The Rooted In Community National Network (RIC) is a national grassroots network that empowers young people to take leadership in their own communities. We are a diverse movement of youth and adults working together and committed to fostering healthy communities and food justice through urban and rural agriculture, community gardening, food security, and related environmental justice work.
Fifteen years ago, two high school aged youth from The Food Project were in Seattle attending the 1998 American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) conference. They were engaged in food systems work in Boston and knew that there must be other youth doing that type of work around the country, but none were present at the conference. They voiced their idea that there should be a conference for youth and by youth to connect the many young people taking action for food justice. The Food Project and ACGA then teamed up the following year to host the first annual Rooted in Community Conference. With just over 70 attendees gathering in Boston for that first gathering, it was clear that something important was hatched. Over the last decade and a half, RIC has hosted 15 National Conferences, facilitated numerous regional gatherings and youth leadership trainings, mentored over 100 organizations while facilitating the sharing of best practices in the field, and supported youth in crafting the Youth Food Bill of Rights. RIC functioned as an all volunteer run organization for it’s first decade of work. In 2010, RIC hired its first part time Co-Directors and created an Advisory Council made up of youth and adults in the RIC Network.
RIC ADVISORY TEAM
ArI began farming on a family-owned vegetable farm in Loudoun County, Virginia at the age of 17. As she squished potato beetles and unrolled hay bales she was opened to the struggles of family farmers and to the importance of supporting local growers and manufacturers. While studying at Bates College Ari became active Maine’s food justice movement, developing connections with local farmers, volunteering with urban gardens and local non-profits and working at four farms in the state . While studying abroad in Nepal and India in 2004-2005 she experienced first-hand the reality of global food disparity issues; this inspired her to become more involved in food security work when she returned home. In June 2006, she began working at Lots to Gardens, a youth and community driven organization that maintains 15 gardens and green spaces in Lewiston, Maine. For over five years she supported, youth, and adults in learning more about how to grow food, growing food, and healthy eating for physical and mental health. Ari served as the Urban Farmer and Educator for the Center for Environmental Transformation in Camden, NJ. While there she expanded their youth programs to include more leadership opportunities, worked with youth to start a hot sauce business, and managed two vegetable gardens, two urban orchards, a native plant nursery, and a greenhouse. When she is not growing, cooking, or preserving food you will probably find her riding her bicycle over the Ben Franklin Bridge or running around a frisbee field.
Beatriz is an organizer and human rights activist with over 15 years experience who works tirelessly along side grassroots groups domestically and internationally to organize for social change. Beatriz supports the development of campaigns lead by grassroots leaders on the front lines of the struggle for equity and social justice. She currently serves as a Campaign Director with MomsRising specifically working on Juvenile Justice, Criminal Justice, Sentencing Reform and Food Justice issues. Beatriz is also the Co Founder and National Organizer for the National Black Food & Justice Alliance and contributing author to the Movement for Black Lives Policy Platform. Beatriz collaborates with US and International based partners and allies to organize for the food justice movement. She works to provide grassroots coalition building support to communities across the country, and to develop strategic partnerships that strengthen communities power and self determination. Beatriz centers intersectional movement building, transformative organizing, institution building, coalition building, allyship and accompaniment, storytelling and campaign development as key strategies in her work. Beatriz is committed to lifting up the leadership of historically marginalized communities and to build power and capacity for grassroots groups to organize effectively, developing strategies rooted in the collective wisdom of grassroots communities. Beatriz has elevated critical conversation on racial equity, intersectional movement building and organizing through several radical story telling publications including the Youth Food Justice Zine, and Food Justice Voices: What Ferguson Means for Food Justice Series. Beatriz's most important role is being a proud mother to a wonderful little boy, and when she can squeezes in creative work as a visual/design artist, urban design enthusiast and craft nerd.
Travis McKenzie was born in San Diego, California, and grew up in New Mexico. He has dedicated his life to serving mother earth and the many people that care about life. He has gone to conferences, visited the legislature to participate in making positive change, and has created and maintained gardens in Albuquerque and across New Mexico. He works at many gardens and provides seeds and knowledge to anyone who wants to plant. He also works at eight after school programs and helps facilitate gardening at schools. He is currently a garden coordinator for S.W.O.P. (the Southwest Organizing Project) with Project Feed The Hood.
John Wang works as the Youth Programs and Community Outreach Manager for The Food Project’s North Shore site. In this role, he is responsible for maintaining, managing and supervising staff in TFP’s 3 core youth programs, community programs, external relationships and collaborations. John has worked at TFP since 2005 and previously served as a founding staff member of The Food Project’s North Shore site, where he helped establish youth programming. From 2008 to 2012, John worked as the Intern Program manager for TFP’s Greater Boston and North Shore sites – training and developing youth-led external and internal curriculum. Before coming to The Food Project, John traveled widely and lived in many different parts of the United States. He grew up in Illinois and attended the University of Illinois, where he earned a BA in microbiology and chemistry. After college, John worked for City Year in Seattle; participated in AmeriCorps VISTA at an HIV clinic in San Diego; and earned an MS in international health policy and management from Brandeis University. John also holds a certificate of Non-profit Leadership and Management from Boston University. Outside of work, he loves to backpack, take photographs, play soccer, cook, and, of course, eat. John first became involved in RIC in 2005 and helped to organize the 2009 Maine and Massachusetts RIC conference.
Superpower: Being a very good listener (listening, giving good feedback)
Ayisah worked for the Rural Coalition as a fellow in Washington, D.C. for 3 years. She helped with the organization of the office and did computer work and social media. While in her position, she had gotten to gotten to do Hill drops, a gala at the Press Club and to sit in on Small Farms Conferences. She’s traveled to North Carolina to be apart of the American Indian Mother’s Conference and helped at an important GOAT meeting on the Farm Bill. Throughout her childhood, Ayisah traveled to many different places all over the world. From Guatemala to Prague to South Dakota. In 2015 she helped to create the Youth Food Justice Zine and now works with the DC based group Ecohermanas a women’s group working with Mother Earth. Ayisah first became involved with RIC by attending the 2012 Iowa RIC conference and then in 2013 being part of a panel of youth of color with Will Allen. She has been apart of the board ever since.
Doron Comerchero is the co-founder and director of “Food, What?!”– a youth empowerment and food justice program in Santa Cruz, California, using food and sustainable agriculture, as the vehicle for growing strong, healthy, and inspired teens. Roots deep in the East Coast, Doron spent most of his 20’s bouncing around the South Bronx as a community organizer and outreach coordinator for NYC’s community gardening program, GreenThumb. It was during this time that Doron attended the second Rooted in Community Conference in 2000 and became deeply inspired. Following that event, Doron joined the board of the American Community Gardening Association and chaired the youth committee. At that point, Doron joined a team of two other individuals repping RIC’s early support structure to help lead and guide RIC for the next five years. Rich soil called, and he found himself having transitioned from city life to living in a tent on a beautiful piece of farmland in Santa Cruz as an apprentice at the UCSC Farm and Garden. To continue to build his toolkit to eventually create “Food, What?!” he decided to try on his hat farming full time as part of a crew on a 50-acre site in Western Massachusetts called Food Bank Farm. Doron returned to Santa Cruz in 2007 to start FoodWhat at Life Lab (a local non-profit). Doron rejoined the RIC Advisory Council that same year, and FoodWhat was part of the Bay Area Collective that led the 2008 RIC Summer Summit. Doron continues to serve on the Council and is often stirring up impromptu dance parties or motivating folks to get out to roller skating jams.