Community Ownership, Empowerment, and Prosperity Action Team
Who We Are & How We Show Up
We are farmers, organizers, educators, artists, lawyers, advocates, scientists, culture keepers, and healers.
We range in age from 25 to 60 with a wide and deep wealth of expertise and experience.
We shine in many shades of black and brown and white.
We are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. Husbands and wives.
We love across a spectrum of genders and identities.
We hail from Latinx farm worker communities, black owned family farms to rural Appalachian farms. From communities, farms, and government offices in Charlottesville, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore and many places in between.
We derive our strategies from deep listening to ourselves, each other and our communities.
We are driven by a sense of responsibility to our elders, our contemporaries, the young and our descendants. We have been the beneficiaries of the many who worked before us and we work to be the benefactors of the many who will follow.
We work to change the prevailing perception of food simply as a commodity, like any other capitalist commodity. The current commodity-based food system has and continues to fuel the extraction of cheap labor and devaluing of humans, land, animals, and plants. Capitalist agriculture is focused on profit and cheap food to feed workers, while keeping work undervalued and low cost. We want to change this story and our associated assumptions so food is seen and valued as medicine, as security, as culture, as identity, as history, and as future. We want to re-establish our ancestral connection to the earth, sun, wind, and rain. To regenerate our place within nature – not outside of it.
Food is physically, emotionally and socially essential to our lives and well-being. We seek to amplify mindfulness around its growing, preparation, consumption, and equitable sharing. We gather to shine a light of appreciation on the growers, transporters, and preparers of our food.
We aim to develop a guide to facilitate community ownership, empowerment and prosperity (COEP) in all pieces of the food supply chain. The guide will provide recommendations for funders and decision-makers to better support and fund those who have been most impacted by our commodified food system; lift up folks on the ground who have been working towards our shared vision for the future; and support the growth of new justice and liberatory-based initiatives that build COEP in the Chesapeake foodshed, from farm to fork. We intend to lay the foundation for cultivating equity and inclusion in key aspects of our regional food system.
Underlying all of this is our quest for justice in a system so long and so deeply unjust.
This is who we are and what we are about.
Our Structure & Process
Our action team makes decisions using Consent decision-making. This process allows us to have conversations about the direction of our work, to build consent within the group by allowing equal opportunity to speak and to ensure that we are all actively and consciously making decisions together. The work of our action team happens in work groups. These are nimble but productive groups that are created and dissolved as needed. The Co-chairs are a part of each work group, guiding and coordinating the work alongside work group members.
When work groups have developed a draft set of work, it goes to the full action team for a consent decision before it is put into motion. Right now, we have 3 work groups: Identity, What’s Out There, and Goverance.
The Chesapeake Foodshed Network (CFN) launched the Community Ownership, Empowerment, and Prosperity Action Team for food system reform in the Chesapeake region. CFN defines Community Ownership, Empowerment, and Prosperity (COEP) as communities of color and other disenfranchised groups not merely being beneficiaries but drivers of positive change in their communities. The goal of this initiative is to grow economic opportunities for marginalized communities and build community ownership and resilience (as it relates to our regional food system) through the development of people-led, community-based solutions. In developing this new framework for action, we think that the people telling us how to invest funding and energy in our regional food system should be the people living and working on it every day.
This work group is the outreach and communications arm for our action team. Right now, they are developing a shared narrative that tells the story of why our action team is needed, and a set of shared definitions to create a common language for our team and the region to use when talking about food justice and sovereignty.
What’s Out There
This work group is coordinating the “What’s Out There” assessment to better understand who is ‘out there’ on the ground doing this work using COEP principles, and what the barriers are preventing COEP from happening. Right now, we are cataloging organizations, farms, businesses and people who are doing COEP work throughout the Chesapeake foodshed.
This work group developed our decision-making structure and process. They help to coordinate decision-making processes, train other action team members in consent decision-making, and create other structures and processes to support the action team. Right now, they are researching project management tools and developing ways to create an internal culture that builds connection despite our distance from each other.
History & Formation of the COEP Action Team
May 2019: Action Team meet up, Washington, DC.
March 2019: COEP Action Team, Advisory Group and CFN Steering Team Meet & Greet Video Conference
January 2019 – Present: Action Team work groups: Identity, What’s Out There, Governance. Development of Regional Equity Guidelines.
December 2018: Kick off Retreat, Oak Spring Garden
November 2018: Action Team members selected
August 2018: Action Team co-chairs selected
May 2018: “Co-chair invitation to participate”
2017: “Time For Some Action: Making Moves Towards an Equitable Food System in the Chesapeake Foodshed”
A Chesapeake Foodshed Network blog written about the COEP Action Team for Food Solutions New Englands’ Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge. read the blog
August 2017: Community Ownership, Empowerment, and Prosperity pilot action team begins to take shape.
January 2017: “For Us By Us: Community Ownership in the Food System in Washington, DC”
Learn more about the formation of the Community Ownership, Empowerment and Prosperity Action Team. watch the video
March 2016: Creating a Vision for the Chesapeake Regional Food System
The Community Ownership, Empowerment, and Prosperity Action Team is a pilot project of the Chesapeake Foodshed Network and would not be possible without the generous support of our Advisory Group and Funders.
Renee Brooks Catacalos, Writer and member of the Chesapeake Foodshed Network Steering Team (co-chair)
Meredith Lathbury Girard, Town Creek Foundation and interim member of the Chesapeake Foodshed Network Steering Team (co-chair)
Suzanne Adely, Food Chain Workers Alliance
Kara Blankner, The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation
Jessica Culley, CATA (El Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas) and Chesapeake Foodshed Network Steering Team
Marguerite Harden, Oak Spring Garden Foundation
Michelle Hughes, National Young Farmer Coalition
Marita Roos, Neighborhood Design Center
Ruth Tyson, Union of Concerned Scientist, Chesapeake Foodshed Network Steering Team
Ron Williams, R.L. Williams Farm and Food Corporation, Chesapeake Foodshed Network Steering Team
Town Creek Foundation
Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation
Oak Spring Garden Foundation
Prince Charitable Trusts
Virginia Food System Council
Kaiser Family Foundation