Question: What do young urban farmers from East New York, peer nutrition educators from Philadelphia, and community youth leaders from Browning, MT have in common on a hot July afternoon in New Mexico? Answer: sunscreen! Sunscreen, sweat, and a passion for food justice that united them at the national “Rooted in Community” Youth Food Leadership Conference held in Albuquerque, New Mexico July 16-20, 2014.

Marty, Hailey, Lorenzo, and Lynn

Marty, Hailey, Lorenzo, and Lynn

Three young adults from Browning were selected to attend the Rooted in Community conference as part of NCAT’s Growing Leaders project that supports youth leadership around food system issues. Hailey Tailfeathers, Marty Meineke, and Lynn Mad Plume braved the heat to represent Montana and gain inspiration for a planned community garden in Browning on the Blackfeet Reservation. The conference provided inspiration in the form of workshops, field trips, networking, and success stories from groups around the country who are growing food and leaders through their youth programs. The highlight of the conference for the Montana group was definitely a visit to a 300 year-old farm where Lorenzo, a seventh-generation farmer, described his fight to defend water access for farmers and the labor of love that goes into producing food for his family and neighbors.

From Lynn, 21:
“I thought the workshop on cultural health was the most beneficial for me. I appreciate that the lecture intertwined culture and health. Culture is who you are and where you come from, it is important to consider when you think about health.

I enjoyed learning the issues from different people who grew up in a very different environment. I was surprised at the concept of a food desert. I have realized that I grew up on a food desert and this conference has inspired me to spread that knowledge.
I hope to take back the drive and passion that everyone at the conference displayed. The youth at the conference knew what they believed in. One thing I hope to bring back home is the ability to stand up for universal peace and justice.”

East New York Farms Students

Students from the East New York Farms
teach a workshop on building a garden trellis

From Hailey, 18:
“I wanted to attend the conference because I thought it was a good opportunity to learn new things to bring back to my youth group. I was expecting to get some tips on how we could give back to our community if we are able to start a community garden.

Getting to help on Lorenzo’s farm and having dinner with them was amazing. Going to Lorenzo’s farm and the circle discussion was the most meaningful to me. Just to be on a seven generation, 300 year-old farm was amazing. I learned a lot about people. I was surprised how many people opened up in the circle [discussion from youth about challenges facing their respective communities]. The enthusiasm everyone had is something to take back home.”

Hailey visiting with Lorenzo

Hailey visiting with Lorenzo

From Marty, 21:
“I loved attending the youth-led workshops. Seeing young people with so much passion and energy was really inspiring. They knew what they were talking about and they were passionate. The exchange of love and culture is something that will stay with me. Listening to Matt, a self-identified “Chicano” talk about human rights and social justice was surprising, eye-opening, and shocking. I also loved seeing how many amazing, accepting, and passionate people are in different areas of the U.S.

That said, I must say that meeting Lorenzo and working on his farm was the most inspiring and culture-filled experience that I had. Visiting Lorenzo’s farm was definitely my favorite part of the entire experience. Volunteering at Lorenzo’s farm wasn’t inspiring because of all the things they planned, but because of the natural and organic (no pun) culture exchange that happened. Having so many of my own elders sick really made me appreciative of Lorenzo and his exchange of wisdom and kindness.”

Check out the Youth Food Bill of Rights at, which was written as part of the 2011 Rooted in Community conference.