Welcome, OpenTEAM Fellows!

Introducing the OpenTEAM Fellows! To better meet ground-level needs of producers and refine tech tools using a human-centered design approach, OpenTEAM launched a year-long Fellows Program this summer. Fellows are embedded into the local farming and ranching community they serve, working as trained community and technical facilitators alongside local Hub staff as they accomplish their goals and work to implement OpenTEAM tech tools that can provide land stewards with the knowledge needed to enable regenerative agricultural management practices.

Sara Legg (she/her/hers)

General Mills, Kansas and the southern plains

With a background in visual anthropology, Sara has worked as a design researcher and systems thinker in many sectors in diverse locations for the last 7 years. Her expertise includes working at the intersection of design and land-based work, to help create a resilient food system and thriving places. She is committed to more than human-centered design, broadening the scope of her work to include life-centered design. She is also committed to a research approach that is collaborative and participatory, using these approaches to help create an accessible and effective environment for those working in regenerative agriculture. She’s excited to work with OpenTEAM and General Mills because of their commitment to producer-first development, and the opportunity to build both technology platforms and meaningful relationships that will make scaling regenerative agriculture not only possible, but common.

Jeanne Lurvey (she/her/hers)

Pasa Sustainable Agriculture

Jeanne was raised in Massachusetts and has lived in Boulder, CO and Brooklyn, NY and will now be calling Harrisburg, PA home. Previously, she worked as an art director, a visual storyteller working alongside chefs on cooking shows, cookbooks, and branded content. With a passion for sustainable agriculture because it creates a path to build thriving ecosystems, nutrient rich food, and positively influence the lives of many, she joins OpenTEAM after finishing her Master’s degree in Sustainability & Environmental Management. Shifting careers to work on the other end of the food value chain to advance both human & environmental health, creating change from the ground up, her graduate program culminated in a consulting project with a top natural foods company creating soil health initiatives that apply regenerative ag principles throughout the value chain for systems change. The project highlighted the need for soil health field research paired with data to better support farmers and inform policy change. Bringing her expertise in relationship building, project management, and food systems, she will work alongside farmers to advance soil health, build community, and connect equitable & necessary tools to producers, the land stewards on the front lines of climate change providing all of us one of life’s essential needs, healthy food.

Jeff Borum (he/him/his)

California Association of Resource Conservation Districts and California Farm Demonstration Network
Jeff Borum was born in Ventura County, but went to school and worked in several regions of the U.S. He then returned to California and obtained a B.S. in Environmental Science with a minor in Physics from Humboldt State University, and now his work as a Soil Health Coordinator and Ag Programs Manager for East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District takes him across the diverse lands of California. As Jeff travels in his pop-up camper, he engages interested communities desiring assistance with conservation-based practices; he also designs, implements, and coordinates statewide field trials focusing on specific practices, as well as comprehensive trials involving entire management systems. Joining OpenTEAM as a Fellow to support farmers and ranchers across California, Jeff is excited about the potential for concepts like the ag data wallet to save time and money for producers and communities alike. He appreciates the potential of entering data from a rancher, farmer, gardener, and other land stewards one time but utilizing it to their benefit many times. He is also excited about the possibility of connecting other networks and communities together to find beneficial collaborations, including resource-sharing and cultural exchanges between all people.

Genna Fudin (she/her/hers)

Point Blue Conservation Science and Quivira Coalition

As a Jewish American who grew up in Connecticut by way of her great grandparents immigrating from Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, Genna recognizes her positionality and seeks to honor her ancestors in the food systems work she does. Growing up five minutes away from a multigenerational farm, frolicking amongst strawberry fields in the summer and pumpkin picking in the fall was a beloved pastime for her family. Her love for connecting with the land is also her way of connecting to the generations that came before her, and the collective stewardship she hopes to be a part of in the present, as she strives to leave a hopeful and climate-smart legacy for the future. For the past 8 years, she has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and recently graduated from UC-Berkeley with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences with a minor in Food Systems. Based on her previous experiences in food systems work, her studies, and cultural background, she brings a unique and interdisciplinary perspective to the OpenTEAM fellowship to support two complimentary carbon monitoring projects of rangelands, Point Blue’s Range-C Monitoring Framework and Quivira Coaltion’s Carbon Ranch Initiative’s work of carbon monitoring on working rangelands.

Steph Wiley (He/Him/His)

Black Farmer Fund and Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust
Steph Wiley is New York City born and raised. He has over 20 years of entrepreneurial experience and has been a member of Just Food’s board, the New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives (NYC NoWC) Advocacy Council, and the NYC NoWC Training Collective. Steph co-founded Brooklyn Packers with Shawn Santana in 2016. Along with his work at Brooklyn Packers, Steph is helping to develop a network of cooperative homesteads. A former Black Farmer Fund pilot community member, Steph will be exploring the question of what is a food distribution system that is in the right relationship with farmers, farm operations, and the environment? Steph will be assessing transportation and aggregation connections, opportunities, and needs across the Western MA, Hudson Valley, and NYC corridor– laying the foundation for building interdependent networks of producers. As co-owner and co-founder of Brooklyn Packers and Mumbet’s Freedom Farm, he believes that aligned movements working together in solidarity is the best way to seek justice for all in our lifetimes.

Black Farmer Fund and Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust Join Fellows Program

Black Farmer Fund and Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust are partnering for this year’s OpenTEAM Fellows Program to support market access and food distribution needs for BIPOC farmers and their communities in New York and the larger Northeast.

Black Farmer Fund (BFF) is a non-profit organization and community led investment fund with a mission to nurture Black community wealth & health by investing in Black agricultural systems in the Northeast. The BFF investment approach provides integrated (mix of grants and loans), patient capital to Black food-related businesses that center economic justice, community wealth building, and managing environmental impact.

“Our organization is built around wanting to shift power and decision making, because we feel a lot of the funding vehicles that exist in our traditional finance system are largely white-led, and also extractive; they don’t actually have funding arrangements that set folks up for success. Instead, they often keep folks in this constant loop of being in scarcity,” says Melanie Allen, Program Director at Black Farmer Fund.

Through relationship building and including the entrepreneur in all stages of the process, they have developed an approach that best meets the needs of the entrepreneur that goes beyond what is typically offered by traditional funding vehicles. This further supports political and financial education for entrepreneurs while eliminating the gap between Black farmers and market accessibility.

“We also recognize that funding is just one of the many gaps that keep Black land stewards from thriving. And for that reason, we work in a collaborative ecosystem model,” says Allen. “The Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust is one of our partners in that,” she continued.

The Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust (NEFOC-LT) is a hybrid model land trust, bringing together a community land trust model and a conservation land trust model to reimagine land access as well as conservation and stewardship of communities and ecosystems with the goal of manifesting a community vision that uplifts global Indigenous, Black, and People Of Color relationships with land, skills, and lifeways.

They focus on facilitating access to land through reparations by working with individuals with land who want to redistribute to BIPOC landholders, BIPOC farmers, and BIPOC land stewards. Doing this in an intentional way, they always hold an Indigenous consultation that happens with the original stewards of that land, even if they aren't currently inhabiting that land.

“That Black and Indigenous solidarity is really important for organizations to work in collaboration and builds off of the reality that the agricultural system in this country was built off the backs of Black and Indigenous communities. So, working in separation is not in alignment with our values,” explained Allen.

As emphasized by both BFF and NEFOC, the foundation to their work is relationships. And through building relationships and connecting with farmers both in person and virtually, they found major gaps in food distribution that farmers were facing in their network.

Partnering together to host a Fellow as a part of the OpenTEAM Fellows Program, the Fellow will work with BFF and NEFOC to develop a deeper understanding of the barriers to food distribution and identify where they can facilitate solutions using OpenTEAM tools. They will also work to build and expand interdependent networks of BIPOC farmers across the Northeast that build relationships, increase opportunities for support, and steward community.

“There’s real potential for our folks to support each other, source from each other, uplift each other, and learn from each other when you have these types of interdependent opportunities for folks to connect and build relationships…. As much of that relationship piece we can center and expand, we want to and I think this partnership with OpenTEAM is really helping to facilitate that,” says Allen.

Through the program, OpenTEAM will lay the groundwork to connect all land stewards to OpenTEAM’s open source ecosystem of digital tools and other agricultural support networks. This creates a streamlined process where land stewards can input and share their data on management practices, soil health measures, and other key operations to connect to benefits, opportunities, economic incentives, and markets.

“Working with an organization that is trying to make sure that agricultural tools being developed support BIPOC farmers who are just trying to feed their communities and grow food that is culturally appropriate and culturally relevant… Having us be part of that conversation and be part of that space felt really important,” explained Allen.

To ensure all technology tools and platforms work for land stewards of all sizes, production types, regions, and backgrounds, we must harness the shared innovation that happens every day on every farm and in every backyard.

“By working through an OpenTEAM Fellow with BFF and NEFOC, we have a great opportunity to grow this relationship, learn from real needs on the ground, particularly around food distribution, and ensure that the open technology ecosystem we are building is accessible and usable by all farmers, ranchers, and land stewards,” says Laura Demmel Gilmer, Head of Global Community and Operations at OpenTEAM.

The OpenTEAM Fellows Program operates with significant support from a $730,000 grant by the Walmart Foundation.