Small Steps to Big Change

This year CSANR sponsored travel for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference in Yakima, WA. We are posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. To view student posts from this year and prior years, visit

Jennifer Miller is originally from Arizona. She is a junior in the Organic and Sustainable Agriculture program. 

WSU LogoThis weekend at the Tilth Conference 2019 in Yakima, WA I realized something about change. There are so many issues and projects that need support: advocating for fair wages and treatment for farm workers, protecting and providing for local pollinators, respecting and valuing the rights of indigenous peoples as we continue to live side by side in this beautiful country, ensuring humane treatment of animals, building and caring for the soil we pull our food from, remembering to feed those who can’t feed themselves, the list goes on and on. And sometimes I get so overwhelmed by all there is to care for and fight for, that I become immobilized. How can I, one person, do something that will make even a drop of difference in this big bucket of brokenness?

And then I show up to a conference like this where so many “one persons” are doing something in some part of our world to effect change. Right where they are. With the things that are in front of them. Someone notices the mistreated farm laborer and commits to fight alongside her for fair wages. Someone raises pigs and goats and chickens with care and appreciation and commits to return them to the earth where they will feed the land for years to come.  Someone spends time building the soil that feeds their crops while creating native habitat for the insects that pollinate them. Someone extends an invitation to the Yakama Nation (acknowledging their connection to this part of the earth long before we ever put our own shovels into it) to be a part of a gathering in celebration of soil, sun and water and the way they sustain all life. Someone recognizes how hard it is for a single mother who is working two jobs while raising her children to afford fresh produce and collaborates with local farmers to make sure those things get to the food bank where she sources her food.

All of a sudden, the brokenness doesn’t feel so overwhelming. I am reminded that greed, self, and money haven’t triumphed over this earth that generously sustains all life with such impartiality. That there are those who have bravely joined with her in spreading life and health and growth. Perhaps that is why we come together for events like this: to remember that others, too, notice the brokenness but refuse to let it dictate the end of the story. To remember that the change we seek is more attainable because we seek it together. Because we know things can be better.

It seems that change isn’t about one person doing it all. Change is about each person stepping outside of themselves and noticing what’s happening around them. Its sacrificing what is comfortable or known in order to take on another’s burden. It involves hard work, creativity, sweat, research, and sometimes even tears.

And it requires everyone doing something.

Thank you to all those who participated in this conference, both leading sessions and being encouraged, challenged, and taught by them. You make this world a better place to live in.