My name is Conor Henneberry and I am a Food Sovereignty VISTA for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. As a returning VISTA, this is my second year living on and working for the Fond du Lac Reservation as a member of the Ecolibrium3 AmeriCorps VISTA Program. My journey towards AmeriCorps service started in the summer of 2019, after graduating from the University of Iowa. Striving for personal growth, professional development, and the privilege to serve a community, the AmeriCorps VISTA Program presented itself as a medium for achieving my goals.
As a Food Sovereignty VISTA, my job is to aid the Fond du Lac Band in their ongoing food sovereignty efforts. The Fond du Lac Band defines food sovereignty as “a condition where Fond du Lac community members are willing and able to obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally-adequate diet through a sustainable, local food system that maximizes community self-reliance, cooperation, and resilience.” During my first year of VISTA service, I furthered Fond du Lac’s efforts by co-writing a food sovereignty assessment, aiding in the authorship of a number of grants, updating the Fond du Lac Community Economic Strategy, and developing an edible landscaping policy for the Band.
When COVID-19 hit the Arrowhead Region, my responsibilities shifted to better fit Fond du Lac’s needs during this unprecedented crisis. I transitioned from promoting food sovereignty from behind a desk to supporting those same efforts in the outdoors. Extra hands were needed to support the agriculture being produced on the reservation, and I volunteered myself. For several months I aided in the physical development of 4 acres on Fond du Lac’s Gitigaaning Farm and managed a 1/4th acre garden plot on the property. All the food produced on that garden plot was donated to the Fond du Lac Community. This unique opportunity imbued me with an even more fervent passion for food sovereignty and inspired me to return to Fond du Lac for a second year.
During my 2020-2021 stint, I plan to continue to promote the Fond du Lac Food Sovereignty Initiative by aiding in the research and development of an Agricultural Division and other related programs for the Band and Fond du Lac Community. This last year has been a whirlwind of experiences, and I am thankful for all of them. In the summer of 2019, I joined the Ecolibrium3 AmeriCorps VISTA Program aspiring for three things: personal growth, professional development and the privilege to serve a community. Now, having had the incredible privilege of serving the Fond du Lac Reservation for over a year, I feel more experienced, both personally and professionally, than I could have ever imagined. Having undergone such growth, I feel especially grateful to both Ecolibrium3 and the Fond du Lac Band for allowing me the opportunity to Live Like a VISTA.