Ep 135. Maggie Cheney on Food Equity and Cultivating an Inclusive Community

Have you ever considered farming for a target audience that isn’t “everyone who eats”?


Today we’re joined by Maggie Cheney, co-founder of Rock Steady Farm in Millerton, New York. Maggie and her partner, D, both hoped the Millerton farm could increase food equity in the food system and create safer spaces for LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual/ally queer) and BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of color) farmers to thrive. Almost six years later, the farm has indeed made an impact. Its wide array of vegetables feed a 450-member sliding scale CSA that includes free and subsidized shares made possible through the Food Access Fund. The farm works in close partnerships with other land-based projects, neighbors, and nonprofits that work to build equity in the region and beyond. Their farm practices “holistic regenerative” farming. Join us to hear all about how Rock Steady thrives with their specific target audience!

In This Episode:

What got Maggie into farming 1:58

What made Maggie and her partner choose Millerton for the farm 4:33

Why Maggie and D dropped flowers from their farming plan 7:17

About Rock Steady’s scale of production 11:19

How Rock Steady finds the right people for the farm 18:26

What programs Rock Steady run and what ages do they work with 20:36

Why Rock Steady doesn’t have any H2A workers 23:27

About the differences involved with farming in California and New York 29:11

About the Pollinate Apprenticeship Program 32:10

What systems and processes Maggie would put into place sooner given the chance to start again 36:30

How Rock Steady approaches marketing 41:10

Maggie’s favorite crop to grow 48:29

Maggie’s advice for newer farmers getting into the business 50:33

Maggie’s favorite farming tool 54:12

About the Guest:

MAGGIE CHENEY (THEY/THEM, SHE/HER), GENERAL MANAGER, OWNER & FOUNDER

Maggie grew up growing & loving food. They have been involved with food and farming their whole life, both urban and rural. In 2006, they helped start an elementary school garden program in Oakland, California, and then went on to the University of California Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems for two years. After farming a bit in the Hudson Valley and Staten Island, they moved to NYC in 2011, where they met many of the Rock Steady Community partners in NYC while leading a diversity of food justice and youth leadership programs.  Maggie has been instrumental in the formation of the Food Sovereignty Fund, which funds food access projects across New York State by sourcing from specifically BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ farmers, as well as supporting on advisory boards for numerous food orgs in the region. In the off season they teach, now for the 9th year, at Farm School NYC, an urban agriculture training program, as well as continue to support the efforts and inspiring work of Rise & Root Farm, which they co-founded in 2014.

Resources and mentions

Website – https://www.rocksteadyfarm.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RockSteadyFarmandFlowers/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/rocksteadyfarm/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/RockSteadyFarm

And if you want to keep the conversation going, join us in our Facebook Group to connect with us and other farmers looking to grow their business!

We also have six free eguides to help you be more effective on your farm (Winter Growing, Pastured Poultry, Washing Shed Efficiency, Profitable Farmers Toolkit, What to Look for in a Farm Property, etc), which you can download here.