November 2, 2007
Contact: Pam Madzima 205 652 9676

Federation of Southern Cooperatives Youth Attend Rural Youth Summit in Iowa
Historic Youth Participation in 2007 National Summit on Agriculture and Rural Life Forum

(click here for photos of the event)

EPES, ALABAMA.... On October 26-27, 2007 the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund’s (Federation/LAF) Youth Agricultural Project participants traveled to Ames, Iowa to attend and participate in the ‘Rural Youth Summit’ and the 2007 National Summit on Agriculture and Rural Life.  The theme for the youth summit (organized by the League of Rural Voters) was Revitalizing Rural America, and focused on finding solutions to challenges facing young people who may choose to make a living and build their lives in rural communities.

Pamela Madzima, the Federation/LAF's Program Coordinator, along with youth participants from the Federation/LAF’s 2007 Sustainable Agriculture Program, gave a presentation at the conference on “The Role of Community-Based Organizations as Support Systems for Positive Youth Development in Rural Communities”.

"This was a wonderful opportunity for our youth to meet others from across the country who were concerned about the same issues and concerns that we have in the rural South," said Madzima. "We hope national gatherings like this will continue. At the event" she continued, "our youth shared the work they have been doing this summer on the 1-acre sustainable agriculture garden located at the Federation/LAF’s Rural Training and Research Center, in Epes, Alabama.  They also talked about some of the lessons they have learned about work, themselves, their social responsibilities and the role they have played in providing fresh, healthy vegetable produce to their community."

The youth participants from Alabama included: Wendell Lawson, Diontye Wilson, DeMarkus Crockett, Kionna Crockett, Katia May, Nathaniel Lard, Marcus Desmond and LaNeatra Rogers (2007 Rural Development Intern). The participants also met and listened to some of the 2008 Democratic presidential candidates, invited by the League of Rural Voters, such as Senators John Edwards, Hillary Clinton (via iChat) and Barack Obama.

Ralph Paige, Executive Director of the Federation/LAF, attended the event and presented on "The State of Rural America." After highlighting the plight of rural America today he said, "This conference offers a unique opportunity for us to address and put on the agenda sensible and sustainable agriculture and rural policies that will address fair trade policies, create jobs, new markets, energy self-sufficiency, new infrastructures, improvement of education, save family farmers and generate a thriving and revitalize rural communities and create sensible immigration policies – this is what we need. It offers the opportunity to place these on the agenda for 2008 election – hopefully this conference will place these issues on the table and open up the debate."

Niel Ritchie, coordinator of the event commented that "the simple act of joining together in political dialogue, rural and urban, young and old, from coast-to coast, and border-to-border was extraordinary and powerful.  People from diverse places, backgrounds and political stripes quickly discovered that they shared many of the same concerns. Throw in the opportunity to engage with some of the leading political figures of our time, and the result was historic."

Note: The Federation/LAF, now in its 40th year,  assists Black family farmers across the South with farm management, debt restructuring, alternative crop suggestions, marketing expertise and a whole range of services to ensure family farm survivability.