Annual NC conference examines food equity

PHOTO PROVIDEDRise & Root Farm founder Karen Washington in the Garden of Happiness in Orange County, NY. Washington is the keynote speaker at 4th annual FEED BACK summit sponsored by Craigardan and the New York State Health Foundation on Feb. 24-25.

ELIZABETTOWN – It's the eve of the North Country’s annual "FEED BACK "summit on Feb. 24-25 presented by Craigardan and the New York State Health Foundation.

This two-day event will feature keynote speaker Karen Washington of Rise & Root Farm, plus the Racial Equity Institute, Weaving Change, and more than 30 speakers, presenters, and breakout sessions.


“FEED BACK, Move Forward: Responding to 2020” will take place virtually on the innovative conference platform, Bevy.

Topics include:

These questions frame the annual summit and bring together community leaders, business owners, farmers, consumers, healthcare professionals, educators, students, and more to discuss advocacy, politics, programs, and grassroots organizing.

Craigardan's goal is to bring creative, scholarly, and frontline perspectives together into dynamic conversation.

This year’s theme reflects the urgency of inequities that 2020 laid bare and the challenges in 2021 and beyond.

Previous summits began the process of identifying priority projects, working to strengthen existing initiatives, and aiding collaboration within the food system.

This year’s summit expands on the crucial social justice issues surrounding food in the region.

Audience and participants are invited to reflect on what is needed for fundamental and systemic change, and to propose actionable solutions to those problems identified.

On Feb. 24, Craigardan partners with the Racial Equity Institute — an alliance of trainers, organizers, and institutional leaders who have devoted themselves to the work of creating racially equitable organizations and systems —to lead attendees in developing the tools to challenge patterns of power and grow equity.


Washington, farmer and food justice activist,  is the keynote speaker on Feb. 25.

Since 1985, she has worked to make New York City a better place to live and grow by feeding people's body, mind, and spirit.

Professionally, Washington was a physical therapist for more than 30 years.

She "retired" in April 2014 to start Rise & Root Farm in Orange County, NY.

The Bronx resident of more than 26 years began living part time near the farm in 2015.

“To grow your own food gives you power and dignity," Washington states on the farm's website.

"You know exactly what you’re eating because you grew it. It’s good, it’s nourishing and you did this for yourself, your family and your community.”

Washington worked with Bronx neighborhoods to turn empty lots into community gardens as a community gardener and board member of the New York Botanical Gardens.

As an advocate, she stood up and spoken out for garden protection and preservation.

Washington helped launched a City Farms Market, bringing garden fresh vegetables to her neighbors as a member of the La Familia Verde Community Garden Coalition.

She also co-founded Black Urban Growers (BUGS), an organization of volunteers committed to building networks and community support for growers in both urban and rural settings.

In 2012, Ebony Magazine voted her one of their 100 most influential African Americans in the country.

Two years later, she was awarded with the James Beard Leadership Award.


FEED BACK participants will have the freedom to select and move between eight morning and afternoon breakout sessions, plus networking rooms, special sessions, presenter booths, and more.

Thanks to the generosity of conference sponsors and partners, tickets are only $15 for students, $20 for adults, and free for those who need assistance. Sponsorships are still available.

 FEED BACK was made possible with support from the Adirondack Health Institute, ADK Action, Weaving Change, Rise & Root Farm, and the Adirondack Council.

Find complete schedule and register online at

Registration closes at 6 p.m. today.

Staff Writer Robin Caudell contributed to this report.


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