Atlanta, GA (March 19, 2019)-
This morning, the James Beard Foundation announced that the Federation of Southern Cooperative's Executive Director, Cornelius Blanding, is one of five recipients in the Leadership Award category. The Leadership Awards are part of the James Beard Foundation’s Impact Programs, which works to establish a more sustainable food system through education, advocacy, and thought leadership. Referred to as the Oscars of the food world, the prestigious award will hopefully shed light on the plight of black farmers, landowners and cooperatives in the South as well as provide new opportunities for partnerships throughout the food system.
Blanding has been the Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, since 2015. The Federation is a non-profit, cooperative association involving over 20,000 low-income rural families organized into more than 75 cooperatives, credit unions, and community-based economic development groups across the rural South. It is chartered to work in 13 southern states in some of the most economically depressed communities in the Black Belt Region. Long before transitioning to the director, he served in many capacities within the Federation for 18 years providing education, technical assistance to farmers and developing agricultural cooperatives. For 23 years, he’s been an energetic advocate for Black land loss prevention, economic advancement for rural farmers through cooperative development, and policies that support farmers. According to Blanding, “Cooperatives are still being formed out of necessity to combat issues that are relevant to today’s economic, social, and political landscape. Access to credit and markets, food security, land preservation, and climate change are all issues directly impacting the longevity of southern black farm families.”
Under Blanding’s leadership, the Federation is focused on cooperative development, land retention, and advocacy in the US and around the world. In Cuba, his leadership led to creating an open market for Federation farmers to grow and export black beans to meet the diet demands of Cubans. In the United States Virgin Islands, he assisted small farmers in creating the first farm cooperative to help increase food production to reduce and address the exponential rates of food imports promoting greater food sovereignty.
The other 2019 honorees include: The Pioneer Valley Workers Center Women’s Collective; Leah Penniman, Co-Executive Director & Program Manager, Soul Fire Farm; Sean Sherman, Founder & CEO, The Sioux Chef; and Anim Steel, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Real Food Generation. This 2019 cohort will be recognized for showing emerging promise or specific outstanding initiatives, as well as for bodies of work or lifetime achievement, excellence of work, innovation of approach, and scale of impact within a community or the nation were among the criteria used to choose this year’s honorees, selected by ballots submitted by past recipients. They will be honored at the 9th annual Leadership Awards ceremony and dinner in Chicago on Sunday, May 5, 2019. This ceremony, presented in association with Deloitte, has become an important part of the larger James Beard Awards weekend in Chicago.