Working toward a regional food system that is racially and economically just and environmentally responsible.
Who leads the shift toward a more resilient, just, climate-smart food system matters. In partnership with community leaders who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), Ecotrust is leveraging our capacities, resources, and power to change how food is harvested, grown, processed, packaged, bought, and sold throughout the region.
Our work takes an equity-centered approach, guided by our values of humble, respectful collaboration. We are focused on supporting connections and shared learning among a growing network of food system leaders committed to transformation and healing—from urban and rural producers to school nutrition service staff; encouraging climate-smart land management through education and transitioning ownership to Black, Indigenous, and people of color producers; and leveraging existing food system infrastructure at the Redd on Salmon Street to catalyze and equip this shift.
Our team is focused on advancing projects that are co-created in partnership. Supporting the self-determination and intentional inclusion of historically and currently marginalized communities in the food economy are central to our efforts.
Lands & waters stewardship
We are working with partners to strengthen land tenure among farmers of color, as a strategy for combating inequality and climate change. In the coming two decades, a huge generational shift will result in almost two-thirds of Oregon and Washington’s agricultural land changing hands.
Land ownership is also a major driver of economic inequality. Only two percent of private rural land and four percent of private agricultural lands are owned by people of color; in contrast, 80 percent of farm workers are Latinx. Lack of land ownership hinders farmers of color from creating intergenerational wealth. Ecotrust program staff are collaborating with Ecotrust Investments and other partners to explore hybrid ownership models that will further support increasing land access and pathways to asset ownership for organizations and businesses, especially for BIPOC-owned and -led entities.
Building intergenerational wealth
An equitable food economy is one in which all producers and food entrepreneurs, particularly those from marginalized backgrounds, experience fair access to markets, resources, and capital to enable them to fully participate in the regional food system and prosper.
Ecotrust is honored to be a part of the Equitable Food Economy Collaborative, a partnership that works together toward shared goals that will catalyze the development of an equitable and resilient regional food economy. Prosper Portland convenes the partnership, which is composed of community-based organizations and food system stakeholders, and provides direction and oversight to guide this food system development work. The partnership’s vision is to work collaboratively to identify and achieve shared goals that address barriers to entrepreneurship and wealth building for BIPOC producers.
Ecotrust is convening a group of community-based partners to provide training, mentoring, and culturally-responsive technical assistance Black, African, Indigenous, and people of color farmers. Examples of the type of BIPOC businesses we are supporting include several East and Central African immigrant and refugee farmers who have both growing and market experience from their home countries, yet need support to transfer the necessary skills, techniques, and knowledge required to access farming and marketing opportunities in their new home of Oregon.
This work is being developed alongside the continuation—and reimagination—of our Ag of the Middle (AOTM) Accelerator program. Since 2017, Ecotrust has worked alongside a team of consultants and partner organizations to implement the Accelerator with nearly 100 farmers, ranchers, and fishermen across Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and California. The Accelerator provides targeted training and technical assistance to producers who practice regenerative agricultural practices and are committed to the ecology and communities of this region.
For more than a decade, Ecotrust has been a leader in the Farm to School movement, partnering with small to mid-scale farmers, value-added food businesses, school nutrition professionals, early care and education providers, and community-based partners to ensure that children—from preschool to high school—have access to healthy, local food. We work with a wide range of school districts, focusing on schools and preschools in lower-income communities, and we advocate for policies that expand the reach of farm to school and early care while also strengthening Oregon’s agricultural economy and creating local jobs.
Half of Oregon’s public school children are food insecure and rely on school meals to meet their nutritional needs. When schools purchase and serve quality local food, they not only nourish the people who eat at their tables, but also support a dynamic network of food producers in the region. The duality of beneficial outcomes of providing nutritious, locally grown, culturally-relevant food in schools and early care settings is hard to overstate. As a collaborative partner in local, regional and national Farm to School work, we contribute to the collective power of many stakeholders and partners who advocate for institutional regional food procurement as a pathway towards community well-being and lasting food system transformation.
BIPOC communities have the ability to be regional leaders in generating durable, creative, and equitable strategies that respond effectively to climate change. And yet systemic oppression continues to create barriers for our region’s BIPOC food system leaders to access the requisite resources, skills, experiences, and infrastructure to achieve these aims. To strengthen this region’s network of emerging BIPOC food system leaders, the Viviane Barnett Fellowship for Food System Leaders addresses these barriers through an 18-month cohort-based fellowship program focused on leadership development at the intersection of agriculture, food systems, and climate. Fellows are empowered with expertise by leveraging the program’s resources, networks, and technical capabilities and their own experiences to develop innovative solutions related to agriculture, climate justice, and soil regeneration.
Advancing equity in Farm to School education
In a keynote address at the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Conference, Jamese Kwele shares examples of Farm to School organizations that are working to center equity and where opportunity remains to shift power and address injustice.