Katherine sits at a table of CAGJ publications and holds up a SLEE poster.

Help CAGJ Continue Our Collective Organizing: Special Appeal by Katherine Hillesland

Hello all! 

My name is Katherine, and I’m a CAGJ member and volunteer. After interning with CAGJ for the past several years, I had the opportunity this past summer to co-coordinate CAGJ’s 16th SLEE Gala. I am writing to ask you to consider an end-of-year donation to help CAGJ continue our impactful food sovereignty work. 

In the spring I had the opportunity to attend a study abroad program in Italy where I studied Italian culture and politics of food. I learned many important lessons from farmers, food activists, and chefs, but one of the biggest takeaways came from my fellow students: the importance of food in creating community. Most of my meals began with engaging with vendors at farmers’ markets while purchasing ingredients, involved cooking with a group of students and sharing ingredients, skills, and time freely, and ended with enjoying the food we made and each others’ company and conversation. Group meals became a space for giving, bonding, learning, and joy. It allowed me to connect with my peers in a unique way and understand the sacrality of food. As a busy college student, I hadn’t often prioritized cooking and eating with others, but after this experience, I knew that it was something I needed to center in my life back at home. 

When I returned to Seattle, eager to dig into food sovereignty work, I stepped into the SLEE co-coordinator role and worked for a month up to my first in-person SLEE after three years of involvement with CAGJ. Our work included spending lots of time at Seattle farmers markets connecting with shoppers and farmers, many of whom donated ingredients for our SLEE meal. At SLEE we got to see the Black Star Farmers garden where one of the dishes we ate was grown, and hang out with people who were involved with growing, planning, and cooking the whole meal. It was beautiful to see the CAGJ community enjoying each other’s company over food and it reminded me of my time in Italy. We all felt the inspiration from the heartfelt speech that Black Star Farmers gave. Black Star Farmers creates space for communities to reclaim their ancestral foodways, and their speech highlighted the Indigenous ways of being that center the importance of collective organizing and a shift away from individualism to address injustices.

SLEE helped me understand that my desire to center food in my own community is grounded in food sovereignty. The food sovereignty movement addresses the need for food systems to be participatory, and for me eating communally works against the hyper-individualism ingrained in life. 

CAGJ has impacted me on a personal level but also embodies collective organizing on a systemic scale. This fall I participated in CAGJ’s Farmworker Solidarity Collective where we worked with Familias Unidas por la Justicia, one of CAGJ’s solidarity partners, to organize their statewide tour Called Creating the World We Want/Creando el Mundo Que Queremos, the tour brought attention to the role corporations and foundations play in upholding unjust and harmful practices in our food system. 

I would love for you to consider helping us to continue our collective organizing with solidarity partners by donating to CAGJ today. With your help, we can work together to call out injustices and shift the power back into the hands of the people. Please consider the option of donating monthly – Sustainers are CAGJ’s lifeblood, and allow us to dedicate more of our time and energy towards organizing.

Since I became involved with CAGJ I’ve seen how the work of this community has impacted communities across the globe. I’m grateful for how much I’ve learned through CAGJ, and I’m excited to see our community keep growing. 

Thank you and Happy New Year!

In solidarity,

Katherine Hillesland

P.S.  If you can’t donate, consider becoming a Member and contribute by sharing your time, skills and ideas!

Posted in Agra Watch Blog Posts, Food Justice Blog Posts, News, Slider, Trade Justice Blog Posts.

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