Luis Yepiz

Farmlink’s Ativist, Singer, Writer, and Chief Procurement Officer

“Cheese Cave” in Springfield, Missouri Photo Credit: Brown Political Review
From left to right: Luis Yepiz, Ben Collier, and Sophia Adelle on Capitol Hill for The United Fresh Conference.
Storm surge floods the parking lot to McElroy’s Harbor House restaurant in Mississippi on August 26 as Hurricane Ida approached. Hannah Ruhoff
Photo credit: SunHerald.com
Emerson Davis
April 28, 2022

From a young age, Luis Yepiz, The Farmlink Project’s Chief Procurement Officer–and self-described “food rights activist”–wrote poetry, acted, sang opera, and loved music. But above all else, “[food access] became my calling,” Luis said.

Luis’s artistic pursuits and creativity continue to shape his life every day. Though he chose not to pursue punk, opera, or poetry as his professional path, he still finds himself lost in creating art. Whether it’s writing prose or belting tunes, he uses art as a tool to help fuel his work as a food rights activist. 

“[I use it] for everything. It’s improvising with the ability to express myself. Because you have so much going on inside, you become unable to do the work that you need to do. You kind of become sluggish. So it’s a process of purging yourself of how you feel so that you’re able to function. It’s therapy.”

Luis recalls how he first found himself on the food justice scene. “My origin story for being in food recovery was one day when I was seven years old, and I was gonna go get a liter of milk for my little sister.” Luis remembers walking to the edge of his hometown, Ciudad Obregón Sonora–a town resting in a large agricultural area in the Yaqui Valley of Northwestern Mexico–only to find that no stores (not even the creamery) had any milk available.

“When I walked all the way back, I had been gone from the house for about three and a half hours–it was already almost 6:30 or 7. My mom was panicking. When I got back to the corner of my house, I noticed that the milk truck was dropping off milk in the corner store. So I ran there and [said], ‘I will pick one liter of milk,’ and they go, ‘Okay, but it’s three times more.’ It was what it was–they had basically manipulated the price because of scarcity and I couldn’t afford the milk with the money I had [on me]. I remember I was walking through my house crying, ‘I wanted milk for my sister,’ and I was having an experience that [can be attributed to how I] ended up trying to correct food insecurity because of all those injustices that I saw growing up in Mexico.”

Now, Luis’s story had a happy ending. His mother gave him some more money to buy the milk and his sister was content. Luis said, “Now we [my family] were very fortunate, but the system was so corrupt that people who had the means to afford food still didn’t have access to it. And you know, I grew up seeing the inequalities in that system throughout my life. And I slowly came to realize that I had no other choice but to address those issues.”

Luis was born and lived in Sonora, Mexico until he was 14 years old. He then moved to Los Angeles, California, with his father, who worked as a diesel mechanic. Luis recalls experiencing corruption in the food system throughout his childhood.

“I grew up with kids that didn't have enough to eat in Mexico. I have witnessed people that have really struggled to be able to make ends meet,” Luis said. “[I saw] communities both in Mexico and the US that didn't even have access to something as simple as a grocery store. [I grew] up with kids in California whose parents worked all day and they weren't able to cook for their kids and all those kids ate was ramen soups and corner store dollar burgers.”

Luis grew up in an environment that was very much embedded in the agricultural scene and a space that fostered social activism. Luis’s two grandfathers were farmers, and he had great uncles who grew watermelons in Mexico for the American market. His father–in addition to being a diesel mechanic and a truck driver who transported agricultural goods–was a union organizer for truck drivers and farm workers, and his mother was a fourth-grade teacher who encouraged her students to be free-thinking individuals. Given Luis’s upbringing and roots in activism, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Luis began pondering social change at a young age, which started with his interest in writing political poetry around the age of 10.

During high school, Luis lived through the Los Angeles (LA) riots of 1992 which occurred when four Los Angeles Police Department officers were acquitted after having been charged with using excessive force in the arrest of an African American man named Rodney King. After the riots, grocery stores closed for nearly 10 years, which created a food desert in the area which had pre-existing problems with food access. The riots and their aftermath inspired Luis to volunteer with a local radio station, KPFK, after graduating high school. There he learned about social justice issues and had the opportunity to see talks with social critics like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. “It was like going to activism school,” Luis said, and where was both a student and practitioner. At KPFK, he performed and recorded his poetry for publication on air, and these lyrical social critiques are what ultimately led to the formation of his Rage Against the Machine-esque punk band.

Fast forward to the mid-2000s, and we’ll find Luis was volunteering at farmers market stalls for the South Central Farmers’ Cooperative (originally named the South Central Farmers)–an urban farm and community garden established in 1994 in response to the LA riots two years prior. Seeking to provide even wider food access to communities in need, Luis later transitioned to working at small food banks, which had access to larger amounts of food than the Cooperative. At these food banks, Luis worked in whatever way he could, even taking on tasks he had never done before. “One day, the driver for one of the food banks said he was absent, so the person in charge [of] the food bank said ‘the driver’s not here, we don’t have any food. Does anyone know how to drive?’ And I go, ‘I’m the son of a driver. I’ve been working in transportation my whole life.’ So then I took the truck and went to [the] Los Angeles wholesale produce market, which I was pretty familiar with, [and] I came back with a full truckload of produce.”

Fast forward to the late 2000s, and we’ll catch Luis taking on his first full-time job in food recovery.

“I decided that I didn’t want to be a diesel mechanic anymore. It was kind of what I did to make a living but it wasn’t what I loved to do.” After gaining a few years of full-time experience, Luis eventually “decided that it was time to look for something else. [He] saw a posting for a food recovery organization called Food Forward,” and in 2014, found himself working for the Southern California-based organization. Luis worked there for 7.5 years and created the Wholesale Recovery Program, where he focused his job on procurement and left the direct distribution to non-profit distribution organizations that best knew the needs of the communities they served. “I didn't want to come in and bring food without having any knowledge of the communities we were distributing the food in,” said Luis.

In the spring of 2020, the founding members of The Farmlink Project reached out to Luis for guidance:

“When the pandemic started, there was this group of [college] kids that came to me and they started saying, ‘Hey, we would like to distribute food,’ and they were offering me food and I would go, ‘Of course, we would be able to take it.’ And little by little, I started having conversations with The Farmlink Project.” Luis expressed gratitude and tremendous hope in seeing a fresh influx of young interest in the food access scene, “It was very invigorating for me, because I saw an opportunity to be able to pass on my legacy, to pass on all the work that I’ve been doing for almost 20 years, you know, and to be able to teach the newer generations of people trying to do the same work that I’ve been doing, to continue it and to make it grow and to be able to have a more vocal community talking about this.”

He also recognized the work of, and expressed immense gratitude for, his predecessors on the food recovery scene, without whom, he wouldn’t be where he is today. In his early volunteer days at The Farmlink Project, Luis took on the role of “advisor” and “supporter,” teaching Farmlinkers the ins and outs of food procurement and distribution. 

“I started you know, kind of teaching them everything that I knew–from having done this for about 15 years at that point–and explaining to them who the food banks they were working with were, how they should work with different donors and with different food banks, and logistics, and helping them with transportation and providing any help possible.”

Luis and the founding Farmlinkers dreamed big from the start and sought to channel what Luis had learned throughout his food access journey into concrete, tangible action. Quickly, The Farmlink Project expanded into an organization driven by the passion of hundreds of college students, all collaborating across various teams, working to improve food access across the US. It wasn’t long before Luis found himself dedicated to a full-time job at The Farmlink Project and had the opportunity to give people the experience that took him a few decades to learn. His work evolved into coordinating and guiding different teams–Deals, Hunger and Outreach (HOT), and Farms–allowing his work to be amplified manyfold.

Luis has been watching The Farmlink Project’s growth since it was first sown in Southern California. It has since branched across the entire United States, and recently, tapped its roots into Mexico. But Luis hasn’t stopped dreaming. He hopes to empower the people who most need food access to create their own food security infrastructure, and he hopes that one day, his dreams of ending the injustices within the food and agricultural system across the entire planet will be realized.

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Faces of Farmlink

Luis Yepiz

Farmlink’s Ativist, Singer, Writer, and Chief Procurement Officer

April 28, 2022

From a young age, Luis Yepiz, The Farmlink Project’s Chief Procurement Officer–and self-described “food rights activist”–wrote poetry, acted, sang opera, and loved music. But above all else, “[food access] became my calling,” Luis said.

Luis’s artistic pursuits and creativity continue to shape his life every day. Though he chose not to pursue punk, opera, or poetry as his professional path, he still finds himself lost in creating art. Whether it’s writing prose or belting tunes, he uses art as a tool to help fuel his work as a food rights activist. 

“[I use it] for everything. It’s improvising with the ability to express myself. Because you have so much going on inside, you become unable to do the work that you need to do. You kind of become sluggish. So it’s a process of purging yourself of how you feel so that you’re able to function. It’s therapy.”

Luis recalls how he first found himself on the food justice scene. “My origin story for being in food recovery was one day when I was seven years old, and I was gonna go get a liter of milk for my little sister.” Luis remembers walking to the edge of his hometown, Ciudad Obregón Sonora–a town resting in a large agricultural area in the Yaqui Valley of Northwestern Mexico–only to find that no stores (not even the creamery) had any milk available.

“When I walked all the way back, I had been gone from the house for about three and a half hours–it was already almost 6:30 or 7. My mom was panicking. When I got back to the corner of my house, I noticed that the milk truck was dropping off milk in the corner store. So I ran there and [said], ‘I will pick one liter of milk,’ and they go, ‘Okay, but it’s three times more.’ It was what it was–they had basically manipulated the price because of scarcity and I couldn’t afford the milk with the money I had [on me]. I remember I was walking through my house crying, ‘I wanted milk for my sister,’ and I was having an experience that [can be attributed to how I] ended up trying to correct food insecurity because of all those injustices that I saw growing up in Mexico.”

Now, Luis’s story had a happy ending. His mother gave him some more money to buy the milk and his sister was content. Luis said, “Now we [my family] were very fortunate, but the system was so corrupt that people who had the means to afford food still didn’t have access to it. And you know, I grew up seeing the inequalities in that system throughout my life. And I slowly came to realize that I had no other choice but to address those issues.”

Luis was born and lived in Sonora, Mexico until he was 14 years old. He then moved to Los Angeles, California, with his father, who worked as a diesel mechanic. Luis recalls experiencing corruption in the food system throughout his childhood.

“I grew up with kids that didn't have enough to eat in Mexico. I have witnessed people that have really struggled to be able to make ends meet,” Luis said. “[I saw] communities both in Mexico and the US that didn't even have access to something as simple as a grocery store. [I grew] up with kids in California whose parents worked all day and they weren't able to cook for their kids and all those kids ate was ramen soups and corner store dollar burgers.”

Luis grew up in an environment that was very much embedded in the agricultural scene and a space that fostered social activism. Luis’s two grandfathers were farmers, and he had great uncles who grew watermelons in Mexico for the American market. His father–in addition to being a diesel mechanic and a truck driver who transported agricultural goods–was a union organizer for truck drivers and farm workers, and his mother was a fourth-grade teacher who encouraged her students to be free-thinking individuals. Given Luis’s upbringing and roots in activism, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Luis began pondering social change at a young age, which started with his interest in writing political poetry around the age of 10.

During high school, Luis lived through the Los Angeles (LA) riots of 1992 which occurred when four Los Angeles Police Department officers were acquitted after having been charged with using excessive force in the arrest of an African American man named Rodney King. After the riots, grocery stores closed for nearly 10 years, which created a food desert in the area which had pre-existing problems with food access. The riots and their aftermath inspired Luis to volunteer with a local radio station, KPFK, after graduating high school. There he learned about social justice issues and had the opportunity to see talks with social critics like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. “It was like going to activism school,” Luis said, and where was both a student and practitioner. At KPFK, he performed and recorded his poetry for publication on air, and these lyrical social critiques are what ultimately led to the formation of his Rage Against the Machine-esque punk band.

Fast forward to the mid-2000s, and we’ll find Luis was volunteering at farmers market stalls for the South Central Farmers’ Cooperative (originally named the South Central Farmers)–an urban farm and community garden established in 1994 in response to the LA riots two years prior. Seeking to provide even wider food access to communities in need, Luis later transitioned to working at small food banks, which had access to larger amounts of food than the Cooperative. At these food banks, Luis worked in whatever way he could, even taking on tasks he had never done before. “One day, the driver for one of the food banks said he was absent, so the person in charge [of] the food bank said ‘the driver’s not here, we don’t have any food. Does anyone know how to drive?’ And I go, ‘I’m the son of a driver. I’ve been working in transportation my whole life.’ So then I took the truck and went to [the] Los Angeles wholesale produce market, which I was pretty familiar with, [and] I came back with a full truckload of produce.”

Fast forward to the late 2000s, and we’ll catch Luis taking on his first full-time job in food recovery.

“I decided that I didn’t want to be a diesel mechanic anymore. It was kind of what I did to make a living but it wasn’t what I loved to do.” After gaining a few years of full-time experience, Luis eventually “decided that it was time to look for something else. [He] saw a posting for a food recovery organization called Food Forward,” and in 2014, found himself working for the Southern California-based organization. Luis worked there for 7.5 years and created the Wholesale Recovery Program, where he focused his job on procurement and left the direct distribution to non-profit distribution organizations that best knew the needs of the communities they served. “I didn't want to come in and bring food without having any knowledge of the communities we were distributing the food in,” said Luis.

In the spring of 2020, the founding members of The Farmlink Project reached out to Luis for guidance:

“When the pandemic started, there was this group of [college] kids that came to me and they started saying, ‘Hey, we would like to distribute food,’ and they were offering me food and I would go, ‘Of course, we would be able to take it.’ And little by little, I started having conversations with The Farmlink Project.” Luis expressed gratitude and tremendous hope in seeing a fresh influx of young interest in the food access scene, “It was very invigorating for me, because I saw an opportunity to be able to pass on my legacy, to pass on all the work that I’ve been doing for almost 20 years, you know, and to be able to teach the newer generations of people trying to do the same work that I’ve been doing, to continue it and to make it grow and to be able to have a more vocal community talking about this.”

He also recognized the work of, and expressed immense gratitude for, his predecessors on the food recovery scene, without whom, he wouldn’t be where he is today. In his early volunteer days at The Farmlink Project, Luis took on the role of “advisor” and “supporter,” teaching Farmlinkers the ins and outs of food procurement and distribution. 

“I started you know, kind of teaching them everything that I knew–from having done this for about 15 years at that point–and explaining to them who the food banks they were working with were, how they should work with different donors and with different food banks, and logistics, and helping them with transportation and providing any help possible.”

Luis and the founding Farmlinkers dreamed big from the start and sought to channel what Luis had learned throughout his food access journey into concrete, tangible action. Quickly, The Farmlink Project expanded into an organization driven by the passion of hundreds of college students, all collaborating across various teams, working to improve food access across the US. It wasn’t long before Luis found himself dedicated to a full-time job at The Farmlink Project and had the opportunity to give people the experience that took him a few decades to learn. His work evolved into coordinating and guiding different teams–Deals, Hunger and Outreach (HOT), and Farms–allowing his work to be amplified manyfold.

Luis has been watching The Farmlink Project’s growth since it was first sown in Southern California. It has since branched across the entire United States, and recently, tapped its roots into Mexico. But Luis hasn’t stopped dreaming. He hopes to empower the people who most need food access to create their own food security infrastructure, and he hopes that one day, his dreams of ending the injustices within the food and agricultural system across the entire planet will be realized.

Faces of Farmlink

Luis Yepiz

Farmlink’s Ativist, Singer, Writer, and Chief Procurement Officer

April 28, 2022

From a young age, Luis Yepiz, The Farmlink Project’s Chief Procurement Officer–and self-described “food rights activist”–wrote poetry, acted, sang opera, and loved music. But above all else, “[food access] became my calling,” Luis said.

Luis’s artistic pursuits and creativity continue to shape his life every day. Though he chose not to pursue punk, opera, or poetry as his professional path, he still finds himself lost in creating art. Whether it’s writing prose or belting tunes, he uses art as a tool to help fuel his work as a food rights activist. 

“[I use it] for everything. It’s improvising with the ability to express myself. Because you have so much going on inside, you become unable to do the work that you need to do. You kind of become sluggish. So it’s a process of purging yourself of how you feel so that you’re able to function. It’s therapy.”

Luis recalls how he first found himself on the food justice scene. “My origin story for being in food recovery was one day when I was seven years old, and I was gonna go get a liter of milk for my little sister.” Luis remembers walking to the edge of his hometown, Ciudad Obregón Sonora–a town resting in a large agricultural area in the Yaqui Valley of Northwestern Mexico–only to find that no stores (not even the creamery) had any milk available.

“When I walked all the way back, I had been gone from the house for about three and a half hours–it was already almost 6:30 or 7. My mom was panicking. When I got back to the corner of my house, I noticed that the milk truck was dropping off milk in the corner store. So I ran there and [said], ‘I will pick one liter of milk,’ and they go, ‘Okay, but it’s three times more.’ It was what it was–they had basically manipulated the price because of scarcity and I couldn’t afford the milk with the money I had [on me]. I remember I was walking through my house crying, ‘I wanted milk for my sister,’ and I was having an experience that [can be attributed to how I] ended up trying to correct food insecurity because of all those injustices that I saw growing up in Mexico.”

Now, Luis’s story had a happy ending. His mother gave him some more money to buy the milk and his sister was content. Luis said, “Now we [my family] were very fortunate, but the system was so corrupt that people who had the means to afford food still didn’t have access to it. And you know, I grew up seeing the inequalities in that system throughout my life. And I slowly came to realize that I had no other choice but to address those issues.”

Luis was born and lived in Sonora, Mexico until he was 14 years old. He then moved to Los Angeles, California, with his father, who worked as a diesel mechanic. Luis recalls experiencing corruption in the food system throughout his childhood.

“I grew up with kids that didn't have enough to eat in Mexico. I have witnessed people that have really struggled to be able to make ends meet,” Luis said. “[I saw] communities both in Mexico and the US that didn't even have access to something as simple as a grocery store. [I grew] up with kids in California whose parents worked all day and they weren't able to cook for their kids and all those kids ate was ramen soups and corner store dollar burgers.”

Luis grew up in an environment that was very much embedded in the agricultural scene and a space that fostered social activism. Luis’s two grandfathers were farmers, and he had great uncles who grew watermelons in Mexico for the American market. His father–in addition to being a diesel mechanic and a truck driver who transported agricultural goods–was a union organizer for truck drivers and farm workers, and his mother was a fourth-grade teacher who encouraged her students to be free-thinking individuals. Given Luis’s upbringing and roots in activism, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Luis began pondering social change at a young age, which started with his interest in writing political poetry around the age of 10.

During high school, Luis lived through the Los Angeles (LA) riots of 1992 which occurred when four Los Angeles Police Department officers were acquitted after having been charged with using excessive force in the arrest of an African American man named Rodney King. After the riots, grocery stores closed for nearly 10 years, which created a food desert in the area which had pre-existing problems with food access. The riots and their aftermath inspired Luis to volunteer with a local radio station, KPFK, after graduating high school. There he learned about social justice issues and had the opportunity to see talks with social critics like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. “It was like going to activism school,” Luis said, and where was both a student and practitioner. At KPFK, he performed and recorded his poetry for publication on air, and these lyrical social critiques are what ultimately led to the formation of his Rage Against the Machine-esque punk band.

Fast forward to the mid-2000s, and we’ll find Luis was volunteering at farmers market stalls for the South Central Farmers’ Cooperative (originally named the South Central Farmers)–an urban farm and community garden established in 1994 in response to the LA riots two years prior. Seeking to provide even wider food access to communities in need, Luis later transitioned to working at small food banks, which had access to larger amounts of food than the Cooperative. At these food banks, Luis worked in whatever way he could, even taking on tasks he had never done before. “One day, the driver for one of the food banks said he was absent, so the person in charge [of] the food bank said ‘the driver’s not here, we don’t have any food. Does anyone know how to drive?’ And I go, ‘I’m the son of a driver. I’ve been working in transportation my whole life.’ So then I took the truck and went to [the] Los Angeles wholesale produce market, which I was pretty familiar with, [and] I came back with a full truckload of produce.”

Fast forward to the late 2000s, and we’ll catch Luis taking on his first full-time job in food recovery.

“I decided that I didn’t want to be a diesel mechanic anymore. It was kind of what I did to make a living but it wasn’t what I loved to do.” After gaining a few years of full-time experience, Luis eventually “decided that it was time to look for something else. [He] saw a posting for a food recovery organization called Food Forward,” and in 2014, found himself working for the Southern California-based organization. Luis worked there for 7.5 years and created the Wholesale Recovery Program, where he focused his job on procurement and left the direct distribution to non-profit distribution organizations that best knew the needs of the communities they served. “I didn't want to come in and bring food without having any knowledge of the communities we were distributing the food in,” said Luis.

In the spring of 2020, the founding members of The Farmlink Project reached out to Luis for guidance:

“When the pandemic started, there was this group of [college] kids that came to me and they started saying, ‘Hey, we would like to distribute food,’ and they were offering me food and I would go, ‘Of course, we would be able to take it.’ And little by little, I started having conversations with The Farmlink Project.” Luis expressed gratitude and tremendous hope in seeing a fresh influx of young interest in the food access scene, “It was very invigorating for me, because I saw an opportunity to be able to pass on my legacy, to pass on all the work that I’ve been doing for almost 20 years, you know, and to be able to teach the newer generations of people trying to do the same work that I’ve been doing, to continue it and to make it grow and to be able to have a more vocal community talking about this.”

He also recognized the work of, and expressed immense gratitude for, his predecessors on the food recovery scene, without whom, he wouldn’t be where he is today. In his early volunteer days at The Farmlink Project, Luis took on the role of “advisor” and “supporter,” teaching Farmlinkers the ins and outs of food procurement and distribution. 

“I started you know, kind of teaching them everything that I knew–from having done this for about 15 years at that point–and explaining to them who the food banks they were working with were, how they should work with different donors and with different food banks, and logistics, and helping them with transportation and providing any help possible.”

Luis and the founding Farmlinkers dreamed big from the start and sought to channel what Luis had learned throughout his food access journey into concrete, tangible action. Quickly, The Farmlink Project expanded into an organization driven by the passion of hundreds of college students, all collaborating across various teams, working to improve food access across the US. It wasn’t long before Luis found himself dedicated to a full-time job at The Farmlink Project and had the opportunity to give people the experience that took him a few decades to learn. His work evolved into coordinating and guiding different teams–Deals, Hunger and Outreach (HOT), and Farms–allowing his work to be amplified manyfold.

Luis has been watching The Farmlink Project’s growth since it was first sown in Southern California. It has since branched across the entire United States, and recently, tapped its roots into Mexico. But Luis hasn’t stopped dreaming. He hopes to empower the people who most need food access to create their own food security infrastructure, and he hopes that one day, his dreams of ending the injustices within the food and agricultural system across the entire planet will be realized.

Faces of Farmlink
No items found.

Luis Yepiz

Farmlink’s Ativist, Singer, Writer, and Chief Procurement Officer

April 28, 2022

From a young age, Luis Yepiz, The Farmlink Project’s Chief Procurement Officer–and self-described “food rights activist”–wrote poetry, acted, sang opera, and loved music. But above all else, “[food access] became my calling,” Luis said.

Luis’s artistic pursuits and creativity continue to shape his life every day. Though he chose not to pursue punk, opera, or poetry as his professional path, he still finds himself lost in creating art. Whether it’s writing prose or belting tunes, he uses art as a tool to help fuel his work as a food rights activist. 

“[I use it] for everything. It’s improvising with the ability to express myself. Because you have so much going on inside, you become unable to do the work that you need to do. You kind of become sluggish. So it’s a process of purging yourself of how you feel so that you’re able to function. It’s therapy.”

Luis recalls how he first found himself on the food justice scene. “My origin story for being in food recovery was one day when I was seven years old, and I was gonna go get a liter of milk for my little sister.” Luis remembers walking to the edge of his hometown, Ciudad Obregón Sonora–a town resting in a large agricultural area in the Yaqui Valley of Northwestern Mexico–only to find that no stores (not even the creamery) had any milk available.

“When I walked all the way back, I had been gone from the house for about three and a half hours–it was already almost 6:30 or 7. My mom was panicking. When I got back to the corner of my house, I noticed that the milk truck was dropping off milk in the corner store. So I ran there and [said], ‘I will pick one liter of milk,’ and they go, ‘Okay, but it’s three times more.’ It was what it was–they had basically manipulated the price because of scarcity and I couldn’t afford the milk with the money I had [on me]. I remember I was walking through my house crying, ‘I wanted milk for my sister,’ and I was having an experience that [can be attributed to how I] ended up trying to correct food insecurity because of all those injustices that I saw growing up in Mexico.”

Now, Luis’s story had a happy ending. His mother gave him some more money to buy the milk and his sister was content. Luis said, “Now we [my family] were very fortunate, but the system was so corrupt that people who had the means to afford food still didn’t have access to it. And you know, I grew up seeing the inequalities in that system throughout my life. And I slowly came to realize that I had no other choice but to address those issues.”

Luis was born and lived in Sonora, Mexico until he was 14 years old. He then moved to Los Angeles, California, with his father, who worked as a diesel mechanic. Luis recalls experiencing corruption in the food system throughout his childhood.

“I grew up with kids that didn't have enough to eat in Mexico. I have witnessed people that have really struggled to be able to make ends meet,” Luis said. “[I saw] communities both in Mexico and the US that didn't even have access to something as simple as a grocery store. [I grew] up with kids in California whose parents worked all day and they weren't able to cook for their kids and all those kids ate was ramen soups and corner store dollar burgers.”

Luis grew up in an environment that was very much embedded in the agricultural scene and a space that fostered social activism. Luis’s two grandfathers were farmers, and he had great uncles who grew watermelons in Mexico for the American market. His father–in addition to being a diesel mechanic and a truck driver who transported agricultural goods–was a union organizer for truck drivers and farm workers, and his mother was a fourth-grade teacher who encouraged her students to be free-thinking individuals. Given Luis’s upbringing and roots in activism, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Luis began pondering social change at a young age, which started with his interest in writing political poetry around the age of 10.

During high school, Luis lived through the Los Angeles (LA) riots of 1992 which occurred when four Los Angeles Police Department officers were acquitted after having been charged with using excessive force in the arrest of an African American man named Rodney King. After the riots, grocery stores closed for nearly 10 years, which created a food desert in the area which had pre-existing problems with food access. The riots and their aftermath inspired Luis to volunteer with a local radio station, KPFK, after graduating high school. There he learned about social justice issues and had the opportunity to see talks with social critics like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. “It was like going to activism school,” Luis said, and where was both a student and practitioner. At KPFK, he performed and recorded his poetry for publication on air, and these lyrical social critiques are what ultimately led to the formation of his Rage Against the Machine-esque punk band.

Fast forward to the mid-2000s, and we’ll find Luis was volunteering at farmers market stalls for the South Central Farmers’ Cooperative (originally named the South Central Farmers)–an urban farm and community garden established in 1994 in response to the LA riots two years prior. Seeking to provide even wider food access to communities in need, Luis later transitioned to working at small food banks, which had access to larger amounts of food than the Cooperative. At these food banks, Luis worked in whatever way he could, even taking on tasks he had never done before. “One day, the driver for one of the food banks said he was absent, so the person in charge [of] the food bank said ‘the driver’s not here, we don’t have any food. Does anyone know how to drive?’ And I go, ‘I’m the son of a driver. I’ve been working in transportation my whole life.’ So then I took the truck and went to [the] Los Angeles wholesale produce market, which I was pretty familiar with, [and] I came back with a full truckload of produce.”

Fast forward to the late 2000s, and we’ll catch Luis taking on his first full-time job in food recovery.

“I decided that I didn’t want to be a diesel mechanic anymore. It was kind of what I did to make a living but it wasn’t what I loved to do.” After gaining a few years of full-time experience, Luis eventually “decided that it was time to look for something else. [He] saw a posting for a food recovery organization called Food Forward,” and in 2014, found himself working for the Southern California-based organization. Luis worked there for 7.5 years and created the Wholesale Recovery Program, where he focused his job on procurement and left the direct distribution to non-profit distribution organizations that best knew the needs of the communities they served. “I didn't want to come in and bring food without having any knowledge of the communities we were distributing the food in,” said Luis.

In the spring of 2020, the founding members of The Farmlink Project reached out to Luis for guidance:

“When the pandemic started, there was this group of [college] kids that came to me and they started saying, ‘Hey, we would like to distribute food,’ and they were offering me food and I would go, ‘Of course, we would be able to take it.’ And little by little, I started having conversations with The Farmlink Project.” Luis expressed gratitude and tremendous hope in seeing a fresh influx of young interest in the food access scene, “It was very invigorating for me, because I saw an opportunity to be able to pass on my legacy, to pass on all the work that I’ve been doing for almost 20 years, you know, and to be able to teach the newer generations of people trying to do the same work that I’ve been doing, to continue it and to make it grow and to be able to have a more vocal community talking about this.”

He also recognized the work of, and expressed immense gratitude for, his predecessors on the food recovery scene, without whom, he wouldn’t be where he is today. In his early volunteer days at The Farmlink Project, Luis took on the role of “advisor” and “supporter,” teaching Farmlinkers the ins and outs of food procurement and distribution. 

“I started you know, kind of teaching them everything that I knew–from having done this for about 15 years at that point–and explaining to them who the food banks they were working with were, how they should work with different donors and with different food banks, and logistics, and helping them with transportation and providing any help possible.”

Luis and the founding Farmlinkers dreamed big from the start and sought to channel what Luis had learned throughout his food access journey into concrete, tangible action. Quickly, The Farmlink Project expanded into an organization driven by the passion of hundreds of college students, all collaborating across various teams, working to improve food access across the US. It wasn’t long before Luis found himself dedicated to a full-time job at The Farmlink Project and had the opportunity to give people the experience that took him a few decades to learn. His work evolved into coordinating and guiding different teams–Deals, Hunger and Outreach (HOT), and Farms–allowing his work to be amplified manyfold.

Luis has been watching The Farmlink Project’s growth since it was first sown in Southern California. It has since branched across the entire United States, and recently, tapped its roots into Mexico. But Luis hasn’t stopped dreaming. He hopes to empower the people who most need food access to create their own food security infrastructure, and he hopes that one day, his dreams of ending the injustices within the food and agricultural system across the entire planet will be realized.

Faces of Farmlink
Luis Yepiz
Farmlink’s Ativist, Singer, Writer, and Chief Procurement Officer

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