As shown in this logo designed by Quincy resident Oscar Romero, the theme of last Tuesday’s bilingual community summit held at the Quincy Junior High as “Seeding Success, Growing ONE Community.” A team of bilingual junior high students and faculty, along with local volunteers hosted over 160 community members in a discussion about how to protect our region’s land and water resources and build community health and prosperity. “Fostering cross-generational relationships, a sense of belonging, and knowledge and resource sharing” were among the subjects highlighted in a collection of over 60 short stories submitted by local citizens. These essays, chronicling recent “successes” both large and small were used to inspire deliberation, celebration, and action in small work groups.
Amongst the moving stories of natural disaster recovery, business entrepreneurialism, citizen conservation projects, and grassroots health movements, two farmers with a connection to CSANR were called to the podium. In the first public speech of his life, in English, Manuel Mendoza mesmerized the room with his story of coming to the U.S. as a farmworker from Mexico in 1979 and eventually amassing sufficient funds to purchase the orchard where he worked.
Manuel obtained the Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan to buy his farm in 2004 with the assistance of Malaquias Flores of our CSANR Small Farms Program. Manuel shared his organic orchard management techniques and strategies with other farmers on a WSU-Tilth Farm Walk in 2010. Careful attention to soil, water, and pest management, coupled with strategic varietal selection and marketing have enabled Manual to pay off his farm in record time. Manuel and his wife, Virginia, have also secured educations for their three daughters, one of whom is now a teacher at Quincy Junior High. He expressed his gratitude to the America that welcomed him with open arms, referring to himself as someone who is lucky to call Mexico a mother and the U.S. a father.
Jim Baird of the CSANR Advisory Board had the challenge of following Manuel’s speech and he was up to it. Jim, who farms over 1200 acres of organic and conventional crops near Ephrata and Royal City has made it his mission to welcome young people into the profession of farming. In the process of coaching new talent at the non-profit he founded, Cloudview Ecofarms, he enables young people to collectively grow organic crops to supply regional direct markets and over 30 area school districts. Teaching new farmers, feeding people good food, and improving the diets of students are just a few of the gifts Jim brings to our community as a land steward. As Jim and Manuel demonstrate, the time for farmer leadership in crafting resilient solutions to the growing environmental and economic crises of our countryside is now. We need urban-rural, cross-cultural, cross-generational “bridge builders” and change makers like them to help us glimpse the possibilities.
These photos capture Manuel and Jim as they embody the mission of IRIS “to foster sustainable rural communities in North Central Washington by gathering and sharing success stories that enhance a sense of belonging, inspire action, and build community”. I am grateful for the two of them and for Nancy Warner and her enthusiastic team of IRIS volunteers and sponsors who brought us together to celebrate the unique assets of this place and time. Other stories showcased at this event, the sponsors, and the full agenda can be found HERE.