As Farm Forward’s new Executive Director, I want to tell you my story of how I became passionate about farmed animal welfare and share my goals for this excellent organization. I stepped into this new role because I’ve seen Farm Forward’s unique strategy, high-impact programs, and phenomenal team radically transform how people eat and farm. Helping lead this organization into its second decade is an honor and I’m excited to see what we will accomplish together to end factory farming.
My belief in the transformative power of food began more than a decade ago in college when I volunteered to cook in a student co-op, making a vegetarian dinner each week for more than a hundred of my peers. By sourcing food from dozens of local farms I got to know the foodshed of Northeast Ohio and learned that access to food—especially fresh food—depends on a complex set of social, economic, and geographic factors.
After I graduated my experiences at the co-op drew me to Chicago to work for several years with the Chicago Food Policy Council, a coalition of organizations working to create a more equitable, healthy and just food system for Chicagoans. Seeing the impact of our work firsthand is why, today, I am so optimistic about the ability of activists to work with communities to envision and build a better world.
Around the same time, I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, which made explicit the connections I had long felt between factory farming’s contributions to justice issues like climate change, food security, and animal suffering. I credit Eating Animals with my decision to focus my career on ending factory farming. It felt like serendipity when I applied for a position at Farm Forward, which had been so intimately involved in creating that book.
I began working for Farm Forward five years ago on projects to transform how animal products are sourced by consumers and institutions. I’ve seen Farm Forward grow from a scrappy (but astonishingly high-impact) staff of three to a team that is poised to alter the landscape of food production in the US and internationally. With your support, we can seize these opportunities and launch a new, more vibrant, and more impactful phase of the anti–factory farming movement.
Here are some of my goals for Farm Forward in the year to come:
- Build bridges between anti–factory farming and social movements (including climate activism and food justice) in order to build a broad and effective coalition to oppose factory farming;
- Continue to grow our impact on institutional food policies and practices through programs like the Leadership Circle, the Jewish Initiative for Animals, and our partnership with the Good Food Purchasing Program in cities around the US;
- Strengthen Farm Forward’s own capacity to disseminate knowledge, coordinate strategy and provide thought leadership in order to increase the overall capacity and effectiveness of the anti–factory farming movement;
- Develop platforms to empower underrepresented voices to implement new, diverse approaches to fighting factory farming and creating better food systems;
- Continue to improve Farm Forward’s policies and practices to foster a safe, inclusive, and healthy workplace that encourages our employees to thrive personally and professionally.
The opportunities that lie ahead for Farm Forward in the coming year to help reduce the impacts of factory farming and improve the lives of farmed animals are truly exciting and are the result of ten years of excellent executive leadership by Ben Goldsmith, the vision and strategy of our founder Aaron Gross, and the hard work and skill of our excellent team. I encourage you to take the time to read Farm Forward’s Annual Report, which includes a comprehensive summary of our first ten years. I feel honored to help lead this team as it embarks on its second decade, and I hope you will join us.