Takeaways from Southern SAWG Conference

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Georgia Farmers Market Association staff attended the 2019 Southern SAWG Conference this January in Little Rock, Arkansas. This year, the theme of the conference was “Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms…” and the organizers strongly delivered on what they set out to accomplish by selecting top-notch topics and presenters. There is much to highlight from the conference – from the field trips, to the workshops, to the amazing networking, attendees, and special events.

But one take away GFMA staff members have brought back comes from a session on “Finding Your Voice in Policy,” presented by Ash Bruxvoort, Marla Karina Larrave, and Judith McGeary. Each presenter highlighted their own experience working within their respective community. They spoke about the challenges they faced, and the steps they took to address their issues by approaching lawmakers through advocacy.

When a comment arose from the audience around how difficult it can be to get policymakers to listen to lone farmers in need of change, each presenter offered solutions and emphasized the need to hone in on your own story and how it connects with the larger picture. Judith McGeary told the audience to approach policy makers with three key things in mind: 1) what is the issue; 2) why should they care; and 3) what can they do about it.

Another important piece of advice for the audience was to become a part of a coalition. When lone farmers want to be heard, the impact is always stronger with partners, and others who can help strategize and build momentum through sharing the workload. Marla Karina Larrave reminded the audience how important it is to “focus on the asks” as the work is being shared, and to always follow up and say “Thank You,” as next steps are created.

Ash Bruxvoort reminded the group not to overlook local resources, like newspapers, writing letter campaigns, and using the Internet to make change. The session ended with remarks on starting local and then building coalition nationally.

Georgia Farmers Market Association is glad to attend such a dynamic event and connect with those who care about our communities and address challenges within the food justice space.

We look forward to building stronger communities, and to continue fostering pathways for improved local food access in our state. To become a member of the Association, visit our Membership Page

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