Small farmers, farmworkers, Indigenous Peoples and rural communities disproportionately bear the burdens of our chemical-dependent industrial agricultural system. This can include chronic illnesses, contaminated air, water and soil, inadequate on-the-job protections and unfair laws rooted in racism and oppression.
At PAN, we believe the best way to address these problems is by supporting and growing movements led by people on the frontlines, especially people of color & Indigenous Peoples.
The PAN Fellowship Program supports a pathway to leadership for food and farming activists from frontline communities. Leaders with a deep and personal understanding of the issue —including their social, political and cultural context—can craft meaningful and appropriate solutions for their communities and the system as a whole.
This year, PAN had the honor of bringing on three amazing women of color as our 2018 Fellows: Leslee Matthews, Paola Diaz, and Moretta Browne.
Leslee Matthews: Hawai‘i Organizing & Policy Fellow
Leslee grew up on Maui as the daughter of farmworkers, and now lives in Honolulu. From growing kalo (taro) in a traditional lo‘i, to advocating for education as a tool of empowerment, to helping restore native forests, to providing crisis intervention to victims of violent crimes, Leslee is a longtime advocate for social change who is “passionate about connecting the community with resources and resources with the community.”
As PAN’s Hawai‘i Fellow, Leslee has been instrumental in passing the landmark legislation that banned chlorpyrifos across the Hawaiian islands. She conducted critical legal and policy research, testified and attended hearings, met with legislators and their staff, talked with agency officials and represented PAN within the multi-island Protect Our Keiki Coalition.
The work of the community matters and it is up to us to take on these big corporations and the government to protect our kids and families. It is also up to those with the knowledge and resources to share with the community so we can make more informed decisions.
Paola Diaz, Farmer Justice Fellow
Paola is a Colombian-American organizer, systems-thinker, educator and farmer at heart. Many of her familial roots were internally displaced during La Violencia (the decade-long civil war in Colombia), forcing her family to move from the mountainous countryside to the inner cities, damaging their ancestral connection with the land and traditional farming.
Grounded in this family and community history, Paola has gained extensive experience in both rural and urban agriculture projects, working with Pulau Bidan Permakultur, a permaculture farm on a small Malaysian island, Ryder Farm Organic in upstate New York, and where her great grandmother still farms today, in the Colombian state of Tolima.
Paola moved from New York to California to work with PAN as a Farmer Justice Fellow, helping with implementation of the California Farmer Equity Act through on-the-ground policy work in Sacramento. She also supports the work of the California Farmer Justice Collaborative, of which PAN is a founding member.
My work with PAN focuses on empowering historically underserved farmers of color by confronting racial, political and economic disparities in farming systems. Food is a platform for building justice in the overarching agroecology and sustainability vision for a more mindful, conscious and connected tomorrow.
Moretta Browne, Farmer Justice Fellow
Moretta is an urban farmer who has dedicated herself to cultivating spaces for, and lifting up stories of queer farmers of color. As part of her apprenticeship with UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, Moretta co-facilitated a queer ecology reading group and workshop. She then went on to develop this workshop into the Queer Ecology through Climate Chaos workshop that was presented to a packed room at the Allied Media Conference earlier this summer.
At PAN, Moretta is helping to grow the California Farmer Justice Collaborative by building relationships with other farmers of color across the state. She is also collecting and documenting farmers’ stories in order to highlight the huge contribution these farmers make to our food system, and to disrupt the trope of the white male farmer.
By empowering farmers with knowledge about the policies that affect their livelihood, PAN and the CFJC are directly influencing the change we all wish to see. I am glad to be part of a collective who is supporting the healing of our community.