From the Executive Director’s Desk

Abigail R. Harris
June 12th 2019

by Abigail Harris, incoming Executive Director, Provender Alliance

We’re standing at the side of the hot, dusty road, and I feel like I’ve been sucker-punched.

Staring out across the acres of farmland, the earth is covered with deep cracks and wide fissures between rows of agricultural crops.

I’m driving this stretch of highway with my best friend. The two of us are traveling through California’s central valley to Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada mountains on a backpacking trip. It’s the mid-1970’s and we’re in high school. Back then, white middle-class teenage girls could still take off and do that kind of thing on their own in the summertime.

We pull over to switch drivers. I climb out, eyeballing depressing acres of depleted soil. Even for a suburban kid who knows zip about food production, my gut knows something is wrong – WAY wrong – with what I’m seeing.

Sometimes we have to experience what we don’t want, to know what we DO want.

That 70’s road trip was my first introduction to food production without integrity and it’s one of the core reasons that I’m excitedly working in my new role as the incoming executive director.

What inspires me more than almost anything is the connective thread of integrity that runs through the fabric of Provender Alliance’s membership and community. It shimmers like sunshine reflecting on a clear mountain lake.

You can see this integrity in a myriad of ways, each member with their own approach: Co-operative and management structures, regenerative farming practices, certified organic, fair trade, B corps status, mission-driven, sustainability, environmental responsibility….the list goes on.

I feel the pull of that common thread each time I pick up the phone and talk with a Provender member. I hear it running through the everyday conversations, whether with a farmer, manufacturer, broker, or natural food store.

We know how important it is to learn from each other, support each other, and be stronger together. There’s a lot at stake. I recognize the lead that our members take in the natural products community, regardless of size. Your continued efforts matter, whether that happens on a local, regional or national scale.

That’s why the Annual Educational Conference is so special. And why this year’s full-day Intensive on Wednesday is focused on Conscious Leadership. with facilitator Deb Katz.

Our 2019 Conference (October 2-4 in Hood River, OR) has a full schedule of dynamic workshops in the works — keep an eye out for details in coming eNews and on our on website.  Two powerful keynote speakers (Eric Holt-Giménez, Ph.D. and Margi Simmons) will present on Thursday and Friday.

Meet Your Makers (MYM), the Provender version of a mini-trade show, is going to be more robust than ever. MYM exhibitor registration is open now, and sign-ups are in full swing.

The depth of connection that happens at the conference is potent. I hear story after story from Provender members of how it nourishes the soul and renews a sense of purpose to their jobs and businesses.

If you haven’t been to the conference in a while or are new to the Provender community, this is an experience that you don’t want to miss. Registration officially begins on July 15th so mark your calendar now.

In the rapidly changing environment of the natural foods and products industry, the need for us to find ways to flourish together based on shared values is more essential than ever. It includes a combination of Provender supporting the growth and prosperity of our members, while also helping lead the way towards the care, well-being, and stewardship of the earth and each other.

I look forward to meeting you at the conference!