Melony Edwards is a first-generation farmer currently working as Farm Manager at Willowood Farm of Ebey’s Prairie on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle. Food Tank spoke with Edwards about her ongoing efforts to encourage young aspiring farmers:

FT: How are you helping to build a better food system?

Melong Edwards: I actually grow and produce food. I like to lead by example, and I have found that while there are more conversations about food and food systems, those conversations often lack the voices of real farmers who are typically more comfortable working in the field than attending food conferences and posting on social media. I help to bridge the gap for the farming community.

Additionally, I am very passionate about educating my own Black American community about the need for healthy, well-grown food for our communities, and about the principle that working in agriculture is not demeaning, as perceived by many Black Americans.

FT: What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?

Melony Edwards: I see three distinct issues. The first issue is the lack of racial diversity in land ownership and access, particularly for Black Americans. Agricultural land is a great natural resource, and Black Americans simply do not have a seat at that table, especially when it comes to farmlands.

The second issue is the concept that food needs to be cheaper. And this is a sentiment that seems to cross all racial boundaries.

The third issue is the notion that one farming practice is better than another farming practice: Conventional vs. Organic vs. Permaculture vs. Veganic vs. Bio-dynamic vs. Tilling vs. No-Till — the list goes on.  There is no one right way to farm.

Read the rest of the interview about representation in agriculture by Izzy Baird at Food Tank.