Jason Walker is the Communications Director for Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota (SFA), a nonprofit whose mission is to support the development and enhancement of sustainable farming systems through farmer-to-farmer networking, innovation, demonstration, and education.
We had the opportunity to sit down and learn more about SFA and their work to help sustainable farming. Here is what Jason had to say.
What is the role of SFA?
SFA is a farming networking organization that works to boost sustainable agriculture in Minnesota and beyond by enabling networking opportunities among its members and by providing educational offerings through conferences and classes. Recently we began focusing on the potential of soil health to solve problems within the farming community and beyond. We have learned that soil health helps farming communities by fighting climate change, increasing water quality and giving rural farming families a chance to not only survive but to thrive. This is exceptionally inspiring!
How does SFA educate their members?
We offer two large conferences a year where our members come and learn in a conference-style format. While this is fun and effective, what is most powerful for our members is our smaller field trainings on the farms offered throughout the year. These field trainings give our members a way to meet and network with other farmers in their unique farming community. Minnesota has a diverse geology and landscape therefore we have a lot of different kinds of farming communities spread out throughout the state. For example, the Superior region has a much different farming ecosystem than in other parts of the state. Farmers from all different parts of Minnesota can meet and learn about new initiatives in the field such as deep winter greenhouses where you can grow food throughout the deepest of winter. Sharing ideas and innovation is a fabulous tool for our members.
Did you grow up on a farm?
I did not grow up on a farm but in a small town in Kansas. I moved in Minnesota in 2006 and began my career as a journalist. Through my work as a journalist, I developed an appreciation for food, co-ops, and the wealth of farmers markets that are creating a vibrant food-focused local economy. I lucked into a meeting with SFA where I got into this position where I can marry my journalist skills with my passion for sustainable food.
What motivates you to do farming work?
The roots of my motivation come from the knowledge that food has an impact on every person’s life. As a society, we are becoming more aware of what healthy food is and means not only to our bodies but to our environment. As a parent of four children, I also want to be mindful of what my own family is eating especially when it comes to sugar. I am paying more attention to what is “real food” and that is what I want to feed my family. Unfortunately, real food such as fresh fruits and vegetables is expensive.
By boosting rural economies and family farmers, we can improve the quality of life for everyone through the foods we eat. If there are more foods like this available and cost-effective, it can have a real impact on society as a whole. For me, working for an organization that is doing this amazing work is very rewarding.
Is there a disconnect working in farming but having an office in the city?
Even though I’m based in the city, my organization is a virtual office. Many others are working on a farm so they keep me grounded. The best thing about being here is I can work at the Impact Hub and meet people who can impact SFA in a positive way.
Everyone eats so it is important for non-farmers to understand what farmers go through so we can lift people up.
-Jason Walker, SFA
What has been good about working at the Impact Hub?
I love the environment here at the Hub. It has a soothing, calming environment that doesn’t feel pressured. I like how there is community and interaction if you want it and there is enough space to focus when you need it. Furthermore, the mission of the Impact Hub aligns very closely with my organization and me personally: To make the world a better place.
What is something you’ve learned in this work that is translatable to people living their everyday life?
We have to always remember that we are living in a very divided society. It is harder to connect with our differences and we have become very isolated on a human level. I am always struck by the connections we make despite our differences. We are a big state, a big country and a big world yet we all strive for the same things in life. We all want clean water, healthy food, to protect our families and our planet.
How do you tell the story of SFA and why it matters?
As Communications Director, when you are talking about food it all comes back to a storytelling perspective. Everyone eats food and drinks water. We need food to survive however we also come together to share and create food. When talking about SFA, what I do is keep coming back to the idea that a person produced what we are eating and to think about how it was made and by who. Was the food produced in a way that aligns with your values? My goal is to get people to think more about the food they eat and have a connection with it. Everyone can have an impact on making choices around food. The food that sustains us can also lift us up and solve some of the world’s problems. My question is, “Are we going to do this?”.
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