Hi everyone — Willa here. I’m both excited and sad to share with y’all that after three years leading our Minnesota team, I’m stepping into a new role at PAN — launching and organizing a new state-to-state policy project that will take learnings from our work in Minnesota, Iowa, and California to build partnerships with communities in other states!
Organizing alongside Minnesotans for health and justice in our food system has been one of the biggest joys of my life, truly! To those I’ve seen at conferences, met at your farms, and worked with building power at the Capitol — thank you. I won’t be leading our policy strategy in Minnesota anymore, but I’ll still be here celebrating wins and losses alongside you all.
I’m SO excited to announce that the new Minnesota Organizer is someone I’ve worked with closely over the past few years, and may already be familiar to some of you. Zoe Hollomon has been a food justice organizer for many years, is an incredible organizer and movement-builder, and has so much expertise, insight, determination, and passion to bring to this work. I’ll let her introduce herself:
Hello everyone and thanks Willa!
I’m very excited to join the PAN team and get to know more of the amazing work that has been building here in Minnesota and across the country.
A bit about me. I am a Black, queer woman in my 40s. I live in Minneapolis with my partner and our dog, Luci. I have been organizing for about 18 years, and in that time I’ve had the honor of working with youth, farmers, factory workers, immigrants, artists, and so many others to imagine the world we need and deserve, and fight together for it.
I was born in Duluth, MN, but grew up in Buffalo, NY, right near Niagara Falls. Buffalo is a beautiful underdog city with a long history of industrial strength exploitation, but also a long legacy of powerful freedom fighters and grassroots activism. After decades of using the land and our labor, big steel, auto and chemical industries left us with a poisoned landscape and a dwindling economy. My experiences growing up in the wake of that ignited my quest to learn about the economic policies, corporate forces, and government actors that exploited my hometown — as well as to discover ways communities have fought in resistance. What excites me most is learning about the ways that communities have organized politically, built cooperative businesses and housing development, and continue to create their own systems in the face of unacceptable realities. (If anyone is up for sharing resources, get at me!)
I came to organize in food justice in 2003, at a grassroots organization in Buffalo, NY, called the Massachusetts Avenue Project. Their work building deep relationships with youth and community to take leadership in growing food and activating politically was (and is) an inspiration. In my 10 years there, we grew a lot of food (and young farmers) for our community; we used research to expose systemic oppression; and we brought together communities of color, small farmers, and other marginalized folks to build a regional food system that we all needed. We became a force to be reckoned with.
In 2012, I moved to the Twin Cities, and since then I’ve worked with many grassroots organizations and communities to build and fight for systems that serve them. For the past three years, I’ve organized the Good Food Purchasing Twin Cities Coalition, working with farmers, labor unions, and environmental justice partners to change the way public institutions buy food and create equitable changes for communities most impacted by industrial agriculture. An exciting new group I’m organizing with is the Midwest Farmers of Color Collective, a network of over 60 Black and brown farmers, working to build social, political, and economic power.
As a social justice activist and person of color, it’s important to call out the forces of colonialism, white supremacy and extractive culture that are entrenched in our society, in our food system, and are largely propped up by white-led organizations and institutions. I see this come into play in my work with organizations and in coalitions, and it’s critical to have and share tools to talk about it. More than that, it's critical to have personal and organizational practices to study racial inequities and how we got to where we are, in order to chart the right path forward and restore what’s been taken.
It feels like such a crazy time in the world right now, with so much at stake in the upcoming elections, a global pandemic, and figuring out how we can continue the fight for social and environmental justice with seemingly impossible barriers. When I get very worried, I am reminded of the words of a mentor, “This is not the first apocalypse we have gone through or will. We will do what we do, settle in with our community, care for each other, and continue to build power. Take care of yourself and remember we are many, we just need to get connected.”
I am so excited to get to know more of you in the months to come and building the future together.
Zoe Hollomon, Minnesota Organizer