Letter from the Executive Director

(To download a PDF of the full 2016 Annual Report, click here or on the cover image below.)

2016 Annual Report coverRemaining steady, collaborative and connected to our community: These are our organizing principles. Our work to establish right livelihoods tethered to ecological function and carbon cycle balance within our regional fiber and food systems continues and persists. We feel not unlike many of you reading this letter—our eyes widen each day, and our hearts sink as we see the evisceration of civil liberties and government agencies that we know well and whose scientists we have worked with side by side. The one small yet redeeming up side of this moment is that Fibershed had an opportunity last year to grow and develop a stable, talented, and hardworking team—we now have the strongest foundation of talent in our young history to move our climate, soil health, and local fiber & food systems work forward.

However, we’re not kidding ourselves or deluding the serious nature of the space that our work now occupies. We are aware of the conditions that we inhabit. Our society is well into what economists of the late 19th century predicted and termed late stage capitalism. We are collectively standing close to the edge of a very steep cliff. And yet, many in our society are deeply attached to this economic system because it’s the only system they’ve ever known, and for some, the rewards provided by this system are too good to give up that easily. However, we have seen cultural transformation is underway in many arenas of our society. What remains tied up, and in desperate need of change, are the larger economic organizing principles. To urge these structural changes forward will require that we become more serious and committed to grounding our eco-economic visions into working models that strike a finer balance between the intersection of meaningful livelihoods and the protection & regeneration of natural systems. Fibershed works with members of every political affiliation; political associations have never stood in the way of our progress—from supporting ex-coal miners in Eastern Kentucky to make the leap into regenerative agriculture, to Bay Area artists and political organizers seeking to work with locally grown materials. All of the people we work with are able to exist within the framework of a Fibershed.

In 2016, Fibershed continued its commitment to refining the intersection of natural systems and right livelihoods from the grassroots up. This report covers our 2016 efforts to:

1) Create accessible citizen led soil & climate science projects that empower our producer community of ranchers, farmers and artisans to engage directly in climate ameliorating actions.

2) Connect talent and capital resources to emergent independent & small value-chain start-ups to help us ground our soil-to-soil textile system.

3) Co-create beautiful examples of regionally grown textiles, and generate open source textile recipes that advance the vision for what a community can grow and wear (decentralization of the system).

4) Keep alive a strong public discourse between urban and rural communities at our events, presentations, and workshops.

In late 2016, we received a USDA grant (our first major federal level grant) that has allowed us to conduct a broad scale survey of fiber producers and end-users to assess the viability of a regionally scaled cooperative model based on soil health and climate impact metrics.

Our work with the USDA diversified our funding, and it looked like our work with government agencies was poised for continued growth in 2017. However, we are not immune to the new administration’s actions. Fibershed and our colleagues have been in communication with the EPA District 9 for several years. We were developing a broad scale regenerative agriculture research and demonstration project to support Climate Beneficial fiber development in three Fibershed communities in California, Nevada, and Colorado. It appears that the EPA could likely lose $800 million in climate funding, which could include the new grant that Fibershed and our partners were to receive for its 2017 work plan. Our 2016 USDA grant was offered as a stepping stone to a larger working capital grant in 2017—the funding pool for this year has now become uncertain.

Like it or not, this is the era of the private sector (last sector standing), and we’ll be relying on private members of society and private organizations to take part and support this work in all the ways that are accessible to them. Whether it is volunteering at a symposium, helping a rancher or farmer take their soil carbon samples, making more time to come to a class and learn about natural fiber and dye systems, holding a fundraiser, going on a carbon farm tour, or broadening the support of your philanthropic giving—this is the moment (as we all know) that our local, regional and state level work will need to hold ground. It is a great time to focus on community scale organizing and regionally focused work, and we look forward to collaborating with you all in 2017.

In Solidarity,
Rebecca Burgess
Executive Director