“This Is Not Goodbye, But Thank You”
Being a part of Valley Vision was a turning point in my career. I have waded through non-profit jobs for most of my professional life, picking up different roles every year, finding new ways to expand my skills, but nothing ever felt “right.” After graduating from college, like many young adults, the degree that I spent so many years working to achieve, I thought, was a ticket to that “grown-up job.” The problem was, I had no idea what I wanted to do or what I was genuinely passionate about pursuing. I had spent so much time working to finish my education, I forgot to plan for the rest of my post-academic life.
As I floated in and out of the professional world, I juggled my interest in food systems, agriculture, and community development, trying to find ways to apply all this information I had in my brain to constructive use. I dabbled in the restaurant industry, farmer’s markets, marketing, event planning, university institutions, but nothing seemed to ever fit. Finding Valley Vision was like finding the light at the end of very long tunnel. This was an organization that had not just a fantastic reputation in civic engagement – and food systems – but had a leadership interested in developing and engaging with young professionals. I finally was in a space where I was treated as a qualified individual, and not as a nuisance, but a respected colleague.
Over the last three years, I was given opportunities far beyond what I ever expected, from managing the Farm to Fork Steering Committee to producing conferences like Future Focus to planning and organizing Valley Vision’s 25th Anniversary event. I engaged with regional and national leadership, developed real genuine relationships, had a voice at the table to help solve critical issues, helped provide solutions to issues I was passionate about, and learned about challenges facing communities not just here in the region, but throughout California.
I do not consider my departure from Valley Vision an ending. That is not the Valley Vision Way. Not only will the professional education I was afforded be long lasting, but the relationships built among my mentors and colleagues will be for a lifetime. I probably can never express how much appreciation I have for my time at Valley Vision, but I know that it is because of Valley Vision, its employees, its mission, and culture, that I have the confidence to move forward into this next chapter.
Emma Koefoed was a Valley Vision Project Manager staffing the Food & Agriculture Impact Area and leading Valley Vision event planning from 2017 until the end of 2020. She is the new Manager of Communications & Marketing at the SMUD Museum of Science & Curiosity.