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Welcome to the returning post-solstice sun. In looking back, 2010 has been both a challenging and an exciting year for WEI! Like most small non-profits, WEI’s been challenged by hard economic times, especially to adequately meet our operational costs. Determined to become more financially sustainable, WEI went to work forging more opportunities to partner with allies.  We can report great progress in 2010! Exciting new multi-year federal grant awards for our projects plus our first work-place giving campaign: 1) a USDA grant to partner with Environmental justice Advocates of MN (EJAM) for our cross cultural/cross neighborhood Urban Community Food Justice Council we initiated last year and 2) a U.S. EPA Community Action for Renewing the Environment) grant to partner with Hennepin County for expanding our environmental justice mapping work in Phillips. 3) WEI also competed successfully to become part of the Minnesota Environmental Fund’s work-place giving campaign and 4) Healthy Legacy Coalition awarded us a joint grant with EJAM to continue our policy work. And what makes us so happy, WEI was honored with the prestigious Ann Bancroft Award for our environmental justice work in support of girls and women.                                                               
WEI’s two Environmental Justice Education and Advocacy Collaborative (EJEAC) Projects also gathered momentum: 1) Phillips EJEAC, with the leadership of our community-based PESCI organizers, helped successfully change state public utility policy to challenge the environmental injustice of siting high voltage electric transmission lines through Phillips and WEI has become the “incubator” for a project with the Allina Backyard Project focused on safer home product workshops in the Latina/o community.  2) WEI’s East Metro EJEAC hired a new intern-coordinator and our Principal Investigator sparked new interest from the Obama administration’s federal environmental agencies (EPA and NIEHS) and with local Hmong health professionals to help promote our research on toxic exposures to Hmong farmers.

WEI’s own Farm Program bloomed in 2010: bountiful crops at Amador Hill fed a successful Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project and our three culturalheritage farms (Indigenous, Latino, Hmong) expanded to four, adding an experimental Mexican peanut growing project. The highly successful launching of WEI’s new Regional Outreach Training Center in collaboration with Growing Power, Inc was an October inspiration. WEI’s Organic Farm School’s fifth season convened at the Midtown Global Market and WEI’s public policy work with Healthy Legacy continues. WEI’s Land Registry Project gained membership and the North Circle Project may find new life as part of a farming cooperative development. WEI’s most exciting partnership with Little Earth of United Tribes Urban Farm and Food Justice Project continues to inspire with the Little Earth Women’s Group taking strong leadership. This project and these urban farmers are the grounding team for WEI’s educational certification/accreditation work ahead.

These projects and programs surviving with the hard work of WEI volunteers and minimal staff. Though we are celebrating the success of these terrific projects, it’s important to share that WEI is seriously struggling with infrastructure, administrative and operational costs because these are not currently being fully funded by our granting sources. WEI is fulfilling its  mission with our unique coalition of rural and urban, Indigenous, low income and communities of color, ensuring that women’s voices and priorities help lead the way to change lives as well as public policy. We know we cannot maintain the momentum without the ongoing generous help and participation of our members and community supporters, so please stay with us as we close out 2010 and begin 2011. Your contributions and donations will make the difference. All gifts to WEI are tax deductible.                                                           

For a full copy of the 2010 WEI Newsletter, click here. Photo:Little Earth urban farmers, Dawn Segura and Sindy Wright, with Jacquelyn Zita and  Dan Halsey, mentor farmers, and Karen Clark at the 2010 High Tunnel Conference.