Moments in Time

 A Note from WFAN's New Executive Director

The fate of zucchinis when you spend too much time on the phone and not enough time inspecting what’s growing in the high tunnel. (Special thanks to my husband for taking the time to pull these out tonight.)

The fate of zucchinis when you spend too much time on the phone and not enough time inspecting what’s growing in the high tunnel. (Special thanks to my husband for taking the time to pull these out tonight.)

It’s 8:11 p.m. on the evening before my 47th birthday. When I got out of bed this morning, around 7:20 a.m., I woke with a grand plan for the day. I would write this note, hammer out preliminary ideas for several grant applications, and answer the 70-plus emails that had accumulated in my inbox while I was in Illinois over the past few days. 

The best laid plans, they say. I haven’t hammered out any grant ideas; they’re still mentally tucked away. I did comb through the emails, and responding to those electric requests has carried me through the day. I’m just now getting to this note. And I should also mention: I’ve had plans to write this for at least a month now. 

This is how my days have gone since taking over as executive director of Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN). I’ve participated in hundreds of phone calls over the past two months. I’ve talked to current funders (Iowa NRCS, Simply 7 Snacks, and Rachel’s Network, to name a few!), plus potential funders, contractors, government officials, vendors, clients, foundation staffers, WFAN founders, WFAN staff, former staff, board members, current partners, future partners, potential partners, conference organizers, members, and random interested folks who just wanted to know who the heck I am. 

At the height of those communications, I actually did some math: I spent around 27 hours each week on the phone or in video meetings. These conversations took up most of my days, and it wasn’t until the evenings that I would finally sit down to get work done. I now know this: Transitioning into a leadership role for an organization like Women, Food and Agriculture Network is a heavy lift. I have incredible respect for the women who have come before me. Their vision formed and grew the organization into what it is today. They established the foundation for an organization that carries out an immense amount of important work. 

“Thank you for all that you do and have done for women, and thank you, especially, for my job,” I said as I opened the conversation with Denise O’Brien, one of WFAN’s founding mothers. She chuckled and, with classic humility, refused to take credit for my current position. When she first came up with the idea for WFAN, however, O’Brien wanted to empower women as champions of healthy food and farming systems, food justice, and food sovereignty within their communities. She wanted to bring women to the table for discussions on international, national, and local levels. 

Denise O’Brien is my kind of people. And through her work, she has empowered me.

Over the years, Women, Food and Agriculture Network has morphed and grown. The programmatic work has changed, thanks to the leadership of many women and partners, both within the organization and outside of it. Today, WFAN champions several initiatives: Women Caring for the Land; Women, Land and LegacyHarvesting Our Potential; and Plate to Politics

These programs have come about because of the collaborative work of WFAN and other like-minded organizations, government agencies, and sustainable agriculture champions. In my new role, I hope to partner with many of these same folks to expand WFAN’s reach and impact. I plan to work with the WFAN team to build out additional programming, and, maybe most importantly, I aspire to establish a true membership organization that focuses on and emphasizes our voices—the collective voice of Women, Food and Agriculture Network and the voices of the thousands of individuals we serve. 

WFAN’s mission is to engage women in building an ecological and just food and agricultural system through individual and community power. The belief behind this mission is that we all matter—individually and as a whole. Our voices matter, our experiences and stories matter, and our truths must be told.

It’s a little after 9 p.m. now, and the sun has set. I will start afresh tomorrow. There is work to be done, there are conversations to be had, and I will celebrate my personal milestone—another birthday. As I do so, I vow to spend a little time in appreciation of my current station in life, the busyness of it all, the opportunities that are before me, and the amazing people whom I have met and continue to meet along the way. If you want to know more about me, please reach out. My phone and email are on the WFAN website. It seems a little crazy to write this, but I welcome more conversations and more hours spent on the phone. If nothing else, the talk has taught me well: We’re all in this together. 

P.S. Please consider helping us continue this work. I’m hosting a birthday fundraiser. I would love for you to donate or simply share the link!

—Sherri Dugger

Women, Food & Ag Network