Lessons I Learned In Creating A More Equitable Organization
By Executive Director Hugo Mogollon
Pictured above: Center for Nonprofit Advancement Change Makers Panel participants & moderators
We’ve all faced our fair share of challenges over the past year. For me, that meant not only leading FRESHFARM through a merger and a global pandemic at the same time, but also responding to public outcry last summer over lack of representation and diversity at our farmers markets. While it was difficult to hear this feedback about the way FRESHFARM had been operating, I knew that the most important thing we could do was listen — to our farmers and producers, our staff, our partners, and other members of the community.
It also meant getting comfortable with discomfort as FRESHFARM took steps forward to be a more equitable and inclusive organization. Last week, I joined two very accomplished leaders of color on a Change Makers Panel, hosted by the Center for Race, Equity, Justice and Inclusion at the Center for Nonprofit Advancement, to share the lessons I learned over the past year, and how we are working to advance racial equity and inclusion at FRESHFARM.
My experience as an immigrant and a member of a minority group shapes my commitment to justice, a commitment that I bring to my work at FRESHFARM. Since coming to the US, I have found incredible opportunities, but I have also frequently felt like an outsider, which has reinforced for me the importance of being empathetic and listening to the experiences of others. This perspective has helped guide my leadership of FRESHFARM over the past 18 months. As a result, we are no longer the same organization we were last summer.
Last year, after FRESHFARM was called out by several of our Black vendors for lack of representation and diversity at our farmers markets, it was critical to clearly understand our community’s concerns. I knew these issues would not be resolved overnight, but we committed to making real, substantial changes in our culture to make us a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable organization in everything we do. I had numerous conversations with our farmers, producers, and other stakeholders to understand their experiences, and tried to approach these conversations with humility and vulnerability.
FRESHFARM has faced many challenges and opportunities as we’ve worked to bring a stronger equity and justice lens to the work we do every day. The process is not easy. It’s messy and uncomfortable, but that’s what it takes to make change. As we’ve gone through this process, our staff and board have leaned into the discomfort of recognizing our privilege and challenging our own biases. Together, we’re striving to question everything we do, and make necessary changes in our work to better serve our community. We’ve been fortunate to partner in these efforts with the Center for Nonprofit Advancement as their first client in the Center for Race, Equity, Justice and Inclusion. We’re so grateful for their guidance and support as we work towards being a more equitable and just organization.
While I’m proud of the progress FRESHFARM has made, we know there is much work left to do to become an anti-racist organization — and more broadly, to transform an unjust food system. Right now as an organization, we have a sense of progress, but not a sense of accomplishment. The steps we have taken are just the beginning of the journey, and that journey requires courage, commitment, and perseverance.
I urge you, the partners and supporters of FRESHFARM, to walk along with us as we go through these challenges, approaching them with empathy, patience, and a willingness to learn and grow. I know we will make mistakes along the way, but it is essential work to make FRESHFARM a just and equitable organization that serves and nurtures everyone in our community.