We are a small group here at FoFF. We run all our programs with only 7 hard working employees spread around the state. The farmers we serve guide the work but these passionate people are there day in and day out, making the calls, walking the fields, and connecting our farmers and ranchers. Here’s what they had to say about how they think about their work and why they choose to work for FoFF:
Courtney Stone: Oregon Pasture Network Program Manager
In June, I joined the Oregon Pasture Network after a pandemic-induced break from nonprofit work. My family’s quest for a new home where we could grow, in more ways than one, led us to start our own farmstead in rural Deadwood, Oregon. During the 2023 Small Farms Conference at OSU, I was inspired by several policy advocates, including Alice Morrison, who highlighted the vital work of Friends of Family Farmers and helped pull me out of some of the tunnel vision I had experienced as we settled into our new home.
I began following Friends of Family Farmers’ policy advocacy work and felt a deep connection to their mission. In May, I was fortunate to be hired as the Program Manager for the Oregon Pasture Network. It’s an honor to be part of an organization that embodies its values, from carefully crafting inclusive language to engaging in deep discussions about possible tensions within policy work. The team is dedicated to amplifying the voices of small farmers, particularly those who aren’t always heard. They appreciate the scientific nature of farming, emphasizing continuous improvement and the expertise that comes with time.
In my role, I’m committed to advancing the Oregon Pasture Network’s mission and supporting our community of family farmers. I learn every day from the plethora of experts who contribute to a Network that I feel honored to support, and I’m excited to be part of this dynamic organization as we navigate a new normal and advocate for Oregon’s farming community.
Christina Bentrup, Willamette Valley Farm Link Navigator
As I approach my one-year anniversary at Friends of Family Farmers, I appreciate the chance to share with you more about our work. My role at FOFF is to support beginning or expanding farmer land seekers in achieving their land access goals. Depending upon the farmer that may look like working together to create a ‘land access action plan’, help navigating lease or purchase agreements, support in refining a business plan, or simply holding space for difficult conversations.
As a farmer myself who has spent years looking for accessible and affordable land, I have experienced firsthand the challenges that all land seekers face – a short supply, high prices, and fierce competition. My co-worker, Silvia, works with farmers who face additional burdens in their land search due to historic and systemic oppressions aimed at black, indigenous and persons of color. Together, our approach to this work is through navigation: We don’t have all of the answers, but we aim to be the support that is needed in the critical details and emotional aspects of a farmland search. Our program also strives to challenge stereotypes about who is a farmer, creatively evaluate what land access can look like in our time and place, and imagine agricultural land use that supports natural systems.
If you’d like to learn more about issues impacting land access for farmers, you can visit our updated resources page, or check out these other organizations doing important land access work: Soul Fire Farm, Land Access with National Young Farmers Coalition, Landback with Native Defense Network, Land Justice Project with Nuns and Nones, and Agrarian Commons are just a few places to learn more. And of course if you’re a farmer struggling with your own land access needs – don’t hesitate to reach out to me at email@example.com !
Brittney Deming, Community Engagement Manager
I didn’t come from a policy background, I came from a farming background. I absolutely loved getting my hands dirty, providing nourishing food for my community and knowing the food I grow makes a difference. As someone with a sociology background, I have always been inspired to make the world a better place for future generations. This is where FoFF’s advocacy program has really made an impact on me. For years, as a small farmer, I knew the importance of our collective voice and how essential it is to write, call or meet with your legislators but I couldn’t really comprehend exactly how much leverage you gain by working together towards a common goal. It has been my pleasure witnessing the power of small farmer stories and perspectives.
FoFF has become a leader in understanding the barriers small farmers face, shining light on issues and then directing, empowering and inspiring farmers to participate in the legislative process. It certainly can be slow and frustrating but essential to make lasting change. From funding disaster resilience and relief, expanding meat processing in Oregon to regulating industrial agriculture…I am here to tell you every phone call, meeting and making your voice heard really matters. Sometimes it may feel insignificant but when our one voice joins hundreds of others, people listen. I appreciate every farmer along the way that has stood up for their values and future of our local food system. We will keep trying our best to include, represent and center the small farmers and ranchers that keep Oregon such a beautiful place to live (and eat!).