Talking ’bout the year gone by

by Rachel Wilson

As I reflect on my one year internship with The Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative (ASFC), it’s clear that the convening of staple food system leaders from around North America galvanized the power of connecting and collaborating. Over the course of five meetings, founding partners of the North American Staple Network (NASN), achieved consensus that there is a critical need to shift power to women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) leaders, to prioritize climate mitigation strategies, and to create open space for peer learning to share best practices across regions. This power shift depends on building a robust network that is more than the sum of its parts.

In other ASFC news, we launched a Millers Peer Learning Group and list serve, with more than 40 millers from around the country, experimented with a hybrid of the Artisan Grain Collaborative’s Neighbor Loaves, published our first edition of The Hopewell, our newsletter for and about Appalachia’s promising work around staple crops, and acquired landrace corn seed to grow out from Jay at New Riff Distilling in KY. Yellow Leaming and Blue Clarage were first developed in the Ohio Valley in the early 18th Century. Walnut Creek Seed grew both and Shagbark Seed & Mill made a batch of blue corn tortillas and masa in December. We will focus on these stories in our next edition of the Hopewell newsletter, which you can sign up for HERE!

We also sponsored the Chatham CRAFT conference, Grains & Revolution promoted and attended Cascadia Grain’s International Quinoa Symposium and the Savanna Institute’s Perennial Farm Gathering, and helped secure more than $70,000 in low interest loans from local community members for Snowville Creamery a local dairy that produces A2A2 rich milk from grass grazed cows. In 2020. Michelle presented at the Cascadia Grains Conference in January 2020 and at the Good Food Network Conference with Oneida Nation Food Center developers in March.

Like many, I’ve been part of local food advocacy that centers on fruits and vegetables, but what about grains and the rest? I was stunned to learn that these crops account for the majority of calories, acreage and revenue worldwide, and how commonplace it was to find mills and seed cleaning operations in every rural community just 60 years ago.

Could it be that the subsidies to corn and soy led to the decline of family farms, the disappearance of mills, the rise of diet related illnesses, and soil and water degradation?

Whatever the cause, we believe it will take strong networks between regions to accomplish our goals.

Rachel Wilson just completed her year long internship with ASFC She is lives in St. Louis, MO, where she is the Lead Project Manager for Farmer Recruitment and Support at She completes her Masters in Sustainable Food Systems at Prescott College in August.