GSCP Coordinator Makes Connections

handsIn February, GreenStar Community Projects (or GSCP, GreenStar's non-profit affiliate) hired Holly Payne as Coordinator. We conducted an interview with her in April about her role at GSCP and the organization's future. For more information about GSCP and its projects, visit

GreenLeaf: For those who aren't familiar with it, what is GSCP's mission?

Holly Payne: GSCP's mission is to help create a sustainable food system at local and regional levels that promotes health, equity, and community control of essential resources. GSCP is the non-profit, tax-exempt affiliate of GreenStar Co-op.

GL: What is the current focus of your work for GSCP?

HP: GSCP supports the growing movement for food justice and sustainability by connecting diverse initiatives across the community and region. Through networking we provide opportunities for engagement and collaboration. We run a Community Dinners Initiative in which local hosts offer small, informal dinners from their homes, to bring disenfranchised individuals together in a conversation about food access and equity.

We have built an active network that meets regularly to connect all players in our local food system — we have hosted eight sessions, each one addressing different focal building blocks of the food system. More than 200 participants have helped identify critical gaps that keep us from effectively moving ahead and one salient problem seems to be coordinated communication. Ongoing conversations (like those at the Community Dinners and during networking sessions) are critical to our success. We also need a forum to keep us connected in between sessions and dinners.

We're working on a new website to connect all players to a just, sustainable food system. This effort will help bridge the communication gap identified in our networking sessions, through interactive media that engages participants in the ongoing conversation.

GL: Are there events coming up that members should know about?

HP: Yes! Please join us for our June 6 Fundraising Dinner at the Space @ GreenStar. Details are on GreenStar's and GSCP's websites [and page 5 of this GreenLeaf]. Our next networking session will be held in June (date TBA) to focus on Food Policy issues.

GL: What attracted you to the GSCP position?

HP: I was attracted by the mission of the organization and its connection to an excellent cooperative and to the community at large. And I was excited about the huge diversity of people I would get to work with.

GL: Tell us about your former work with Cayuga Watershed Network, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and Building Bridges.

HP: Water has been central to my work — I worked for Cayuga Lake Watershed Network as Outreach Educator and for CCE to put "Smart Steps to Clean Water" into a pledge initiative. I helped edit a video for the Building Bridges Initiative.

GL: You've worked in Chile and Mexico — what were those experiences like?

HP: I did my Master's thesis in Chile on the way different cooperatives manage common resources (in this case they were abalone fishing co-ops). And for five years I worked for World Wildlife Fund running the marine program in Mexico. I'm fluent in Spanish having grown up with it (I lived in southern Argentina for four years as a kid); my husband is Mexican and our children are bilingual.

GL: You are originally from Ithaca, correct? What kept you here all these years?

HP: My family goes way back ­— my kids are at least 6th generation Ithacans. I actually have lived in several states and in several other countries and still, I'm like a homing pigeon who always comes back to Ithaca!

GL: What do you love to do outside of your GSCP work? What are the most important components of your life outside of your paid work?

HP: My awesome kids and all their funny friends! I love my mama who lives down the road and our flock of chickens. I love my friends and walking in woods, messing around in the streams, gardening, biking, playing ice hockey, and playing music.

GL: What are you goals for GSCP over the next several years?

HP: To connect us to a larger regional network, secure funding, and continue GSCP's excellent work as we begin to help the emerging just, sustainable food system take shape.

GL: Where would you like to see GSCP in the long-term, say in twenty years?

HP: I would like to see GSCP develop a strong prominence in the community side-by-side with the individuals and organizations we work with. I would like to see it with secured funding. And I dream of boasting that GSCP was instrumental in the formation of a fully operational, just, sustainable food system.

GL: What surprised you the most about the job?

HP: Even though I have worked with ­— and studied — cooperatives, I was surprised by the level of support and inter-connectedness in GreenStar and its total dedication to GSCP. This is a unique relationship.

GL: What has been your biggest challenge thus far?

HP: Not surprisingly, a small non-profit struggles with funding and GSCP is no exception. That being said, the in-kind support we are receiving is encouraging. I look forward to getting to know many more of GreenStar's members and to reach across traditional barriers of race and class to incorporate more community members into the food system networking initiative.

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