Our Supporters

At Candy Conino and Shawn Slome's annual holiday party. Raising funds (and cows) for a better world.
At Candy Conino and Shawn Slome’s annual holiday party. Raising funds (and cows) for a better world.

It’s no secret that a necessary component to what we do is the support we get to do it. Today, we thank our donors for their incredible backing and loyalty as we further advance our mission to cultivate markets, policies and communities that sustain thriving, socially just and environmentally sound family farms.

Today, we’d like to celebrate two very devoted RAFI supporters who put the “fun” in fundraising: Candy Conino and Shawn Slome, long-time Chatham County, North Carolina residents. The couple has transformed their decades-old annual holiday party into an event to raise awareness about important issues to RAFI and, in turn, support for our work.

“It just made me really happy to string the cows with lights and raise them on the roof,” Candy said. “And then it just kind of evolved.”

Candy, a physical therapist with a bubbling personality, spoke to us the day before Thanksgiving, just after settling her turkey into a homemade brine. But we didn’t chat much about turkeys. We talked cows.

Twenty years ago, the couple decorated a fiberglass cow and a fiberglass bull (both life-size) and, with help from neighbors, raised them onto the roof. The quirky decor turned into an annual tradition, and slowly, a holiday party in which all of the community is invited to light and raise the cows together.

Shawn is an ardent environmentalist, his activism dating back to the very first Earth Day in 1970. He owns Twig, an eco-friendly products store in Chapel Hill that has provided the community guilt-free gifts since 2007. The year before that, he built a solar home where he lives with his wife, Candy.

Candy told us that the cows quickly became stars of the show. A get-together became a bonfire, and a bonfire quickly sparked into a full-on musical, in which Candy and her friends change existing song lyrics, like the Sound of Music, into activism-charged messages. Costumes focus heavily on over-the-top, hand-crafted hats. Think Pippa Middleton meets a giant craft table.

In 2011, Candy says a guest really wanted her hat. “And I said, ‘you can have it if you donate $100 to RAFI.’” And so began an extravagant, creative auction to support our work.

This year, Candy and Shawn have planned an entire musical performance devoted to seed biodiversity and expect more than 100 people in attendance. We’ll be there next week, to say thank you in person, and to raise those cows! Candy and Shawn, you two are marvelous.

Follow RAFI’s 30 Days of Thanks every day at rafiusa.org/30daysofthanks.

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