SAAFON is in a Season of Renewal


SAAFON’s Co-Executive Directors, Alsie Parks and Whitney Jaye

This spring our farmers observed an enlivening, electric time of renewal, fertility, rebirth and the start of the planting season. Organizationally, SAAFON has been preparing for a growing season that reflects 18 years of expansion of the work that our ancestor Cynthia Hayes initiated, seeded, stewarded and continues to grow. By referencing her organizing work – how she moved in the field, her spirit, her determination as a guide – we continue to honor her legacy through our own diligence and practice.  

In February, SAAFON’s Board and staff gathered for an annual retreat at the cherished Black legacy land-based institution, Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitakers, NC. We are committed to prioritizing organizational resources to reinvest in the land and spaces that have nourished our movements, and the Franklinton Center is a setting that always feels sacred. There, we tended to our community altar, grounded with a mistica, we sang, drummed and danced as cultural practices that support the embodiment of our agrarian nature, politic and organizing strategies. 

A ritual of togetherness and intentional time for reflection and cultivating alignment, the annual Board and staff retreat has served as a continual touch point for us to affirm our collective North star as an institution. In 2023, SAAFON navigated a stabilization period, ripe with opportunities to deepen, including the onboarding of three new staff members – Alisha Johnson Perry, Jael Paul, and Kiyah Harris.

We embraced the time to focus on important aspects of organizational work that are critical to building our internal infrastructure in key areas of development including programmatic refinement, board development, financial systems, operations projects, incorporation, and strategic planning. We celebrated the beautiful work we were able to do in 2023.  

The Board and Staff affirmed the ongoing co-leadership of Whitney Jaye and Alsie Parks as SAAFON institutional stewards, who in 2024 will celebrate seven years of holding the shared vision of crafting kinship among Black agrarian community leaders across the Southeast and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We honored the collective intelligence and wisdom in our intergenerational bridge building, tending to the continuity of the future of our network and deepening our web of relationships across the Southeast and USVI, to create space for continuing to cultivate our Caribbean Area Strategy.  We give special honor to our farmers across the SAAFON network who inform our strategic development in service to deepening their capacity and direct impact in their communities. The Board and staff closed out our time together by touring member farms in the Piedmont North Carolina region – Grounded Roots Farm, Conetoe Family Life Center, Pine Knot Farms and Allied Organics Farm. Each held us in close community through encouragement, storytelling, and hospitality. Experiencing the goodwill across our base is truly an honor and blessing. We give thanks to the farmers in our network who support us in elevating the collective power, prosperity, and visibility of Black farmers committed to advancing ecological sustainability inherited through Black history and culture.  

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