By Trisha Bautista Larson, NFSN Program Manager

On June 14, 2023, the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) publicly launched the Racial Equity Learning Lab (‘the Lab’), a pioneering initiative developed in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture through a Cooperative Agreement. The Lab is a collaborative space, thoughtfully designed for small groups of farm to school practitioners and advocates to engage in an intensive co-learning and cross-race dialogue. The goals of the Lab aligns with NFSN’s Call to Action and our commitment to advancing racial equity and addressing disparities in access to the benefits of farm to school. 

Prior to its public launch, NFSN convened an Advisory Council to prepare and develop Lab resources, curriculum outline, and equity-centric participatory framework. For nearly seven months, NFSN and the Advisory Council balanced the art of virtual collaboration by strategically blending relational and operational goals and successfully met the deliverables of the Lab. 

Advisory Council members have expressed how much they have enjoyed getting to know one another and seeing the fluidity in the way the collaborative work was designed. This remarkable journey serves as a testament to the Lab’s theoretical foundations—emergence, co-creation, and non-linear processes—all of which came to fruition through our collective work, laying the groundwork for the eagerly awaited Fall 2023 Lab Cohort. 

Reflecting on her experience as part of the Lab Advisory Council, Tina Wong said, “Interpersonal aspects of the meetings made it fun but organized – [I enjoyed] the spirit in which we did the work…” 

NFSN is excited to announce that the first official cohort of the Lab has been formed and will begin engaging in the learning experience starting September 8, 2023. The Lab sessions will be facilitated by two NFSN staff, Trisha Bautista and Tomas Delgado along with Equity Consultant, Alena Paisano. September sessions will serve as foundational for the rest of the learning journey. To jumpstart the dialogue and reflection, NFSN and Lab cohort members will explore Advancing Equity in Farm to School Education, listen to the first chapter of Braiding Sweetgrass, watch Soul Fire Farm’s Uprooting Racism and Seeding Sovereignty, and read through Dismantling Racism’s Workbook

The Fall 2023 Racial Equity Learning Lab Cohort: 

It’s our goal to capture and share this year’s Racial Equity Learning Lab journey and highlight learnings for ways to center racial equity in farm to school efforts. Stay tuned for our next blog for this series, scheduled in October 2023 in conjunction with the upcoming farm to school month celebration.