New Growth's Food Systems Director Visits China

Patty Cantrell
July 8, 2024

Doing what you love and following your passion can take you to some incredible places. How about China? In June. When peaches are ripe!

New Growth Food Systems Program Director Katie Nixon did just that!

Did you know that China consumes 80% of the world's watermelons?

Selected to join the prestigious Eisenhower Fellowship program, Katie went to China June 15 through July 6 for a personalized food system tour. It’s a dream trip for a woman who has made it her life’s work, personally and at New Growth, to build a more vibrant and sustainable food system for the Kansas City region, particularly the work of improving small to medium size farm viability.

“Through my fellowship I hope to learn what innovative things China is doing to ensure a vibrant food system where small to medium size farmers can succeed and, additionally, help shepherd the next generation of farmers into farming,” she said before she left.  

The Eisenhower Fellowships’ Zhi-Xing China Program sends a cohort of 10-12 outstanding mid-career American leaders to China for intensive cultural immersion, group sessions with Chinese and U.S. experts and individual travel for tailored meetings in four to six Chinese cities.

One of Katie’s stops will be China’s first CSA farm in Beijing. The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model involves customers paying upfront for a regular “share” of a farm’s products. It has helped many small farms grow in the United States.

“I’m interested in learning the Chinese CSA perspective,” Katie said. She operates her own CSA on the certified organic Green Gate Family Farm she operates with husband Ken Barber in Wheatland, Missouri.

Katie connected with volunteers and farmers in China involved in the international program Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF). Katie recalls her days traveling the world as a WWOOFer herself in her early life learning about sustainable agriculture.

Katie’s dedicated and creative work as an organic farmer and regional food systems leader brought her to this outstanding opportunity. Green Gate Family Farm, for example, is a founding farmer member of The Kansas City Food Hub, which pools and distributes fresh farm food to buyers like school districts.

Katie also works at New Growth to support development of small farms and local and regional food markets. She has raised $6.2 million in grant funding since 2017 for this work. The most recent and largest project to date has New Growth co-directing the new, five-state Heartland Regional Food Business Center; a team of 34 organizations working to build local food and farm businesses.

We’ll be sharing more on New Growth Mo’s social media and New Growth Mo's website about Katie’s China adventure which included stops in Beijing, Kunming, Wuxi, and Shanghai. You can also learn more about our fabulous food systems director in a recent article by the Bold Journey podcast: Meet Katie Nixon.