Reflect on your Fellowship journey in its entirety.
It’s hard to believe this the last report of my Bush Fellowship. Two years flew by and looking back at all of my monthly narratives, so much has happened! I just reread some of my earliest logs and I had just won the James Beard Award for the cookbook and was traveling to England to present at the Oxford Food Symposium. In 2018 I counted traveling to 26 states and 6 countries, and 2019 wasn’t any easier with 29 states and 4 countries. I was able to launch our non profit in 2018 and 2019 was able to successfully fundraise to start our vision for the Indigenous Food Lab, we raised almost $1.8M in 2019 alone. My original goals for the fellowship were as follows:
Goal 1 - Explore Mexico’s Indigenous Foods
Goal 2 - Learn Spanish + Lakota
Goal 3 - International Food Events
Goal 4 - Self Care - Mental and Physical Therapy
I definitely was able to follow through with all of those, although I still have a ways to go with my Lakota Language lessons, but at least I’m learning! I’ve made a lot of amazing networks and connections in various areas of Mexico and have been able to do some focus dinners with some of my friends in the Huichol communities. There’s so much to learn down there and I know I will always make time to spend in Mexico and help bring the awareness of the amazing and rich history of food, agriculture, and indigenous peoples.
I’ve also spent the last few years learning to have a better physical health routine, although I can’t go to gyms at the moment (thanks COVID), but biking, hiking, foraging is a great way for me to be outdoors and get much needed exercise. Also the past couple of years, my partner Dana Thompson and I have been seeing therapists to help navigate a reality where we are both working and living together and better understanding ourselves and the divisions of work stress to relationship stress. It’s also focussed us to be better leaders and really think about how we manage and communicate with our employees.
The travel has been intense and that’s putting it mildly. But we’ve been able to push our work well beyond our borders and connect with so many amazing people everywhere working hard on food sovereignty and food security issues, along with leaders in the culinary world, academics, community leaders, writers, artists, and so much more. It’s really helped to lay these connections as a foundation for the work yet to come. As our visions with Indigenous Food Lab begins to form into reality, we can see clear paths of how to collaborate with other entities like various tribal leaders, experts in farming, seed keeping and permaculture, higher education facilities and their staff and students, state representatives, culinary thought leaders, and more. Even though the COVID crisis has caused us to morph our plans slightly, since it’s obviously not doable at this very moment in time to open a brand new dine in restaurant, it has also made the work we are about to release into the world even more relevant and important. It was so easy for so many industries and organizations to be completely turned on their heads or even disappear completely. It’s forced the world to take a pause and hopefully people will see the lessons that are being told to all of us about what’s truly important and what gives us strength. We all need food and we need to be supporting local food and health efforts. This crisis is going to showcase the strength and resilience of small, independent food businesses and groups, and we are excited to be finally moving forward bring some strength and direction to indigenous peoples and communities. All this has become immensely possible for us directly because of the support from this Bush Fellowship. I am forever grateful and hope I can do whatever I can to support the team at the Bush Foundation and all of their future efforts.
What do wish you would have known when you started?
When I first started, I wish I would have kept a small journal (i prefer digital) to keep track of thoughts and events. This kind of journaling would have helped me right away with the monthly logs and reporting for the fellowship. I also wish I would have known about the gathering in 2019 further in advance also. My calendar was so full last year and had so many commitments, I wasn’t able to attend. Overall, I feel like my time with the Bush Foundation as a fellow has been very well communicated and there are many resources for future fellows to access. I am more than happy to be a fellow and still feel humbled by the opportunity.
What stands out/surprised you the most?
I think that what is most surprising to me is that I had in the beginning assumed that myself and the other fellows of my year, 2018, would have crossed paths more. Realistically I’m not sure how that would have happened knowing my own schedule and I can only imagine everybody else has beyond busy, but I was genuinely interested in everybody’s projects and visions and had hoped to see everybody more in person.