Featured Leader: Arlo Bush

In this Featured Leader piece we hear from Arlo Bush, an FSLN Network Weaver and the Development and Communications Coordinator with Sustainable Food Center. Arlo lives on the ancestral lands of Tonkawa, Apache, and Comanche, or what many call Austin, Texas.

The FSLN backbone team has had the pleasure of getting to know Arlo through various FSLN calls, trainings, and his current time as a Weaver and are consistently in awe of his vivacious spirit, deep commitment to racial equity, and refreshing candor that he brings.

Before jumping into the questions, here’s a bit about how Arlo spends his days: Arlo’s passion for equity, entrepreneurial endeavors, and commitment to helping make an impact through implementing systems change led him to begin doing mission-driven work for Sustainable Food Center (SFC). As the Development & Communications Coordinator he supports execution and strategy of sharing SFC’s vision through inclusive communication and donor stewardship & cultivation. Arlo is the Co-Chair of the Equity Team at Sustainable Food Center and is leading how SFC operationalizes equity into their culture and how they fulfill their mission-driven work.

Your Leadership Journey

Who are you? (Beyond the job title!)
I’m a lover and a fighter. I love this world we are a part of, and I fight for collective good. 

What inspired you to get involved in food systems work?
The fact that food intersects with everyone, it seemed like a natural place to make a large scale impact. 

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
My Mother has always been my rock, her unconditional love for me showed me the power of love, and it has always been a driving force in everything I do. 

What does food systems leadership mean to you?
To lead the world. 

What’s your greatest leadership challenge now, and what are you looking for support for?
My biggest challenge is engaging with all of the wonderful folks in this world. I need the network’s help in coming together to create collective liberation. 

What are you most excited about in your work?
Racial justice, and centering equity in everything we do.

What’s something about you (a fun fact!) that not many of your colleagues know or that we wouldn’t expect from you?
I was the captain of the country & western dance team in high school. 

Similarly, how are you most misunderstood?
People often ask how I have so much energy to engage in conversation and community, and they assume it comes naturally to me. The reality is communicating and networking is hard work. And must be done intentionally. I don’t do it because it comes easy to me, I do it because I believe it’s typically the things you work hard for you enjoy the most. 

Reflections on the Network Weaver Role

What is your network weaving superpower that you’re bringing with you in this role and that you’re excited to share with this network?
Immortality. My life’s legacy will be this work, this work does not stop when I die. 

What is one thing you hope to take with you from your weaving experience?
Long-lasting, deep friendships and new perspectives. 

Reflections on 2020

A lot happened in 2020. What is one lesson that you’ll carry with you or a piece of advice you’d like to send forward? 
Our experience during the pandemic is a unique reminder of the power of lived experiences, whether shared or actually lived – having the presence and awareness to seek out what the universe is telling us in this moment. Taking time to listen and then put a plan together to impact change. 

COVID is impacting the food system in a number of ways, and in some cases, one can argue that more attention is being paid to the value and resiliency of local and regional food systems. What is one change you’re hoping to see to the US food system and how do you think we can get there?
If we really want to approach this from a systems perspective, I see two key areas for growth. For generations mankind has abused the earth, and if we want to right that cycle we need to revisit our water use and carbon emissions that are associated with our agriculture industry. Just as we are urging other industries to “go green” our species really needs to take a look at our meat consumption. 

The other is racial justice.

Discussions around America’s past and present-day systemic racism have caused many to consider how to build anti-racist food systems. How might those involved in the movement for equitable food systems ride this momentum to reach this goal?
We can’t continue to rebuild the system, it is broken. The flaws are inherent. We need to rebuild all of our systems and institutions. We have to come together to create change. 

Speaking of… when you imagine an equitable and anti-racist food system, what do you envision?
Collective liberation. A world where money is not the reason we’re brought out of bed every morning, but that collective good is what gets us started! 

Time for some real talk …

Burn out. It’s a thing, and social change is a long game. Have you found ways to balance taking care of yourself with your commitment to creating more equitable food and social systems?
Absolutely, blocking off time on my calendar for yoga or a walk or a meditation is crucial to my ability to show up. As life asks us to do many things in concert, we must keep our cup overflowing so that we can pour into our community – abundance. 

What is one change would you like to see that might encourage more folks to enter and stay in this work for the long haul?
Unfortunately, the system we’re in is based on capital. In the Social Impact space there’s not a lot of that available. We need to fund change, and change happens here. More unrestricted funding to pay our people to do the work that needs to be done. 

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