Featured Leader: Melony Edwards

Melony Edwards is a returning-generation farmer joining the Food Systems Leadership team at the Wallace Center as a Program Associate and part of the FSLN Backbone team. Welcome, Melony!!

Melony has a background in culinary arts, hospitality & restaurant management which lead her to curiosity about broader food systems. In 2016 she landed on a 20-acre, mixed-vegetable farm in rural Western Washington, where she immersed herself in small-scale agricultural practices as a market farmer selling directly to chefs around the greater Seattle area. Prior to working with the Wallace Center, Melony’s farming focus was on seed stewardship with the Organic Seed Alliance. She also advocates for young farmers as a board member for the National Young Farmers Coalition, through which she lobbies for appropriations benefiting young farmers.

You and your journey

Who are you? (Beyond the job title!)

I am a twin, the good one. A farmer. Dog momma. I have a background in culinary arts, so I like to think of myself as a foodie, I love tasty food and exceptional wine. Travel is my pastime. I am an active community member who serves on many committees to make a more equitable farming and food system.  

What inspired you to get involved in food systems work?

I believe that the spelling of my name Melon with a “y” lead me on a path of food and farming. When you think of fruit think of me. After completing degrees in culinary arts and hospitality, and working in all facets of food service, I began wondering, “Where does our food come from? And why are there no visible Black farmers at the local farmers’ market?” And why people of color had significantly higher food related illness like diabetes, high blood pressure, and gout? These questions and more drove me to dive deeper to seek the root cause(s) of our unjust food system. Reflecting on childhood, from the early age of 10/11, I believed that I would end world hunger. Food and farming have always been my calling.  
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you, or someone you look up to. Why and how has this person impacted your life?

My ancestors are my mentors who have guided me back to working in the soil and stewarding foods that provide nourishment to myself and family. They encouraged me to ask questions about our food system and have led me on a life journey working in food and farming.  

Leadership and learnings

What does food systems leadership mean to you?

Food systems leadership means to not settle for crumbs on the table and make a seat at the table for yourself and others to advocate for change.  

What are you most excited about in your work?

I am most excited about building community and helping to empower local farmers and community members to take the lead in defining our food and farming systems. I am excited to think of myself as a conduit for building community and connections with people in the agricultural and food setting, I navigate. It excites me to meet and collaborate with other passionate people whom I met in this work.  

 What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many of your colleagues know or that we wouldn’t expect from you? 

In my free time I enjoy crafting hand natural dyed and hand spun yarn from cellulose and protein fibers. 

What have you enjoyed the most as a member of the FSLN? What do you hope will happen through this network?   

I am very new to this network and am glad to have found it. I have been welcomed with open arms and I am looking forward to getting to know more members and staff and growing with this community.  

When you imagine an equitable and anti-racist food system, what do you envision? 

I envision everyone having a voice and hand in shaping the culturally significant foods needed to sustain them and their community.  

Let’s Get Real – under the iceberg: 

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?  

I am an extroverted introvert, when most people meet or interact with me, they are greeted by my extroverted self. I have learned my need to recharge after any large or small social setting and that sometimes means taking time for myself away from any form of technology or communication.  

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