Person in a dark tie-dye shirt, short hair a black beanie holding up a bag of mushroom starter, standing in front of a table with boxes and a poster stand.

Embracing LOVE in the Food System was a Blast! 

Report-back: Spring 2024 “Embracing LOVE in the Food System” 

By Tessa Baker

From early April through May, CAGJ, along with Olympia-based Everyone’s Food Sovereignty Alliance (EFSA), co-hosted an eight week intensive that led participants to reimagine the food system through the lens of food sovereignty. This program entitled “Embracing LOVE in the Food System” was designed by a former AGRA Watch volunteer and a long time CAGJ supporter, Megumi Sugihara, who recently founded EFSA. The first cohort in Olympia recently celebrated the completion of the program. The following is a blog post by one of the participants, Tessa Baker of Forest Edge Farm.

EFSA is currently developing an online version of this intensive to be offered later this summer. CAGJ and EFSA are planning to offer the program in Seattle this Fall. Megumi would be happy to design/facilitate custom-made programs for organizations and groups. For more information on “Embracing LOVE in the Food System”, please contact Megumi at EFSA or Heather at CAGJ.

Person in a dark tie-dye shirt, short hair a black beanie holding up a bag of mushroom starter, standing in front of a table with boxes and a poster stand.

Tessa gives a workshop on mushrooms and mycelium

Two months ago, my new friend Alex invited me to attend a class related to farming and food systems. I didn’t know what exactly to expect from this eight week course, but I was looking forward to the opportunity to connect with others about farming related topics and chat with Alex on our carpool journey to Olympia. I would have never expected this course to be a total paradigm shifting experience, but here I am, feeling freshly motivated to make changes to the status quo systems for growing and accessing food, and motivated to continue developing my own small organic farm!

So what did this course look like? The course challenged us to educate ourselves through assigned homework each week before class, allowing opportunity to discuss the readings during class. We started each class in conversation, checking in with how we are doing and often doing a grounding exercise. Megumi’s skillful facilitation allowed for flexibility in the schedule, while ensuring we always left with a new experience and fresh knowledge. 

After discussing readings, we participated in a hands-on activity, often involving preparing or growing food. Secretly, my favorite activity was eating together – not only because sharing food in a community is a natural way to bond, but because it was lunch time for me and I was hungry! We made bread and butter and one classmate gave us sourdough starters to take home, and look at me – a little late, but I’ve joined the sourdough starter club! 

On week seven, a few of us were asked to do a demonstration on topics that came up during class, and I shared how to incorporate mycelium and mushrooms into the home garden. I enjoyed this opportunity to give a little workshop on mushrooms for the first time! One of my peers presented her abuela’s (grandmother’s) refried bean recipe, which included using tortillas while blending. The bean and cheese tacos we made were delicious! We also learned about vermiculture compost and were shown a simple bin-over-bin set up that utilizes shredded paper as bedding for the worms. I’m interested in exploring the idea a classmate shared of using worms to shred plastic, which could then be further composted by oyster mushrooms!

As mentioned, each week we were given a (very long) list of recommended readings and videos to review and had some time each class to discuss. There was SO much information to take in, we barely scratched the surface, and even so, I feel like I’m halfway through a college course! Topics included how our food systems are failing us, labor and immigration policy and farm workers rights, international trade and the impact of globalization on food access and distribution, the magic of grocery store food distribution systems, and actions we can take to make change. 

One big takeaway from the readings is the need for supporting alternative food systems, as the current industrial food system is designed for durable and reliable products, year round supply, and low cost. While the technological improvements behind the ever increasing capacity of industrial food distribution is mind blowing, large scale globalized farming comes at a huge energy cost, lower quality and taste, and negative impacts to the environment and our health as individuals and communities. Buying from local, small scale farms has a huge impact, and that’s why I was so pumped to attend this class that was held at the South Sound Fresh (food hub) distribution center/Our Community Kitchen

During the final session, Megumi challenged us to choose one action related to Food Systems that we will each take in our life, and then map out the community resources we can tap into to accomplish this action. I decided that education was my action, and starting this blog is a big part of this action!

Person with gray hair and long-sleeved blue shirt getting freshly made butter from a jar to spread on sourdough breadThe mix of people in the class was precious. There was a 14 year old son and his mother who homestead and who brought us treats each week, including tomatillo starts, baby basil plants, goose eggs, and home made ice cream from all local ingredients! A few were women in their 20s who I enjoyed connecting at a peer level with, as I’m always looking for new friends – especially those who are into food justice and farming! There were also retired women who love gardening, dislike Kale (but we may have convinced her to give it a try) and who are curious about applying principles of food sovereignty to their lives. I loved the intergenerational learning and supportive environment, and was so excited that others were interested in continuing to meet regularly after the completion of the eight weeks. We have committed to a monthly supper club/ book club, possibly investigating the Farm Bill further, and we are in the middle of ironing out details for our first get-together. 

Since I moved to my home here in Western Washington, even before starting the farm, Shaina and I knew we wanted to be a part of hosting dinner events that support local food and build community, and I feel like this class is a huge part of making this dream come to fruition. I hope to host the group at our own table for a mushroom inspired meal sometime soon!

Tessa’s Action Plan!














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