U.S. Farmers Call Out U.S. Ambassador for Pushing Agribusiness Agenda and Attacking Agroecology at the United Nations

For Immediate Release

October 1, 2020

Contact:

Jordan Treakle, 202-543-5675, jordan@nffc.net

Ahna Kruzic, 510-927-5379, ahna@panna.org

A national alliance of farmers, workers, and fishers says agroecology and the human right to food are needed now more than ever to stop climate change and ensure that everyone has access to healthy, nutritious food

The U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA), a network of 50+ grassroots organizations and grassroots supportive organizations, has just published an open letter denouncing the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) Agencies for Food and Agriculture, Indiana agribusiness baron Kip Tom, for his unprecedented attacks on agroecology –  a science, practice, and organizing tool for farmers and food producers that bases food production on ecological principles – and on the U.N. itself. In its letter, the USFSA asserted that food producers around the world and in the United States need  agroecology to support their communities, protect the planet, and ensure everyone has access to healthy food.

Ambassador Tom asserted in a speech to the US Department of Agriculture in early 2020 and in a recent editorial that agroecology is “anti-science,” and he has made fear-mongering comments that  hunger and poverty will be much worse if farmers stop using the toxic pesticides, genetically modified seeds, and expensive machinery and technologies that are controlled by agribusiness. 

“Ambassador Tom’s disdain for agroecology reveals that he indeed has a minimal understanding of the concept of agroecology,” said Patti Naylor, a farmer from Iowa who represented the USFSA and the North American region at the U.N. Committee on World Food Security (CFS) for when it discussed agroecology in 2019, where she met Ambassador Tom. “Agroecology is not simply a set of farming practices but instead comes out of people’s movements, in which social commitments and political education make agroecology the pathway to food sovereignty. All of this is a threat to the power and influence of a global agrifood industry. The Ambassador’s role at the U.N. is to defend and expand the dominance of the agrifood industry, but his task is becoming more and more difficult as the global health pandemic has revealed a fragile food supply chain, dependent on the exploitation of people and nature.” 

Ambassador Tom also blames a key U.N. agency, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) whose governing committee endorsed agroecology two years ago, for being “against American values” and used his history growing up on a family farm to posture as if he represents the interests of family farmers. Ambassador Tom now operates agribusiness firm Tom Farms, which manages 25,000 acres in the U.S. and Latin America and produces seed for companies like Bayer-Monsanto and Syngenta. 

Member organizations of the USFSA denounced Tom for attempting to speak for American family farmers and food producers, the majority of whom want and demand agroecology, food sovereignty, and the human right to food.

“Most farmers in the world do not farm 20,000 acres like Mr. Tom, nor would they want to,” said Jim Goodman, retired dairy farmer from Wisconsin and current President of the National Family Farm Coalition. “Farmers want to farm within their means, matching their local context and diets. The Green Revolution, which Mr. Tom says we need instead of agroecology, has played havoc with people’s lives and the environment across the world.” 

Goodman added that practitioners of agroecology embrace science and technology but ensure that they serve farmers, workers, and all food producers by prioritizing greater social equity, the restoration of ecosystems, and more sustainable food systems and trade and by making research and development processes participatory, collaborative, and community-based.

Jennifer Taylor, an organic family farmer, Associate Professor at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and one of the national coordinators of the USFSA, said that “agroecological farming systems promote soil fertility, soil and water conservation, biodiversity, healthy environments, mitigate pest damage and climate change. Agroecological practices develop sustainable farming systems that benefit our communities by generating employment, providing essential services, and distributing healthy produce.” 

Taylor also noted that organic farmers “support the avoidance of synthetic hormones and antibiotics, and we oppose the use of sewage sludge, irradiation, GMO/genetic engineering materials, and GMO agricultural strategies. Some of our key practices include: growing a healthy farm through gaining knowledge to support what grows best in our farm environment; building healthy soils, selecting organic seeds and transplants, integrating mulches, crop rotations, cover crops; compost use; enabling pollinator and beneficial insect habitats; selecting viable locally adapted varieties; and seed saving.”

The USFSA also issued a strong repudiation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decades-long support for extractive, “fencerow-to-fencerow” agriculture and a pro-agribusiness “get-big-or-get-out” policy framework. These policies have pushed millions of family farmers out of business and have polluted and poisoned rural communities. The USFSA called for systemic changes in U.S. food and agriculture policy and a Green New Deal that centers the needs and voices of frontline communities and is based in environmental and climate justice.

Finally, the USFSA denounced the long history of the U.S. government disrupting and obstructing democratic policy-making at the United Nations and in other countries and selling out rural and urban communities in favor of transnational corporations. The letter calls on Ambassador Tom to support democratic U.N. processes and to listen to U.S. food producers, not U.S. agribusiness corporations, and support agroecology. “Family farmers, food and farm workers, and rural communities need to be at the center of policy-making, especially at the global level,” said Tristan Quinn-Thibodeau, national campaigner with ActionAid USA and part of the USFSA’s International Relations Collective. “U.N. spaces like the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) center the ‘holders’ of human rights – the frontline, grassroots communities who are entitled to human rights – and so it is critical that governments and all stakeholders prioritize and protect the participation of grassroots organizations, especially from communities that have been historically excluded.”

“The conflict between the corporate model of agriculture – based on profits – and agroecology – based on the human rights, the rights of peasants, the protection of nature, and food sovereignty – will determine the kind of world we will leave the next generations,” said Patti Naylor. “Agroecology is the only choice that can support farmer livelihoods and meet the challenges of climate change, food insecurity, and environmental collapse.” 

To read the full USFSA letter to Ambassador Kip Tom, visit: http://usfoodsovereigntyalliance.org/usfsa-statement-in-defense-of-agroecology-and-the-right-to-food/

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Why Family Farm Defenders Stands With Today’s Struggle for Racial Justice – and Always Will…

Solidarity Mural by Daniella Echeverría on State Street in Madison, WI

Family Farm Defenders stands in solidarity with our many allies at this historic juncture of the justice struggle in the U.S. and around the world. The police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY (and so many more before them) has re-exposed the systemic racism that underlies our criminal justice system, as well as the many other stark inequities in other public services (education, housing, healthcare), that we have ALL paid for with our tax money, yet remain unaccountable to the people. Our 21st century policing apparatus has its origins in 19th century slave patrols, while our prison industrial complex is based on a sordid loophole in the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that extended the conditions of slavery onto the backs of the incarcerated.

Thankfully, there have always been those who have challenged racial injustice and state terrorism, and it is encouraging to see the reemergence of grassroots resistance today – from large cities to small towns across the whole country, and even around the globe. From Toussaint L’Ouverture’s Haitian Revolution to Harriet Tubman’s Combahee Ferry Raid, from the battle of Wounded Knee to the protest at Standing Rock, from the Attica Prison Uprising to the Ferguson MO Revolt, from the Black Panthers to the Young Lords and Brown Berets to the American Indian Movement, communities of color have always borne the brunt of this fight and remain leaders in this current struggle. Many allies have joined in these efforts – from the Abolitionist Underground Railroad through the Civil Rights Movement – and this moment for solidarity stands before us again today. Family Farm Defenders itself grew in part out of an empowering rural exchange organized by our founder, John Kinsman, back in the 1960s bringing children and their families together between Wisconsin and Mississippi in open defiance of Jim Crow segregation and widespread racist hatred.

Here are some personal thoughts from current FFD board members that may inspire others to take action!

FFD president, Joel Greeno, who farms near Kendall, WI, says, “The Minneapolis police awakened the rage of a people that have been exploited for thousands of years, and in the United States, ever since the first African person was brought here as a slave. Black people in this country have been victims of predatory lending, have had their land stolen from them, and have suffered other forms of violence for too long. If people are uncomfortable with seeing what’s going on, well, that’s too bad. It’s our job to stand up now with the people making their voices heard. We shouldn’t get too distracted by rioting and looting, for the need to combat racial injustice is long overdue.”

FFD vice president, Anthony Pahnke, in San Francisco, CA, adds, “It’s great to see nationwide protests denouncing police violence. To see so many people, Black and Brown, Indigenous and white, stand together to not just demand real changes to the police, but to speak out against racism in this country. These mobilizations should be an example to all of us that to make Black Lives Matter requires real action from all of us. Many in Family Farm Defenders have long histories working in multiracial coalitions to challenge historical injustices in the food, farming, and fiber system. Now, more than ever, we will continue that work.”

FFD board member, Lisa Griffith, from Belleville, IL notes: “White people of privilege, like me, will never fully comprehend or compensate for the life, livelihood and land taken from Black and Brown people on this earth but we must acknowledge these crimes, adopt the resilience of the oppressed, and not just join but lead the struggle for justice, reparations, and peace. We are all human beings, and none should be offered more or less opportunity, respect or compassion due to the color of their skin.”

FFD board member, Stephen Bartlett, who also directs Sustainable Agriculture of Louisville, KY remarks: “I am an anti-racist because we are all created in the image of our species homo sapien/ neanderthal and because slavery is a sin of human predatory selfishness and power lust. To justify the colonial and post-colonial and later neoliberal agenda of conquest, theft, genocide and enslavement to pursue greed and machismo, Europeans invented a dogma of white supremacy that over generations transformed into a beast that continues to steal abuse marginalize and dehumanize. Whether it is land concentration, red lining, predatory debt, school to prison pipeline and mass incarceration, racist inspired murderous policing, racism is an evil which together with it’s twin brother capitalism, must be restrained and ultimately overthrown if humanity is to survive the world humanity has wrought.”

FFD board member, Rebecca Goodman, from Wonewoc, WI, writes: As a white woman of privilege, there is no way I will ever truly know how it feels to be a person of color. All I can do is to stand with them, listen, and learn. Don’t think the learning will ever stop. My heart aches.”

Lastly, Jim Goodman, another FFD board member from Wonewoc, WI states, “Ever since the colonization of America, institutional racism has always been an accepted and normalized part of the American ethos– and it still is. The genocide of the indigenous, the institution of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, have evolved into environmental, social and economic racism that continue to this day. As a white male I know that I have benefited from white privilege, we all have. The wealth of our nation was built on stolen land, stolen lives and the labor and murder of millions of people of color. We must admit our guilt, listen to those we continue to oppress and make the changes they demand.”

Current efforts to ban police chokeholds, limit use of deadly tear gas, block federal transfer of military style weaponry for domestic deployment, remove offensive historic statues, get cops out of schools, decarcerate non-violent offenders, create empowered citizen police oversight committees, and redirect public funds away from abusive law enforcement agencies are all a good start – but there is so much more we can and should do to rectify the violent legacy of racial injustice in our society.

We must consider economic reparations for those communities of color who literally had their ancestors’ lands and lives stolen from them for centuries to make the “American Dream” possible. For this unprecedented just transition to occur, we will need to seriously question the current distribution of wealth and property in our country. How did so few come to control so much? And we need to also reconsider our political system that has become so undemocratic and clearly enabled this disparity to fester. How did the majority lose their voice?” As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “There can be no justice without peace and there can be no peace without justice.” Family Farm Defenders looks forward to engaging in this struggle with many others to bring about a better world.

Please consider supporting these FFD allies in their racial justice and food sovereignty work:

Border Agricultural Workers Project: https://www.farmworkers.org/bawppage.html

Coalition of Immokalee Workers: https://ciw-online.org/

Community to Community: http://www.foodjustice.org/

Detroit Black Community Food Security Network: https://www.dbcfsn.org/

Farmworker Association of Florida: https://floridafarmworkers.org/

Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund: https://www.federation.coop/

Food Chain Workers Alliance: http://foodchainworkers.org/

Getting Food Grown Collective: https://www.gettinggrowncollective.com/farmfoodfamilias

HEAL Food Alliance: https://healfoodalliance.org/

Hmong American Farmers Association: https://www.hmongfarmers.com/

Honor the Earth: http://www.honorearth.org/

Indigenous Environmental Network: https://www.ienearth.org/

Intertribal Agricultural Council: https://www.indianag.org/

Land Loss Prevention Project: https://www.landloss.org/

Migrant Justice / Justicia Migrante: https://migrantjustice.net/

National Black Farmers Association: http://www.nationalblackfarmersassociation.org/

National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Association: https://www.nlfrta.org/

Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network: http://saafon.org/

Urban Tilth: https://www.urbantilth.org/

Voces de la Frontera: https://vdlf.org/

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Make a Resilient, Localized Food System Part of the Next Stimulus!

By: Anthony Pahnke, vice president of Family Farm Defenders; and Jim Goodman, board member of Family Farm Defenders

Originally published by Common Dreams, 5/23/20

From wasted food to the exploitation of farmworkers, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it painfully clear that this country’s food system must be changed. Politicians must pass further stimulus legislation that includes policy to reform our inflexible, consolidated food system to prepare for future crises.

Consider the many problems in the meat industry. Workers ill with COVID caused temporary processing facility closures, putting our nation’s meat supply in jeopardy. President Trump forced meatpacking plants to re-open by executive order, yet, further disruptions are likely. Roughly half of those plant workers are immigrants, living at or below the poverty line, forced to return to work, and they are still at risk of getting sick.

Because these plants could not shift production to the retail market when restaurants, schools, and hotels closed, the product could not move. These supply chain bottlenecks caused farmer prices to fall, even as processor profits rose.

And cattle ranchers were not the only farmers affected, dairy farmers were told to dump milk, and hog and poultry producers, to euthanize their animals and vegetable growers were forced to plow their crops under. Desperately needed food is wasted while grocery costs rise, allowing retailers cash to in on supply chain breakdowns.

Before the pandemic hit, close to three million farmworkers who labor on some of the larger operations in this country already struggled. Most lived in poverty, earning between $15,000 to $18,000 a year, and around 75% of farmworkers lacked legal status and lived in fear of deportation.

Now, farmworkers face the risk of contracting COVID-19. In California’s Monterey County, around 40% of the people who have contracted the virus are those people who labor in the fields. USDA’s response? Instead of improving working conditions for farmworkers, the USDA wants to pay them less.

USDA has allocated $16 billion in direct payments to farmers, as well as creating the ‘farm to families box’ program – where suppliers, with larger operations having a seeming advantage, sell their produce to the government for distribution at food banks. Both initiatives are band-aids, with direct payments mirroring past trade deal mitigation payments, wherein larger operations and multinational agribusiness firms such as JBS are at the front of the line. This, as farm bankruptcies hit an eight-year high.

To really address the failures of the food system – and to position ourselves to adequately face the next crisis, we must reform our food system, ensure fair farm prices, empower agricultural workers and invest in rural infrastructure.

Farmworkers, in addition to citizenship, must be allowed to organize without fear of reprisal from their employer. Currently, only California guarantees this right because the National Labor Relations Act excludes rural workers from the right to unionize. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act includes citizenship for farmworkers; still, efforts should go further by allowing workers the right to organize.

Farmworkers should also have the chance to become farmers. Since 2008, through the Farm Service Agency’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), over $162 billion has been provided to former farmworkers, including women, veterans, and Native Americans, to promote small-scale agriculture. Doubling, or tripling the resources dedicated to this program, could help create a more localized food system and put more farmers on the land.

All farmers need fair markets and fair prices. The government must, as it has in the past, establish reserves for grains, as well as other products. Counter-cyclical government loans – a part of previous Farm Bills – would allow farmers to sell their produce either on the market, or into the reserves, with their decision based on a floor price that farmers, processors, and retailers would negotiate. Reserves would improve prices for farmers, prevent food shortages, and stabilize consumer prices.

Smaller local processing facilities – for beef, dairy, as well as fruits and vegetables – would strengthen markets and make the supply chain more flexible. This should include more brick and mortar facilities, as well as mobile facilities that can travel from farm to farm, giving farmers multiple options for sales and consumers more options on how they buy.

Rural areas are in desperate need of improved communications and transportation infrastructure. The Post Office provides rural residents with affordable access to the rest of the world, and its viability must be ensured. Similarly, broadband internet access must be made available to everyone. And if farmers are to move their product, significant resources need to be spent on improving roads, dams, bridges and railroads.

The effects of the COV-19 pandemic have shown that large processors cannot meet the challenges of a crisis. A less consolidated food system that is more flexible and supportive of farmers and workers will be better able to meet future challenges. Upcoming stimulus plans must address these problems in our food system now and for the long term. If they do, we might be ready for the next challenge.

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This May Day 2020 Family Farm Defenders Demands Justice Across the Entire Food/Farm System!

For Immediate Release – 4/30/20

Contact:

John E. Peck, FFD executive director, 608-345-3918, familyfarmdefenders@yahoo.com Anthony Pahnke, FFD vice president, 612-916- 9148, anthonyrobertpahnke@gmail.com

If there has been one hard truth from the global COVID-19 pandemic, it is that we need real change in our food/farm system. Family Farm Defenders this May Day expresses solidarity with all those who grow, harvest, deliver and prepare our food. In this crisis, we need to stand up and demand basic justice for all.

Around the world May 1st is celebrated as International Workers Day – a holiday that grew out of the epic eight hour day struggle and in particular the Haymarket Massacre of those supporting striking workers at the McCormick Reaper Factory in Chicago, IL in 1886. Just like back then, family farmers today must stand with our sisters and brothers who are in the fields, milking parlors and orchards; on the lines in meat packing and vegetable canning plants; running forklifts in warehouses; serving up meals in restaurants; and stocking shelves in grocery stores.

Since its founding, Family Farm Defenders has been proud to join many allies in this historic fight for labor rights. We were on the picket line with striking Staley workers in Decatur, Tyson workers in Jefferson, and Palermo Pizza workers in Milwaukee. We have been firmly behind the rights struggle of immigrant farmworkers from WA to NM from FL to WI. We have supported the union drives at Whole Foods, Starbucks, and Walmart – to name but a few. We linked arms with other workers against the World Trade Organization (WTO) back in 1999 in Seattle, and brought over 50 tractors to Madison during the 2011 “Wisconsin Uprising” to support union collective bargaining rights – something farmers also rely upon to win parity prices from agribusiness through their co-ops.

The ongoing corporate exploitation up and down the food/farm system has only been aggravated by the corona virus. Farm workers are now expected to continue working even without adequate protective equipment. Meatpacking plants have become another epicenter of infection, while workers still receive low wages, few healthcare benefits, and face abusive conditions. A brutal immigration system still forces our immigrant coworkers and neighbors to live in fear that they may be detained and deported at any moment.

One might think that being compelled to work throughout this crisis might bring hazard pay or other emergency benefits – not so! The truth is that we had been deemed “essential” long before the coronavirus shocked many people into realizing that their food actually comes from somewhere – with real people planting seeds, milking cows, harvesting crops, and cooking meals. As the old Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) song goes, “we have fed you all for a thousand years….”

This May Day we call upon all those who eat to join in solidarity with those who set their table. People across the country are participating in general strike actions for justice amidst the pandemic – some are walking out, others are calling in sick, while still others are choosing to not buy anything on Fri. May 1st. Family Farm Defenders strongly supports these actions. Together this May Day we can demand that our politicians bring the corporations that have come to rule our world under control. We can then take our own grassroots actions to bring about a just transition to a more sustainable and equitable system for all. Find out more about actions you can take by visiting: https://www.genstrike.org/may-day-guide/

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Family Farm Defenders provide solidarity in policy

By Tim King, The Land, 4/24/2020

MADISON, Wis. – The Land recently interviewed John Peck, the Executive Director of Wisconsin-based Family Farm Defender. FFD is a domestic and international farm advocacy group currently focusing on blocking the proposed Deans/DFA dairy merger and incorporating food sovereignty and agro-ecological proposals on a just transition for a Green New Deal.

The Land: Family Farm Defenders started in the mid-1990s as an effort to end the mandatory check off on raw milk and to demand labeling for rBGH Milk. Are those struggles still relevant today or have you moved on?

Peck: We were indeed started in the early 1990s by Wisconsin dairy farmers as part of a grassroots rural resistance movement to the mandated USDA dairy check-off program. That program requires all dairy farmers to pay into a corporate controlled commodity marketing programs over which they have little say. It’s a classic case of taxation without representation. We also resisted the aggressive taxpayer subsidized promotion of rBGH which was a huge moneymaker for Monsanto and facilitated rapid expansion of factory farms.

While corporate agribusiness control and patented industrialized technologies remain a problem for many farmers and a core focus of our group, by the late 1990s Family Farm Defenders had expanded its mission and membership to include those who support sustainable agriculture, farm/food worker rights, animal welfare, consumer safety, fair trade and food sovereignty.

This shift was in large part due to the influence of La Via Campesina (LVC), which crafted its food sovereignty principles in 1994 in response to the passage of NAFTA and the growing threat of neo-liberal globalization. FFD had adopted those principles by 1999.

The Land: How was it that those early efforts defended family farms? Why did you call yourself that?

Peck: Many of the family farmers who founded FFD were survivors of the 1980s farm crisis. They had been involved in the AAM Tractorcade to (Washington) DC, had attended the first Farm Aid concerts, and they saw that the cultural identity and economic viability of rural America was being destroyed by the imposition of an industrialized factory farm agribusiness model in which family farmers lost their autonomy and were reduced to being modern day peasants. Increasing monopoly control of commodity markets at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange meant that family farmers could no longer get a parity price, and they were under the thumb of processor contracts, bank loans, patent rules, and so many other constraints on their decision-making. Many of them were also looking for better alternatives that they found in new trends such as organic certification, rotational grazing, and direct marketing.

I think the founders of FFD liked the term “family farm” since that provided a contrast with the “get big or get out” policy being promoted by then USDA Secretary Earl Butz. That approach meant a vertically integrated factory farm under nominal “farmer” management; but was entirely dependent upon outside capital investors, oppressed farmworker labor, rampant animal abuse, and integration into global corporate commodity markets.

The Land: FFD talks about food sovereignty. What the heck is food sovereignty? What has it got to do with defending family farmers?

Peck: Food sovereignty is a concept coined by LVC in 1994 and which FFD has adopted. It emerged from struggles in the global south as an alternative to the dominant “food security” concept being pushed by Henry Kissinger and other proponents of the larger neoliberal capitalist agenda. According to food security, lack of food is not a political problem but a technical challenge that will be solved by privatizing common property, global market integration, patented biotechnologies, and the like.

In contrast, food sovereignty sees the perpetuation of hunger as a political issue. Economic inequality caused by privatization, commodification, and globalization are the root causes of the problem.

LVC is the largest family farmer, hunting/fishing/herding/gathering, and indigenous community umbrella organization in the world, and FFD is proud to be an active member. In the U.S. farm context we often explain food sovereignty as being democratic local control over agriculture. However, for native tribes in the U.S. we do not have to really explain the concept of sovereignty since they have been struggling for that for more than 500 years.

The Land: Who was John Kinsman and why do you have a prize in his name?

Peck: John Kinsman was one of the founding members of FFD and an amazing pioneer of both the organic movement and the global food sovereignty struggle. John was among the first to raise the alarm about the insidious dangers of genetically modified organisms and his foresight continued in his opposition to global free trade, the military industrial complex, factory farming, carbon trading, land grabbing – name the issue, and John was probably involved in one manner or another. He passed away in 2014 on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and to honor his legacy we launched the John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize.

The Land: Every politician in rural America used to make empty claims about supporting family farms. They don’t so much anymore. I think that’s because there’s not many of us left. Is the relatively small number that are left really worth supporting or defending or whatever you want to call it? Why?

Peck: Well, we have more prisoners than farmers in the U.S. now – and you don’t hear many politicians advocating for prisoners either. So, yes, the steady decline of family farmers has certainly reduced their power to influence public policy. In Wisconsin alone we’ve lost half of our dairy farms over the last decade. So, 7,000 family dairy farmers, or 20,000 inmates, don’t have much sway on their own in a state of 5.8 million. But that is where solidarity comes in. Family farmers are not alone in this struggle, and FFD has many allies among consumer advocates, environmental activists, labor unions, and indigenous communities.

John Kinsman used to joke about how he did not want to be the last family farmer on display in the Smithsonian Museum. And now we do have many new farmers who are not only hoping to survive this current crisis, but serve as an inspiring role model for others. These new farmers often do not reflect the older white male stereotype. They are more likely to be women, people of color, recent refugees or immigrants who are operating smaller more diversified operations. These farms may also not be in a rural area, but on the edge or even within larger cities. How we define “family” is also changing. The majority of U.S. households are not two parents with two kids anymore and that is also true for folks producing our food.

The Land: Somebody said that you’re from a Minnesota farm family. Is that true and if so, what the heck are you doing in Wisconsin?

Peck: Yes, I grew up on a 260-acre family farm in central Minnesota, in Stearns County, surrounded by dozens of family dairy farms. I was one of only a handful of students from my school that did not join the military. I went off to college instead. Thanks to tuition reciprocity I ended up at UW-Madison in the College of Agriculture for my graduate school work. I got a PhD in Land Resources from the Gaylord Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies. For two decades now I’ve been the part-time staff person for FFD, while also teaching economics and environmental studies part-time at Madison College. For the last three years my partner and I have been owners of a one and a half acre farm, called Yellow Dog Flowers and Produce, near Edgerton, Wis.

The Land: You have members in Minnesota and Iowa, right? Where else?

Peck: Over half of FFD’s 2,500 members are in the Midwest, but we have members in all fifty states, as well as in Canada, Mexico, Australia, Europe, and other parts of the world.

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