Community Food Systems Mentorship Program

Community Food Systems Mentorship Program

Applications for the Spring 2023 round of mentorship are open now through January 27th!

The movement for equitable food systems is an exceptionally diverse and multigenerational field of food systems leaders with varying perspectives, demographics, geographies, and experience levels. From seasoned experts with a lifetime’s worth of experience to those just entering the field, the diversity of expertise creates unique opportunities to advance the movement. The Food Systems Leadership Network believes in harnessing the power of intergenerational exchange to nurture community leadership and advancing systems change.

Now in its seventh round, the Community Food Systems Mentorship Program provides food systems leaders with the opportunity to closely engage with proven leaders and experts as thought partners and coaches.

Whether you are just embarking on your journey into food systems or are contemplating and considering your future in this field, the exchange of ideas and experience with a dedicated mentor can influence you on profound levels and stay with you for years. Having a trusted partner to provide professional guidance and support, serve as a sounding board, and build connections in the food movement can be incredibly beneficial.

The goals of this program are to:

  • Build relationships of solidarity and support across the food movement,
  • Create a space for leaders with significant experience in community food systems to share their wisdom, knowledge, and expertise with others, and to
  • Strengthen the leadership capacity of food systems leaders

By providing a safe, supportive, and structured environment, the Mentorship Program cultivates deep, long-lasting, and intergenerational relationships that support emerging leaders to have the fullest impact on their community’s food system and persevere through the inevitable disappointments and frustrations that are part of doing social change work.

Listen to the Informational Call recording.
Review the Informational Call Slides.
Check out the Mentorship FAQ for more details.
Preview the application questions here.
Apply here!


We are honored to have such an incredible group of knowledgeable and experienced food systems leaders with a range of expertise as Community Food Systems Mentors. Explore the 2023 Mentor Cohort below!

Rich Pirog

Rich Pirog

Former Director for the Center for Regional Food Systems at Michigan State University

Angel Mendez

Angel Mendez

Red Tomato

Nancy Creamer

Nancy Creamer

Professor Emerita, NC State University, Former Director, Center for Environmental Farming Systems

Malik Yakini

Malik Yakini

Detroit Black Community Food Security Network

Karen Washington

Karen Washington

Rise and Root Farm

Miles Gordon

Miles Gordon

Kitchen Table Consulting

Kukui Maunakea-Forth

Kukui Maunakea-Forth

Wai’anae Community Re-Development Corporation and the MA’O Community Food Systems Initiative

Lydia Villanueva

Lydia Villanueva

CASA del Llano, Inc


Participating in this Mentorship Program was extremely valuable. My mentor was able to coach me on my effectiveness as a leader, strategic planning, engagement planning with high level decision makers, even negotiation. She is somebody with amazing amounts of knowledge and experience and I feel incredibly lucky that I was able to spend time with her through the Mentorship Program.
– Spring 2018 Mentee

What to Expect

The Mentorship Program includes 8 hours of one on one connection between you and a mentor over a 4-month period. It’s designed to give you the flexibility to structure the program in a way that best supports your needs, goals, and work environment.

  • The program will run from February – June, 2023
  • Mentor-mentee matching is designed to be a co-selection process: in their application, prospective mentees identify who they would like to work with and why; in the application review, mentors identify who they believe they could best provide support to.
  • If you are paired with a mentor, you’ll be asked to send them background information on your work and reach out to begin scheduling calls.
  • Mentoring will take place through video calls, phone calls, and e-mail.
  • Each mentee will have approximately 8 hours of one on one time with their mentor over the course of 4 months.
  • All mentees are required to participate in an on-boarding/kick-off call with Wallace Center staff at the launch of the program.
  • Mentees are responsible for preparing for calls (list topics to discuss, prepare questions, set call goals, etc.) and following-up afterwards.
  • Mentees are expected to be available during business hours and give their full attention to calls.
  • Mentorship is not technical assistance! Mentors are not expected to connect you to funders, solve technical problems, or tell you what to do. Great mentors serve as thought partners and help draw out your own inner solutions.
  • This program allows the flexibility for each mentor/mentee pair to adapt the structure and schedule of their meetings as needed.

As a mentee, you’ll receive expert guidance and support in a range of leadership capacities and food systems topics. Examples of topics past mentees have discussed with mentors include:

  • Organizational Leadership: Mission, vision and strategic planning, organizational strategy and priorities, adapting to organizational and structural changes, navigating staff transitions, succession planning, leveraging partnerships for impact, board engagement, financial planning;
  • Personal leadership: Recognizing personal core competencies, navigating organizational politics, career planning, professional development planning, building a support network, balance between community work and self-care, systems thinking approach;
  • Racial equity: Applying a racial equity lens within organizations, aligning values with funding sources, race and power dynamics in food systems work, implementation strategies for realizing equity;
  • Technical areas: Community engagement, marketing and promotion, coalition building, urban farming, non-asset based distribution, food business and social enterprise operations, supply chain management.

What past mentees had to say:


I learned a great deal through this Mentorship Program and am so grateful for the support I received from my mentor. I am leaving this experience with actionable strategies for improving myself and my organization, as well as a lasting supportive relationship between myself and my mentor.


Having a trusted mentor who I felt totally comfortable being 100% myself with was incredibly helpful and supportive through an intense period of professional growth. There was never any sense of professional formality keeping us from being real with each other, which is a huge part of why the mentorship was such a beneficial experience. The time I took out of my day to connect with my mentor was always reenergizing and made me feel like, I can do this. It’s hard, and I may not feel very confident or like I have all the right tools and skills right now, but I am growing, and I can keep moving forward.

Spring 2023 Mentorship Timeline

  • Applications open through January 27th, apply here!

  • Mentorship matches are made in February 2023

  • Mentorship begins February 2023

  • Mentorship concludes June 2023

Eligibility and Application Requirements

  • Applicants are highly encouraged to spend some time reflecting on why they are seeking mentorship and to include these reflections in their applications.
  • Applicants must complete an organizational capacity assessment as part of their application and upload this with their application.
  • This opportunity is available to staff of nonprofit 501 (c)3 organizations, fiscally sponsored projects under a 501 (c)3, and mission-driven food and farm businesses.
  • Applicants and their supporting organizations must both be verified members of the FSLN (sign up your organization here).
  • Mentorship will be prioritized for applicants who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color, and those who work with historically disinvested or excluded communities.
  • Selected applicants must commit to working with their mentor over a 4-month period and are required to submit a brief follow-up report on their experience.
  • If you or someone you know would like to apply but does not have internet access, please call Annalina Kazickas at 703-302-6532, or Andrew Carberry at 501-280-3028 to submit your application over the phone.

Questions? Email [email protected] with ‘Mentorship’ in the subject line.