Farm School NYC Alumni - Rafael Aponte
Farm School NYC Alumni
Community service and education are the threads that run though Rafael’s life, whether he is working with teens or organizing farmers.
A few years back, while he was working in an after school program in Washington Heights, food issues began to surface for both him and the students. “I grew up in the South Bronx without access to healthy, affordable food,” he says. “The students were talking about how terrible school lunches were. We were both looking for more information.” Upon returning from a social justice convention in Detroit, he saw a Farm School flyer and decided to apply. It turned out to be just what he was looking for. “I liked the Farm School approach, how it looked at the social justice and food justice aspects of the food system, not just production,” he says.
After graduating, Rafael and his partner, Nandi, moved to Ithaca, New York and started Rocky Acres Community Farm. They’re raising goats and chickens, but the name says it all. He’s working with local organizations and farmers with the goal of encouraging new farmers. “Unlike in the city, here in Tompkins County land is everywhere, but traditional farmers can’t stay in business,” he says. Using the popular education model, he’s also organizing workshops in order to provide opportunities for anyone to share knowledge and experience.
Some of the challenges of rural farming are new and different, but not all. “The issue of access to good food is the same for both rural and urban poor,” Rafael explains. His vision for next year is to be in full production, with livestock and vegetables, a low income CSA, and more workshops. Local activist and organizer, community farmer – Rafael has combined his Farm School experience and his lifelong mission of education and service to begin to make food justice a reality in his upstate community.