During my Wild Gift Fellowship year I scaled back my farming operation (see below) so that I could spend more time and energy doing the food systems organizing work that I feel is so important. While establishing the Young Farmer Network (YFN) and creating the organizational structure and solid team to keep that good work going and growing, I was staff at the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. At New Entry I worked primarily with immigrant and refugee farmers to establish new farms in the greater Boston area. In April, 2014, I transitioned to Harvard University. As the Coordinator of the Food Literacy Project I manage a team of 25 student fellows who learn about food systems issues and plan events to educate their peers and the wider community about how food and agriculture connect to contemporary issues - from immigration to climate change. I also teach the garden internship program and manage the farmers' market. Additionally, I work with University partners such as the Office of Sustainability and the Food Law and Policy Clinic on large-scale events and campaigns to educate and engage our community in improving the food system.
In addition to my work at Harvard, I am still in an advisory and visioning role at YFN, am on the board of the Beginning Farmer Network of Mass and am farming about an acre of land- mostly in garlic and popcorn strains that I have been breeding for a local seed company. Las year I also worked part time for New Entry (teaching an Urban Agriculture and Entrepreneurship class to resource-limited people of color in Roxbury, MA), and chaired of the Wild Gift Selection Committee (and was on the Alumni Council).
My particular areas of interest are in food systems and climate change, and social justice, especially for women, in our food system.
My background and Wild Gift project…
I grew up on a small-scale sustainable dairy goat farm in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, where experiential learning helped drive and complement my formal homeschool education. Growing up on a farm and interacting with people of all ages and backgrounds taught me to be a respectful team member, a driven leader, a creative thinker, and a resourceful problem-solver. In my undergraduate education at Brown University I studied Geology and Biology with a focus on nutrient cycling and soil science. Driven by a passion to be engaged with my greater community and pursue a lifestyle of constant physical and mental challenge, I began my own sustainable farm while still a full time student.
For four years I managed my five-acre, 60 family Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm with a strong focus on sustainability, education, and community building. Farms are wonderful places for people to interact with nature and each other in the most tangible ways possible. In addition to providing educational tours, field trips, and workshops on the farm, I created a three-month long internship program for young women to learn about diverse sustainable, small-scale, integrated plant and animal agriculture, as well as farm business management.
As a new farmer I saw that there were many of us struggling with the same issues as we developed our enterprises, but there wasn't an education or support system - everyone was reinventing the wheel and wasting valueable emotional, financial, and time resources.
With the support and guidance from Wild Gift I created the nonprofit Young Farmer Network (YFN) to help farmers develop socially, ecologically, and econically sustainable farm business and happy lives. Our work at YFN focuses on cultivating personal and professional realationships and strong networks between new farmers of all ages and backgrounds in southern New England. As a network we respond to the needs of our 300+ members and are expanding our educational programming. We have three primary program areas:
- Young Farmer Night is a series of regular and rotating free social and educational events open to farmers and farm allies of all ages and experience levels, meant to foster community, build relationships and catalyze collaboration in Southeastern New England.
- Pasture To Plate helps facilitate the connections between new farmers and the public. Pasture To Plate helps beginning farmers offer on-farm workshops and events that engage the public on their farms.
- Short courses provide farmers with in-depth information and hands-on experience on farming topics such as: soil science, business planning, and small engine repair.
The Young Farmer Network is organized by a team of three farmers (Sarah Turkus, Tess Brown-Lavoie, and Margiana Petersen-Rockney). Today I have more of a strategic planning/visioning role while Sarah and Tess operate the day-to-day of the network.
Some articles featuring Margiana's work:BreakThru Radio, September 2014. Farm-To-Table. ThriveWire, September 2014. Farming May Seem Old-Fashioned, but These Young Farmers Are Trying to Change This Perception. Providence Journal/AP, August 2014. New Go-To Career for New England’s Young. Lancaster Farming, June 2014. RI Breeds New Generation of Farmers, Food Activists. Boston Globe, July 23rd, 2013. Young Farmers Networks At Potlucks Rhode Island Monthly, September 2013. On The Farm With Pasture To Plate Edible South Shore Magazine, Fall 2013. Unite! Young Farmers Unite Zagat 30 Under 30, 2013. YFN Organizer Margiana Petersen-Rockney named 2013 30 Under 30 Boston Homegrown.com, February 5th, 2013. Community Building 101 Country Folks, 2012. Pasture To Plate: Certified Mobile Kitchen Boston Globe, September 18th, 2012. Aspiring Farmers Plow Ahead The Examiner, August 14th, 2012. Sustainable Practices at Rosasharn Farm Fall River Herald News, 2012. Second Generation Farmer Cultivates Crops, Community