We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of love and gratitude this month from all of you who nominated a favorite farmer or food hero. It was a tough decision to make, but we had to stick to our word and pick one winner to highlight today. (Though it was very, very difficult.) In addition to highlighting the winner, we have included the full list of nominees below. Thank you to all of you who participated in our 30 Days of Thanks, and for all that you do to make our communities proud.
RAFI’s 30 Days of Thanks Community Winner:
Tri Sa of Transplanting Traditions Community Farm in North Carolina!
Tri Sa is originally from Burma (now called Myanmar) and is a member of the Karen ethnic community, which has been persecuted in her home country for years. After a lifetime in war, poverty and refugee camps, she came to the United States as a refugee.
She just became a U.S. citizen last year. That day, she passed the citizenship test, was sworn in as a citizen and, to celebrate, drove two hours back home to Carrboro, North Carolina, to sell her produce at the weekly farmers’ market.
Check out this video of Tri Sa produced by students at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies.
Tri Sa inspires her fellow ethnic Karen refugee farmers and the community at large. She farms approximately half an acre at Transplanting Traditions Community Farm alongside 31 other refugee families from Burma. She also works a full-time third shift at UNC-Chapel Hill, teaches at the local Karen language school for children and is an active leader in her church community.
In Burma, Tri Sa’s family farmed for sustenance and survival, but also with a pure joy and dedication to the land. This year, Tri Sa participated in supplying the farm’s CSA, managed her own farmer’s market stand and successfully grew rice, sesame and tapioca.
Tri Sa was nominated by Nicole Accordino, a farm manager at Transplanting Traditions. Of Tri Sa, Nicole says:
Her dedication to her farm goes beyond her 30 rows of seasonal vegetables. She builds bamboo trellises to create shade spaces, she creates creative flower and herb beds showcasing traditional plants of Burma and is constantly experimenting with growing tropical crops in this temperate climate. Her stewardship and connection to the land is evident in the beautiful plants that grace her farm and the vibrant vegetables she harvests.
Tri Sa’s passion for her work is contagious. When I ask if she ever gets tired, she simply states, “but I love this, how can I get tired when it makes me so happy?”
Tri Sa came from a long line of farmers and always reminds us that we all came from the farmer. She strongly believes carrying on this tradition is essential for preserving her culture and knowledge. I want to thank her for sharing her passion and dedication with the farm community. I want to thank her for sharing her expertise unconditionally, because she believes this knowledge is valuable.
Congratulations Tri Sa, and thank you for your amazing resilience, ingenuity and community involvement.
Below is the list of full nominees. We are thrilled to know many of them and meet others through the beautiful words of their friends and families. Thank you to all!
Rose Marie Belforti
Finger Lakes Dexter Creamery
King Ferry, NY
Nominated by: Yvonne Scott
“Rose Marie’s dedication to her heritage breed cattle–the Dexter–taught me that with patience, perseverance and a reverence not only for what she does as a farmer, but also a true reverence for her herd. Rose Marie and her husband, Tim, are examples of how small dairies can thrive in today’s market using intelligence, creativity and following what your instincts tell you is best for you and your herd. And the cheese is dang fine, too!”
Pocomoke City, Maryland
Featured on Food, Inc.
Submitted by: Craig Watts
“Where to begin??? Carole gave our little plight national recognition in the movie Food Inc. She has been my advisor, confidant, sounding board…you name it. Without her and Kay Doby, I would go crazy.”
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society
Nominated by: Crystal Powers
“The Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society has been promoting sustainable farming and foods in Nebraska for over 40 years. As a minimally staffed, farmer-led non-profit they are largely responsible for the burgeoning local foods and farm movement in Nebraska. From Omaha to Scottsbluff, they have members across the state promoting sustainable farming by farming using sustainable principles and methods.”
Catawba County, North Carolina
Nominated by: Katie Miller, Sarah Meyers, Aubrey Stone
“I am so thankful to Michelle for dedicating her life to taking good care of her animals. She truly loves her animals and it shows by her time spent taking care of their needs and allowing them to be happy and well fed.” – Katie Miller
Brown Summit, North Carolina
Nominated by: Astrid Lumbu
“He had a wonderful idea to help Congolese women with land and all of the instruments needed to grow Congolese food, like yuka leaves, sweet potato leaves, busa leaves, bitekuteku… Everyone who has tried the food, enjoys it. We as Congolese immigrants were frustrated when we first came to the United States without our preferred or basic foods from Congo. We went everywhere to try to find similar foods, like to Asian or Mexican stores. Now every summer we get our fresh foods from Congolina Farm. Thanks Ray and God bless you!!!”
Hillsborough, North Carolina
Nominated by: Jeremy Smith
“I’ve been a patron of the local farmer’s markets for years, but never really got to know any of the farmers or farms, until I met Julia, a farm intern. this summer. She has introduced me to many aspects of the farmer’s life that I knew existed, but never had the opportunity to learn more about until she took the time to give me a personal tour of the farm she works at, and to meet one of the owners of the farm.
After mentioning to Julia that I’d been dreaming of transitioning from the technology field, to a different field, one filled with dirt, plants, and creatures, her suggestion was to come check out the farm, and I am forever grateful for the way that she intuitively knew that a tour would be the best experience for me at that time.
Through her life, activism and volunteer work, she is dedicated to the principles of sustainability, conservation, social justice, and food accessibility. Her energy and enthusiasm for these issues are both infectious and incredibly inspiring.”
Nominated by: Michelle Morehouse
“Margaret Gifford, the founder and Executive Director of Farmer Foodshare, saw the need to connect farmers and those in need of food, addressing the issues of hunger while supporting local farms. Since 2009, Farmer Foodshare has provided hundreds of pounds of fresh, nutritious, local produce to the Take and Eat Food Pantry for its clients in eastern Chatham County. The pantry has also benefited from its two other programs; Pennies on the Pound (POP) Food Market and Food Ambassadors. Without Farmer Foodshare, the amount of produce we could supply to our clients would be limited and most likely not be locally-sourced. Margaret planted a seed that has been nourished and continues to grow, giving sustenance to many.”
Porter Farms Produce and Nursery
Kinston, North Carolina
Nominated by: Pat Jenkins
“Steven Porter exemplifies all a young farmer should be. Most of all he is proud….proud of what he does and how he does it. His farm is immaculate, with straight, clean rows full of the most beautiful produce you have ever seen. As manager of the Lenoir County Farmers Market, I have seen Steven in action as a dedicated family man who brings his wife and children to market to help him with his section. They always arrange their fruits and vegetables with great care and in an eye pleasing way. His increasing customer base just can’t resist the beautiful strawberries, corn, butter beans, tomatoes, squash, cantaloupes, watermelons and whatever else he brings. They know they are buying quality when they buy from Steven Porter .I have also seen Steven with his employees and have seen him treat them with respect and appreciation.Steven is dedicated to the sustainability of his family farm, and as he proudly said in his remarks at our opening last year, he is going to do all he can to insure that his farm will be around and viable when it is time for his son and daughter to make their life decisions.”
Dutch Buffalo Farm
Pittsboro, North Carolina
Nominated by: Nick Davis
“This farmer holds down a full-time job, a newborn child and still has time to work his organic farm that serves 25 CSA members and the Chatham Mills farmers market. He is knowledgeable about organic farming and very conscientious about providing healthy produce safely to his customers and CSA members.”
Hickory Nut Gap Farm
Fairview, North Carolina
Nominated by: Susan L Sides
“Walker grew up a quarter mile from Hickory Nut Gap Farm. A homeschooler, he had plenty of free time to walk down to the farm and spend time with the animals. As a kid, he’d go faithfully during lambing season to hunt for weak or abandoned lambs, calling the owners when he found them and caring for them till the owners arrived. He did the same for calves, chicks, etc and became so good at reading our goats that he could sometimes walk up to wild deer and touch them.
Today though he is not the owner of HNGF, he is the assistant manager who runs the intern crews, oversees animals at several farm locations, builds and repairs, and brings people together. Within a mile of HNGF there are several farms with interns and Walker always takes the time to get to know them all and create community with them even though they move on each year. This allows for a lot of cross-pollinating of ideas and a better learning experience for the interns.
About five years ago, he asked his parents (yes, I’m one of them) if they believed in what he was doing. We said, of course. He then said we should “Put our money where our mouth is.” That if we truly believe pasture meat is the healthiest thing for the planet as well as for animals and people, then we should do whatever it takes to afford it. And we did.”
The Chatham County Farming Community
Nominated by: Robin Kohanowich at Central Carolina Community College
“The Sustainable Agriculture Program at Central Carolina Community College owes a debt of gratitude to so many local farms and farmers we cannot begin to name them all. The success of the program at CCCC is due to the welcoming support, encouragement and participation of many farmers in our region and throughout the state. We say “thanks!””
Apex, North Carolina
Nominated by: Steve Walker
“My wife has been farming for 10 years, has been promoting local food and farming for some time now and believes in sustainable living. She encourages many people to grow their own food and to take care of our Earth in a healthy way.”
Submitted by: Pat Battle
“Kenny is a dedicated organic grower who always employs the principle of best practice. He is an innovator who readily shares his depth of knowledge with anyone who asks. He understands that we have the responsibility to forge a vibrant and effective sustainable community by supporting the organizations that champion our values. Kenny is a major resource for the current hard wheat renaissance among North Carolina farmers. Perhaps most importantly, Wanda and Kenny’s kids are picking up the torch thanks to his rock solid example!”
Good Wood Pizza Ovens and organic farmer
Charlotte, North Carolina
Nominated by: Lilly Rollins
“I would like to thank this person, for many reasons. Not only is he my loving father, he also taught me about the importance of fresh food. He taught me that growing food on your own may be harder, but that the payoff is much greater.”
Saxapahaw Village Farm
Saxapahaw, North Carolina
Nominated by: Kevin Gordon
“Two words describe this person: integrity and perseverance. She does not compromise on her principles and how she produces food, because she considers herself a concerned parent, just like most of her customers, who just wants to feed her family the best possible food. Suzanne has always had a ‘never say die’ attitude, and regularly presses on despite the constant and significant challenges of her chosen profession.”
Buron and Sarah Lanier
Piney Woods Farm
Nominated by: Robin Seitz
“Piney Woods Farm is a true family farm. They produce apples, peaches, chickens, eggs and some of the best beef you will ever have the pleasure of eating. I admire this family for the hard work and dedication they have to feeding the community they live in.”