserve the continuity of the campaign and maintain our policy focus — especially during the Maryland legislative session. Of the four bills we supported in 2017, all four passed.

Alongside Shelby Kalm, our outreach coordinator, we have recruited dozens of farmers and scores of non-profits and businesses as partners. Shelby and I keep our rubber boots handy for farm visits. These inspiring visits are the best part of this job. The conversations around production methods and how people bring a product to market doesn’t seem sexy, but believe me when I tell you that the passion surrounding this work is motivating. When Shelby and I leave the farms or markets, we often spend our ride home enthusiastically rehashing our visit. These people have often taken a leap of faith in a risky business that depends heavily on consumers to shop their values and maintain a habit that is often less than convenient.

Our Fair Farms legal fellow Katlyn Clark is always available to help me untangle the complicated policy issues and language of legislation and regulatory matters, proofread blogposts and e-blasts and just recently, show up at the last minute with the liquor license for our movie screening ;-).

Finally, most of all, I’d like to thank you, our Fair Farms consumers. We see each week how many of you open our emails, click through to write your legislators, watch a video or read a story. Knowing that the work of the campaign is being consumed has made this a most fulfilling 18 months on the job.

Thank you for all of your support for the campaign thus far – and moving forward. I know I will continue to subscribe to our e-blasts and blog posts and social media channels. I will also continue to be a Fair Farms consumer, pledging to be mindful of where my food comes from and how it is grown.


Warmest regards,

Mitchelle Stephenson