RAFI-USA is pleased to welcome two new board members and announce the board officers for 2022: Phoebe Gooding is the Program and Organizing Director for Toxic Free North Carolina and also a farmer and Maria Dominique Villanueva is co-founder of Fountain Heights Farm in Birmingham, Alabama. Elijah Brunson is the new Board President, Beverly Bowen, the new Vice-President, and Claire Kelloway, the new Treasurer.
Phoebe Gooding is the Program and Organizing Director for Toxic Free NC, where she leads the Just and Sustainable Agriculture program, building statewide participation to protect North Carolina’s frontline farmworkers and promoting expansion of local, regenerative agricultural practices. Phoebe has a small farm, Hawk’s Nest Healing Gardens, in Durham, NC.
She is excited to work with RAFI-USA because of the synergy between her personal mission and RAFI-USA’s mission. “I appreciate RAFI’s commitment to ‘people power’ and how the organization promotes ways of growing and selling food that is collaborative, cooperative, and community-based,” she says. “It’s not enough to talk about sustainable, organic, or regenerative without addressing the racial injustices that our agricultural system has been built on. I have much respect for the work RAFI is doing and I hope that I can help to advance it by bringing the perspective I hold as a small, semi-urban, and woman of color farmer. I hold many of the RAFI board and staff members in high regard and am honored to work alongside them.” She recently returned from her farm’s first “Farmers and Friends Retreat” in Mexico during which she met with farmers who are part of a 17 farm cooperative that is advancing food sovereignty, and also visited sanctuary and wintering grounds for the monarch butterflies.
Also joining the board this January was Maria Dominique Villanueva, co-founder of Fountain Heights Farm in Birmingham, AL. The farm is undertaking its first capital campaign in order to build an indoor post-harvest wash and pack area, a neighborhood cooperative market, flexible education and meeting space, an ADA-accessible bathroom, and a commercial-grade community kitchen. “It’s a big project with an even bigger impact and we’re super excited about it.,” Dominique says. The farm is also expanding its Urban Farmer in Training (UFIT) program, trialing different strawberry varieties this year, and testing different varieties of mushrooms on invasive tree species on wooded urban lots near the farm.
She says she is interested in helping RAFI-USA expand the network of empowered and informed farmers and farmworkers throughout the Southeast. “RAFI’s values and vision for a sustainable, and equitable food system are matched by action and support,” she shares. “My number one favorite thing about RAFI is its people! Everyone I’ve met so far has been accessible, serving as a resource for small farmers like myself. There is also a sense of peace that I’ve experienced with everyone I’ve spoken with at RAFI that is indicative of a team built on mutual admiration and a passion for helping a sustainable food system thrive. I’m excited to learn as much as I can in my role as a board member and offer my skills and talents to contribute to the organization,” she added.