On Becoming Foodwise: A Letter from Christine | CUESA

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March 18, 2022

On Becoming Foodwise: A Letter from Christine

Dear Cherished Community,

It’s a big deal to change your name after nearly 30 years. The idea for this rebrand started long ago, with the knowledge that a 19-syllable name (shortened into a hard-to-pronounce acronym) was a linguistic barrier that wasn’t really helping us convey the sense of warm belonging and inclusiveness that we wanted. To keep growing this community, we knew we needed a name that was more accessible and easy to understand, one that hopefully people could connect with emotionally, whether they were an avid home cook and longtime market supporter, or a kid visiting the farmers market for the first time. But I did worry when we started this process that maybe you all wouldn’t see the value in it, that you’d think we should spend our funds on more pressing initiatives, or that you might feel some sense of loss, because you helped to build the organization into what it is today. 

I have felt a mix of emotions in this transition, as I have at other times in my 19 years at CUESA. When I joined this organization in 2003, it was a time of significant change as we moved to the newly renovated Ferry Building. We were a 10-year-old nonprofit at that time-—still so young! That move gave us a more permanent home, a teaching kitchen, and the ability to truly expand our education programs. But the Ferry Building as a food destination was still an unproven concept, and many community members had concerns about the change as we left our familiar Green Street digs just down the road.

Fast forward to 2020, when I became the Executive Director at the very start of the pandemic, and so much of how we operate in this world changed. We had matured so much as an organization, and this moment required us to adapt and transition (hard!) yet again. Rebranding was rightfully put on pause as we focused on meeting the needs of the moment, which meant ensuring our markets remained safe and open as essential food access points between our farmers and community. 

During this time, as we spent time talking with our farmers market sellers, partners, chefs, and supporters (and amongst each other as a staff) about who we wanted to be and how we wanted to show up for our community, a much clearer vision emerged. The last two years of this pandemic really sharpened our resolve to support our farmers, food makers, and students, and feed the folks who needed help putting fresh food on their tables. 

The name Foodwise was right under our noses, used for more than a decade with our Foodwise Kids and and Foodwise Teens programs. In becoming Foodwise, we wanted to convey a shift in our perspective of how knowledge is learned and shared—the way that Foodwise Kids and Foodwise Teens center the food wisdom of our students and their families. We wanted to express a communal version of education, where we know that wisdom is already in each of us, and in our community. Our job is to convene the talent, ideas, and visions that are already here.

Foodwise means many things to us: It means that farmers markets are for everyone and should be radically inclusive spaces. It means that fresh food is a right for all and not a privilege only enjoyed by the few who can afford it. It means de-centering European cuisines and Whiteness in general in our operations and education programs. It means that young adults are truly the next leaders of this movement, and they deserve our investment, mentoring, and respect.

It’s frankly been very energizing to make this change, especially at the time of spring renewal, when there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel of the last two difficult years. As Foodwise, we plan to still be all the things you know and love: a dedicated group of people running excellent education programs and farmers markets. We are still deeply committed to sustainable agriculture at our core, but we know that sustainability cannot exist without an explicit commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, and ensuring that farmers markets are truly accessible and welcoming to all.

But no movement is created by an organization declaring what it means to itself and how it wants to be understood. That is maybe 10% of how it works, if we are lucky. A movement is built by all the participants informing, internalizing, and shaping the narrative for themselves and their communities. That is YOU! And so I sincerely look forward to all of you shaping what Foodwise becomes, to helping us to live out our collective values of farming for a resilient future, of mutual aid, of youth leadership, and community connection. And of course to celebrating our successes together. 

I hope to see you at the markets and events, and also hope you will reach out if you have questions, ideas or simply want to share what Foodwise means to you. We are truly building this together!

Christine Farren
Executive Director, Foodwise
[email protected]

About CUESA

CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to growing thriving communities through the power and joy of local food. Learn More »