FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(September 19, 2022, Petaluma, CA and Atlanta, GA) — National Farm to School Network (NFSN) is excited to introduce its new Interim Co-Executive Directors. Jessica Gudmundson, who has been part of NFSN since its inception, and Miguel Villarreal, who previously served as Chair for NFSN's Advisory Board, are taking the mantle as co-leaders at NFSN.
Why a Co-Leadership Model?
NFSN identified its Call to Action in 2019 and has since been taking action to move this call forward. NFSN recognizes its own power and influence and is taking the necessary steps to do power-shifting work both externally and internally. The model of leadership is one crucial part of this and NFSN has been interested in implementing it. With the opportunity for an Interim Executive Director, it is the right time to bring this model into practice to decentralize decision-making, make more capacity for leadership by drawing on the strengths of the co-leaders and live the Call to Action.
The vision behind co-leadership is to increase the ability to be responsive to stakeholders through centering relationships/collaboration in the way that we work and what we value. With a vast network across the country already doing amazing work, NFSN has made strides to build this collective action, and this is the next step for what NFSN wants to accomplish. Villarreal says, "we hope to model this for staff and partners because at its core, farm to school is all about collaboration."
While NFSN does not claim to be an authority or expert on all things equity-related, NFSN is committed to the work to reduce harm and shift power. Through its experiences, NFSN is continually shifting internal practices to better reflect its Call to Action. Through the team's relationships with people, NFSN holds firm to its accountability to others, and the team is humbled to support and lift the power held in communities.
Advisory Board Chair Sommer Sibilly says, "as we work to shift and share power we need to become comfortable building relationships and leading together. I personally see this as a demonstration of our commitment to that." The Advisory Board is excited to welcome the two Interim Co-EDs knowing they have the experience and care necessary to move NFSN forward and build this collective work with partners.
About Jessica Gudmundson
Gudmundson brings 17+ years of experience running organizational finance, policy and operations. Regarding her personal connection to the work, she shares, "as someone who grew up in a home that didn't always have food, making sure kids are fed and valued through food is important to me." Villarreal shares his excitement to work with Gudmundson, "I cannot think of someone more capable to work alongside as Co-ED than Jessica."
About Miguel Villarreal
Villarreal brings 30+ years of experience as a Food Service Director. During his tenure, he implemented farm to school initiatives while building a vast network of local, state and national stakeholders to advance those efforts. Gudmundson shares, "When the idea of co-leadership was discussed, I was excited at the opportunity to work with Miguel again. We balance each other very well and bring different perspectives and skills that allow both of us the freedom and support to make real and helpful impacts in our roles."
Looking Ahead. Working Together.
Gudmundson and Villarreal shared that their vision is to create the conditions where all the incredible leaders in this work can be successful and make sure their impact is realized, valued, supported and encouraged. Gudmundson says, "I'm always inspired by the people in this work: Staff members, our network partners, and other individuals and organizations who are in this work. I see so much value in the people and the work that's already happening."
Advisory Board Vice-Chair Laura Edwards-Orr says, "I'm so pleased to welcome Jessica and Miguel as Interim Co-Executive Directors of the Network. As long-time leaders in the movement in their own rights, this partnership weaves together decades of complementary experience within a structure that is grounded in our desire to shift power and uplift the tremendous talents of the entire National Farm to School Network team. I look forward to working with both Jessica and Miguel in the months to come."
Together, Gudmundson and Villarreal will join together with staff and partners to implement the Call to Action. They will work together with the Advisory Board in the Executive Director Search, making sure that the vision is carried forward. Through partnering with the many incredible leaders in this work, building community power and taking collective action, NFSN looks forward to seeing this work come to fruition.