Jun 2 • 31M

This Fund Amplifies Voices of People Working to Improve Food Access and Sustainability

New Executive Director Esperanza Pallana of the Food and Farm Communication Fund Shares Her Story

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Some of the world's great changemakers join host Devin Thorpe to share leadership lessons you can use to increase your impact.
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Devin: What do you see as your superpower?

Esperanza: My superpower? Well, I think there are two that I would credit myself with. One is probably what boils down to being shrewdly pragmatic. I can both envision and implement. And then I would say the other is not losing focus on my own voice.


Newly appointed executive director of the Food and Farm Communication Fund, Esperanza Pallana, explains her work:

At FFCF, we believe that in order to create food and farm systems that foster racial equity, social and economic justice, and environmental stewardship, we must advance a public narrative that investigates and reveals the true costs of corporate consolidation and the global industrial model, showcases the centrality of agroecology and regenerative systems, and amplifies the voice, experience, and power of those most impacted by our food and farm systems and on the frontlines of transforming them.

“I’ve been working in food and farm systems change for a good portion of my career,” Esperanza says. “I have done that work through community organizing, through policy, through civic engagement, and then through community development finance, and now philanthropy.”

FFCF makes grants to nonprofits around the country working to amplify the voices of people working to improve America’s food system, working primarily in social justice but also to address environmental sustainability and climate change.

Over the decade of its existence, FFCF has made 90 grants. In 2021 alone, it made more than 20. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The Center Pole: This Native American nonprofit in Montana received an FFCF grant to conduct a feasibility study to increase the power and reach of Crow Voices, The Center Pole’s reservation-based low power radio station.

  • The Farmworker Association of Florida: Founded after experiencing several crop-devastating freezes in the mid-1980s, the nonprofit works to improve farm labor conditions in the Sunshine State. The FFCF grant will support a new communications database, website updates and staff communications trainings.

  • I-Collective: This nonprofit is a group of Indigenous chefs, activists, herbalists, and seed and knowledge keepers. The FFCF grant will help produce an interactive indigenous cookbook and webinar series.

  • Indigenous Environmental Network: This nonprofit led by Native Americans actively opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline. The FFCF grant helps fund a project to weave the wealth of grassroots stories within the IEN network into an overarching narrative that will build collective power towards an Indigenous Just Transition away from the dominant, colonial, extractive economy and towards a regenerative vision for sustainable communities rooted in traditional knowledge, tribal self-determination, and the inherent rights of indigenous peoples.

  • National Black Food and Justice Alliance: This nonprofit protects Black land ownership and works toward food sovereignty for the Black community nationwide. The FFCF grant will fund the development of an Afro-Ecology Archive and a digital communications workshop series to help build the communications capacities of its members.

You can see that FFCF builds on the understanding that, as Esperanza explains, “Food system workers are one of the most exploited workers in the United States, and that’s across from production all the way through.”

Esperanza’s work is enabled by her superpowers, shrewd pragmatism and her authentic voice. She and I focused our conversation on her ability to use her distinctive voice to support her work.

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How to Develop Your Authentic Voice As a Superpower

“I try to be true to myself. I try to be authentic. I try to be direct and candid in who I am,” Esperanza says.

In our conversation, Esperanza was able to speak confidently about her work, opinions and experience. She has developed some deliberate practices to maintain a strong voice.

Fundamentally, she says, “speak from your true self.”

Tactically, she suggests developing talking points. “It is actually a great practice to have talking points so that we know the pieces of information about this particular topic that we want to make sure to impart.”

“When we really provide our most authentic voice, we’re not having to try to memorize things,” Esperanza says.

She suggests you prepare thoughtful answers to questions like the following:

  • Why are you there?

  • How is this personal for you?

  • Why do you care?

  • Where is this personally affecting you?

By following her example and her guidance, you can make your authentic voice a superpower that will enable you to do more good.

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