Podcasts The Farm Report

Episode 3: Linking Farms and Food Access

Episode: 3

The nutrition title was first included in the 1973 farm bill. It’s projected to make up 84% of total Farm Bill spending, with most of the funds going to SNAP. That’s because the program helps more than 40 million low-income individuals provide food for their families each month. Some of those people are farmers. In this episode, we talk to Mark Nicholson, Senior Director of Policy at the Fair Food Network to dig into how the farm bill links farms and food access.  And we’ll talk to farmers about how they are uniquely positioned to directly provide nutritious food for the families in their communities.

Mark Nicholson, Senior Director of Policy, Fair Food Network

Mark joined the Fair Food Network after an extensive career in leading organizations involved in national agriculture policy and specialty crop production. He is a third-generation apple farmer and spent much of his professional life co-running a New York-based family business, including developing value-added products to increase revenue to the farm. His work advocating for the specialty crop industry over the past two decades earned him national recognition as a skilled and dedicated policy expert, included roles as the Chairman of the Board and member of the Government Affairs Committee for the U.S. Apple Association (USApple). Mark also spent time in his early career working in government at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and at USApple. Mark brings multiple perspectives to the agriculture policy world, and a strong passion and understanding for the myriad issues that face family farms today. Read his full bio. 

Shannon Maes, Rancher, San Juan Ranch + Young Farmers Water Fellow

What’s a ground-level view from a cattle ranch in southern Colorado as fall turns to winter amidst prolonged drought and as legislative work on the next Farm Bill wraps up? Shannon Maes shares some of her experiences of drought, working with water and grazing for soil health and climate resilience as well as a few thoughts on agricultural and food policy from her perspective of working on ranches and ditchriding in her home region of Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. Shannon has worked in agriculture since 2017 and completed a Water Advocacy Fellowship through the National Young Farmer’s Coalition during 2023. Currently she works with cows, dogs, horses, people, soil, grass, and weather at San Juan Ranch in the San Luis Valley.

Benu Amun-Ra, Farmer and Owner, Sacred Ancestors Seed Initiative + Young Farmers Land Fellow

Benu Amun-Ra (We/Our/Ours) is a generational farmer, seed-keeper, and the owner of S.A.S.I (Sacred Ancestors Seed Initiative) Farms located in Centennial, CO. We teach about the importance of seeds and the reciprocal relationships we once had with Mother Nature by reinvigorating indigenous ways of knowing. We live at the intersections of being a single mother, a BIPOC farmer, LGBTQ+ community member and have over 32 years’ experience as a primary caregiver for those living with disabilities. Our advocacy includes working with organizations that address these issues in the capacity of a Community Council member for Hunger Free Colorado, an alumnus of the Family Voice Council for the Colorado Department of Human Services, an alumnus of the Creative Leadership Institute with the Colorado Health Foundation, and as a Land Fellow with the National Young Farmers Coalition. Read our full bio here. To find out more about our work, visit: www.sacredecocenter.org

Celina Ngozi, Farmer and Founder, Dry Bones Heal Bottomland + Young Farmers Land Fellow

Celina Ngozi is an agrarian of 10 years. Her experience in food production, access, and distribution has led her back to her maternal ancestral land in rural East Central Texas. There she grows a variety of herbs and culturally relevant foods along with advocating for returning to heirs’ property and greater land access for Black and Brown growers.

Learn more about the SNAP program here, the Healthy Food Finance Initiative here, and the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) here

Check out Fair Food Network here

Learn more about the Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program here

The Farm Report is hosted by Leigh Ollman and Alita Kelly, produced by Leigh Ollman, Evan Flom and H Conley, and edited by Hannah Beal and H Conley. 

Audio engineering is by Armen Spendjian and H Conley. Music is by Breakmaster Cylinder and Jangwa

Learn more about the National Young Farmers Coalition here and consider becoming a member. Click here to take action on the farm bill and other important policy issues. 

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