Q&A with Maribeth
CFI: What attracted you to CFI and Athens?
MB: The people of CFI are just incredible. Everyone I’ve met has been warm, thoughtful, and deeply mission-driven. I was also impressed with the strong interconnected web of people, organizations, and programs that work together to support a culture of healthy local food access in the Athens area. I’m a collaborator by nature, so it’s really exciting to have the opportunity to be part of such a strong and diverse community network.
CFI: Could you share a little about your connections with the region?
MB: I’ve lived and worked in Appalachia since 2002, when I moved to West Virginia “for a year” to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer and immediately fell in love with the region. I spent the past eight years living and working in Wood County, WV and Washington County, OH. Working in higher education in Marietta, Ohio, I had the opportunity to partner with a variety of food-oriented community organizations on service learning projects, and also worked closely with a broad network of partners throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley and beyond to support regional nonprofit capacity-building efforts.
CFI: How do you see your previous work preparing you to serve as CFI’s ED?
MB: In my previous position I had the chance to serve as a site supervisor for COMCorps, so I’m familiar with many members of the CFI network through that experience. More broadly, working in a youth empowerment program in West Virginia in the early 2000s, I saw how access to healthy food was a key component of physical and emotional well-being and academic success for the kids and teens with whom we worked; food and gardening eventually became a key element of the organization’s community outreach. Through that experience, I saw how a strong local food system could be a catalyst for strengthening families, education, and economic development, along with improving health and food security. On a more personal level, I’m excited to bring experience in organizational development, facilitation, fundraising, partnership development, and strategic planning to the table to support the amazing programs of CFI.
CFI: Could you tell us about a meaningful food or garden-related experience from any time in your life?
MB: Food runs in my family -- my grandparents on both sides ran restaurants, and my dad owned a diner when I was growing up. Every summer, my sister and I would help go strawberry picking and then my mom would spend days making gallons and gallons of jam for the restaurant. We made it in our kitchen, one batch at a time, because it didn’t turn out right if you tried to double the recipe. People would come into the restaurant all year long and ask specifically for that strawberry jam. I learned early that fresh, local, homemade food was special and important.
CFI: What are some things that excite you about CFI and our network?
MB: I am deeply inspired by CFI’s commitment to wellness as a human right, and the expansiveness of that vision. CFI also has a history and a culture of being collaborative and responsive, and demonstrating that it is willing and able to evolve based on the assets, needs, and opportunities of the community while always staying focused on relationship building and fiercely true to its mission and values. It’s because of this combination of flexibility and integrity, I think, that there’s such a passionate, dedicated community of local supporters.
CFI: What is one of the things you look forward to doing in your first couple months as CFI’s ED?
MB: I am really looking forward to immersing myself in the community, and learning first hand from the staff, volunteers, partners, and community members who are already deeply engaged in CFI’s work and can share their perspective and expertise with a new ED. I’m also looking forward to some wonderful potlucks.
CFI: If you were a vegetable, what would you be?
MB: I’d like to think I’d be a beet; somewhat sweet, somewhat tough, at home in the dirt, and well grounded.
CFI: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the CFI community/family?
MB: Just how grateful I am for the opportunity to be part of this organization, and that I welcome folks to reach out with questions, ideas, and suggestions any time.