I’ve wanted to live on a farm since I was a little girl in single digit ages. I knew I wanted other people to live there, not just my family and I wanted us to have fun activities. I wanted to live in a big white farmhouse and have cows and horses, but I didn’t want to clean up after them. I was fascinated with barns. I wanted to have a big red barn where there could be celebrations, not just for animals. I didn’t have the language to fully describe what I wanted nor was I sure that I was comfortable sharing how my dream kept expanding. My mantra became “I’m going to live on a farm”. I am now intentionally researching the language and more importantly the frameworks for what I have been feeling, thinking, and planning in my mind for decades.
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Many people choose to enter the social work profession because they want to provide people with the support they didn’t have or help people avoid the same mistakes they made. “Not I”, said the cat, LOL. I went into social work because I wanted to give other people what I did have – family, community, and stability. I have a very large extended family. I even spent time with my paternal great-grandparents before they passed away in my preschool years. My maternal grandmother would make food from scratch, can fruit, and care for her houseplants while my maternal grandfather took care of his dogs and tended to his garden – they passed those skills and interests along to my mother. My paternal grandmother started a nonprofit organization and took mission trips to Africa and Haiti. God blessed me with the best grandparents. This is why I adopted the motto, “Everybody needs a grandma”.
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Eco-social work, also known as green/environmental/ecological social work, emphasizes the need for social workers to promote social justice through vital attention to the symbiotic relationship between humans and the natural world. Environmental injustice, lack of affordable housing, climate crisis, educational inequality, food insecurity, unemployment and underemployment, hopelessness, economic instability, commercial agriculture, chronic disease, disconnection and isolation, and a fragile food supply chain are all interconnected and all fit into my concept of the challenges that green social work tackles. I’m planning at the intersection of Blue Zones practices, Kwanzaa principles, and systems perspective.
I don’t just want to live on a farm, I want to live in a planned intergenerational community that provides:
- Shared homes for active seniors
- Tiny houses for traveling nurses and social workers
- Transitional living for program for 18-24-years-olds
- Training academy for 16–24-year-olds
- A resource center for college students and youth who have aged out of foster care
- Community garden
- Special events center (Big Red Barn)
- Family enrichment center
- Coworking space
- Animal boarding (horses and goats)
I’m defining green social work on my own terms (as I always do), and I’m getting closer to opening the opportunity for others to join me on this legacy-building journey.
Nicki Sanders, MSW, supports high-performing women of color in social work leadership in developing careers that feed their hearts, minds, and wallets. As Founder and CEO of Nicki Sanders Leadership Consulting, her mission is simple – to eliminate toxic workplaces by developing skilled, empathetic, and goal-oriented leaders who have the vision, support, and resources to create a culture where business prospers, and employees thrive individually and collectively. Nicki has an extensive background in nonprofit management leading high-functioning, multi-disciplinary teams, volunteer recruitment and retention, and social impact programming. She is an accomplished professor, coach, trainer, and group facilitator who has combined her gift for authentic relationships, Master of Social Work degree, and over 20 years of diverse work experience to create a life and career aligned with her values and purpose. Nicki is a lover of cupcakes, travel, and 80’s hip hop and R&B music.
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