Save the Date – Sat. Nov. 14th ! FFD Annual Meeting & 2020 John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize!

5:00 pm CST Virtual FFD Annual Meeting (all members and allies welcome)Including campaign updates, board election, and more!

Please join from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (408) 650-3123

Access Code: 564-974-725

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:

followed by…

7:00 pm CST Virtual 2020 John Kinsman Beginning Food Sovereignty Prize Award Ceremony! (open to the general public!)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 922 8686 1664
Passcode: JK2020
One tap mobile
+19292056099,,92286861664#,,,,,,0#,,075603# US (New York)
+13017158592,,92286861664#,,,,,,0#,,075603# US (Germantown)

Dial by your location
        +1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
        +1 301 715 8592 US (Germantown)
        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
        +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
        +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
        +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
Meeting ID: 922 8686 1664
Passcode: 075603
Find your local number:

Featuring this year’s winners: Catatumbo Cooperative Farm in Chicago! – as well as tribute to longtime FFD activist, Randy Jasper, who recently passed away due to COVID 19, success stories from previous prize winners and photos, plus a celebration of the legacy of FFD founder and grassroots food sovereignty champion, John Kinsman, through photos and reflections from his friends and family.

Named after a unique lightning phenomenon in Venezuela, Jazmin Martinez, Nadia Sol Ireri Unzueta Carrasco, and Viviana Moreno founded Catatumbo Cooperative Farm in 2008 after attending the Black and Latinx Farmer Immersion Program hosted by Soul Fire Farm. Being queer immigrants with strong family histories tied to agriculture and displacement, they came into vegetable CSA farming after many years of campus organizing, immigrant rights work, and environmental justice activism. Among their food sovereignty goals are building intentional relationships with other farmers of color and advocating for communal land stewardship versus individual property ownership.

To quote from their prize winning essay: “We strive to share our knowledge and resources whenever feasible because we believe by building a strong network of support we are helping to build stronger communities, working from a framework where collaboration and diversity builds abundance, resilience and understanding, reshaping our relationships to each other into ones of solidarity and care towards past and future members of our communities, human and non-human alike.”

In recognition of their success, Catatumbo Cooperative Farm received a $2000 award and joined a long list of other proud winners of the prize named in honor of John Kinsman, founder and longtime president of Family Farm Defenders who passed away at age 87 on MLKJ Day, 2014. John Kinsman was not only an early pioneer of organic grass-based dairying in the Midwest, but was also a tireless champion of civil rights, social justice, and food sovereignty both in the U.S. and around the world.

Previous John Kinsman prize winners – some of which will be joining this year’s virtual award celebration – include: in 2011: Lindsey Morris Carpenter of Grassroots Farm, near Monroe, WI, and Daniel and Hannah Miller of Easy Yoke Farm near Millville MN; in 2012: Nancy and Jeff Kirstein, Good Earth Farm, Lennox SD and Tracy and Dick Vinz, Olden Produce, Ripon, WI; in 2014: Blain Snipstal of Five Seeds Farm near Sparks, MD and Jed Schenkier and Will Pool of Loud Grade Produce Squad in Chicago, IL; in 2015: Carsten Thomas from Moorhead, MN and Emmet Fisher and Cella Langer with Oxheart Farm near Mt. Horeb, WI; in 2016: Donald (Jahi) Ellis from Vidalia, GA and Polly Dalton and Oren Jakobson with Field Notes Farm near Custer, WI, in 2017 Eduardo Rivera of Sin Fronteras Farm near Stillwater, MN; in 2018 Tommy and Samantha Enright of Black Rabbit Farm near Amherst, WI and Craig and Lauren Kreutzel of Meadowlark Farm near Wonewoc, WI; and in 2019 Curtis Whittaker of Faith Farms in Gary, IN and Joseph & Abbie Monroe and Caleb & Kelly Fiechter of Valley Spirit Farm in Campbellsburg, KY.

Both events are free, though tax deductible donations to support this year’s prize, as well as future ones, are most welcome. Sponsors will be mentioned in publicity and any donation over $50 will receive a FFD t-shirt, as well! Donations can be made by check to: FFD, P.O. Box 1772, Madison, WI 53701 or via credit card on our website:

Thanks for supporting community food sovereignty!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Beyond the Rural Urban Divide – Cultivating Solidarity in Tough Times!

By: John E. Peck, executive director of Family Farm Defenders

(forthcoming article in the Fall 2020 FFD Newsletter)

Solidarity Cows on Parade During the 2011 Pull Together Farmer Labor Tractorcade in Madison, WI

With a critical election on the near horizon, many media pundits (and online bots) have been busy fanning the flames of the U.S. rural urban divide. The politics of resentment are certainly genuine and worth understanding – a challenge UW-Madison Prof. Katherine Cramer tackles in her book by the same name. The specter of a global pandemic on top of systemic racism in early 2020 exposed many of the deep divisions and chronic inequities in our society, but at the same time facing down this twin-headed threat has brought communities together. That is because peoples’ concerns often overlap – regardless of history or geography – and when one recognizes that reality amazing things can happen. With sufficient empathy, trust, and creativity one can cultivate solidarity out of crisis and chaos.

Just to use my home state as an example, rural and urban folks across WI have many more mutual interests than contrived differences. Relatives and friends of Jacob Pero on the Bad River Reservation, of Tony Robinson from Madison’s East Side, or of Jacob Blake in Kenosha’s Wilson Neighborhood have all been forced to confront and challenge the deadly consequences of police brutality. The rural family in Kewaunee or Lafayette County who’s well water is poisoned with factory farm manure runoff can relate to an urban family in Milwaukee County who’s tap water is also toxic due to unmitigated lead contamination. Lack of internet can be just as frustrating and disempowering for a family needing basic social services or doing virtual school classes no matter one’s address. Rural and urban folks are just as keen to have universal public healthcare, affordable housing options, reliable postal delivery, healthy local food, the list goes on and on. And when corrupt elected officials and greedy corporate executives collude to starve/sabotage and outsource/privatize such, people are bound to resent and resist this latest enclosure of our common wealth and natural heritage.

Milwaukee Mural of Joshua Glover’s Rescue & Escape

In this tough times, it is worth taking a moment to reflect upon and find heart in earlier episodes of grassroots solidarity that permeate our people’s history (thanks Howard Zinn!). Every place has such an inspiring legacy – I will share some of my WI favorites. When Joshua Glover was kidnapped by “slave catchers” in Racine back in 1854 and then taken in chains to the Milwaukee County Jail by federal marshals under the Fugitive Slave Act, who knew that hundreds of angry abolitionist immigrant farmers would promptly march on the city from surrounding counties, batter down the jail door, and then hide Glover for days on their homesteads until he could secretly board a Lake Michigan steamer bound for freedom in Canada. The Wisconsin Underground Railroad would save many others fleeing bondage in the years leading up to the Civil War – for more on this saga, check out the book, Finding Freedom by Ruby West Jackson and Walter T. McDonald.

Fearless Sifting & Winnowing Plaque – Bascom Hall, UW-Madison

When seven people were killed in Milwaukee in May 1886 by National Guard troops as part of the nationwide eight hour day struggle (now known as the Bayview Massacre), popular support for labor rights quickly spread across the state – leading to more strikes in the mills in Oshkosh, in copper mines and lumberjack camps in the North Woods, as well as in factories in Madison. Many UW students and faculty openly supported such labor struggles, leading to an elite backlash and a crude effort to fire one outspoken professor, Richard Ely. Fortunately, the UW Board of Regents rejected this idea and instead issued the now famous 1894 statement enshrined on Bascom Hall: “Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.”

WI Milk Strike Dump in 1933

The 1930s Great Depression and Dust Bowl generated more solidarity. The acclaimed conservationist, Aldo Leopold, organized desperate farmers and unemployed workers to restore eroded watersheds and reforest denuded landscapes across the Driftless Region – and the amazing consequences of this effort remain evident in places like Coon Valley today. Under the New Deal, farmers and consumers formed hundreds of cooperatives as an alternative to corporations to provide goods and services at cost (with no profit motive) to their members. Wisconsin today remains one of the nation’s epicenters for successful cooperative development. In 1933 when WI dairy farmers went on strike to demand a fair (parity) price for their milk, they were supported by urban allies who helped intercept clandestine milk shipments that were then dumped along the railroad tracks. Such rural protests had already spread across the country and compelled FDR to pass the Agricultural Adjustment Act – one of his first New Deal programs – establishing a federal market price for basic agricultural commodities and setting a precedent for farmer-controlled supply management – which, sadly, has yet to be realized.

1960s Civil Rights Protest in Milwaukee

Fast forward to the 1960s – and, once again, Wisconsinites from all walks of life worked together to demand racial justice. John Kinsman, an organic dairy pioneer near Lime Ridge and founder of Family Farm Defenders, started Project Self Help and Awareness to foster inter-racial exchanges between rural farm kids in WI and their counterparts in MS. These relationships flourished over decades, leading directly to 2006 when WI farmers delivered a dozen donated tractors and other implements to their colleagues with the MS Association of Co-ops to help them recover from Hurricane Katrina. When Obreros Unidos organized a migrant farmworker march from Wautoma to Madison in 1966 they found much support in small towns along the way – the same was true when Father Groppi organized a “Welfare Mothers” march from Milwaukee to Madison in 1969. In the 1980s when native folks were under attack by racist hate groups for exercising their treaty rights, a diverse WI coalition emerged to bear witness at the boat landings and engaged in constructive dialogue and popular education to shift broader public opinion. For more on these episodes of unity in struggle, read Patrick Jones’ book, Selma of the North, and Rick Whaley/Walt Bresette’s book, Walleye Warriors.

No Hate in the Dairy State Rally – WI State Capitol

Without this tradition of solidarity, we would have never experienced the historic Capitol Occupation and statewide Cheddar Uprising of 2011, which culminated in the state’s largest protest ever on Sat. March 12th – when 150,000+ people gathered to greet the Pull Together Farmer Labor Tractorcade in support of collective bargaining rights and against austerity budget cuts. Nor would we have seen groups like Family Farm Defenders and Wisconsin Farmers Union standing with Voces de la Frontera in 2017 to say “No Hate in the Dairy State” and publicly oppose ICE efforts to detain, abuse, and deport undocumented farm/food workers that are now such a vibrant and integral part of our society.

Amazon Workers On Strike – May Day 2020

The brittle vulnerability of corporate agribusiness was one of the first supply shocks felt by many as the pandemic came to grip the world in early 2020. Streams literally ran white as farmers were forced to dump their milk without any buyers and piglets were euthanized in their pens as packing plants cancelled their contracts, while still forcing their sick employees to show up for work or get fired. Meanwhile, bigbox retailers were rationing their inventory, limiting consumer purchases to one gallon of milk and one pound of bacon at a time. As online sales jumped, Amazon workers were expected to work even harder on behalf of the world’s richest billionaire, Jeff Bezos. For many, the abusive treatment and crass exploitation of essential workers was simply intolerable. Thus, it was hardly any surprise when dozens of labor unions and social justice groups, led by Cooperation Jackson, called for a May 1st General Strike against the disaster capitalism that was using the pandemic to extend its reach.

Fortunately, communities can democratize and relocalize their economy to bypass the corporate bottleneck, and we certainly saw this happen across the foodshed. With a 60% jump in food bank visits as unemployment rates skyrocketed, the Wisconsin Hunger Taskforce earmarked over $1 million in scarce funds towards buying milk direct from family farmers to feed those in need, while Second Harvest set up an “Adopt a Cow” donation program to help fill their milk gap. Sassy Cow Creamery in Portage County even installed a fridge outside their door so that anyone who lacked milk could help themselves. So-called “freedges” are popping up in communities all across the U.S. to provide donated food to those in need – in New York City there over 60 now installed on public sidewalks and available round the clock thanks to volunteers with the anarchist collective, A New World in Our Hearts. When not demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, who was shot dead by Louisville police in her own home on March 13th, family farmers and local food activists behind New Roots have been expanding their Fresh Stop Markets to get more healthy produce to low income folks in thei community.

Forty Acres and a Mule Project!

Chefs are also stepping up to address pandemic food insecurity while also tackling systemic inequality, transforming their restaurants into volunteer community kitchens. In Chicago Chef Roberto Perez of Urban Pilon, Chef Fresh Roberson of Fresher Together, Chef Karla Morales of Amor y Sofrito and Chef Kwamena of the Let Us Breathe Collective have become local pillars of the Everybody Eats Mutual-Aid Meals program, supported by the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. In Minneapolis when the Gatherings Cafe was forced to close in March due to the pandemic, it was taken over by native chefs and started delivering free meals to elders in the Twin Cities area, featuring delicious indigenous ingredients. According to Brian Yazzie (who was also serving up native food to water protectors during the Standing Rock protest), food is medicine. Adrian Lipscome, owner of the Uptown Cafe in La Crosse, WI launched her own 40 Acres and a Mule Project in March to help reestablish the tradition of African American farming in the Driftless Region of WI, which in the 19th century hosted hundreds of black settlers that had moved north with hopes for a bright new life after the Civil War. As of Sept. this GoFund Me campaign had raised nearly $130,000 to acquire land for a just transition towards a more diverse agriculture and greater food sovereignty.

Somali Bantu Community Association – Lewiston, ME – Winner of the 2020 U.S. Food Sovereignty Prize!

With millions of unemployed renters facing eviction (and farmers confronting foreclosure), other groups have also taken up the challenge to redistribute and decommodify land and shelter. Grassroots campaigns against speculative land grabbing are gaining steam. In Sept. the Orange County, CA Employees Retirement System (OCERS) decided to divest $64 million from the UBS AgriVest Farmland Fund, while students, staff, and faculty at many colleges across the U.S. are confronting TIAA – one of the largest pension funds and land owners in the world – on the same issue. Homeless advocates, who had been occupying fifty vacant publicly owned properties in Philadelphia for months, just declared victory as the city agreed to transfer the homes to a community landtrust under control of Philadelphia Housing Action. Immigrant farmers (90% of which are women) with the Somali Bantu Community Association recently acquired a 99 year lease to a 107 acre plot in Lewiston, ME thanks to the Agrarian Trust, with similar “Agrarian Commons” efforts underway cross ten states putting 2400 acres into the hands of marginalized farmers. On the Menominee Reservation in northern WI, the nationwide tiny homes movement is gaining fresh momentum by offering a safe transition for those recovering from domestic violence and/or substance abuse, with a unique indigenous twist – all the building materials are provided by the tribe’s own communal lumber operation, drawing from forests managed under the Seventh Generation Principle.

Even some usually “quiet” people have demonstrated amazing solidarity in this moment. When the Amish in Sugarcreek, OH heard in April from the Cleveland Clinic that there was a dangerous shortage of protective equipment at the hospital, they organized a sewing frolic and within two days produced 12,000 face masks for essential healthcare workers. Mennonite farmers were so upset by the May 25th police murder of George Floyd that they travelled to Minneapolis to participate in the Black Lives Matter protests. Mutual aid can just as easily cross borders, too. When news reached Ireland in March that native reservations in the southwest had become one of the worst pandemic ‘hot spots” in the U.S., over half a million dollars was donated by residents of the Emerald Isle to the Navajo and Hopi Families COVID 19 Relief Fund. Apparently, the Irish had not forgotten the generous $170 donation that the Choctaw Nation had made to victims of the Irish Potato Famine way back in 1847. This was reminiscent of the indigenous Sami delegation visit to Standing Rock, ND back in 2016 and their subsequent grassroots campaign that forced the Norwegian state pension fund to divest $58 million from Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Water Protectors Express Themselves – Standing Rock, ND

Now is not the time to fall victim to the weary “divide and rule” tactics of those who claim to have power over the rest of us. Whether you are supporting racial justice efforts to hold police accountable and shift more public funds to vital social services; whether you are pushing to end gerrymandering and resist voter suppression efforts leading up this election and beyond; whether you are preparing to join future protests against extreme fossil fuel extraction schemes and taking other actions in support of climate justice; whether you are supporting food sovereignty efforts to reclaim food as a basic human right and not leave it in the hands of the hunger industrial complex – there is a welcome home for you in this growing solidarity movement. And if you choose to join us, you may also find many old and new friends and allies along this high road towards a better world.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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


Jordan Treakle, 202-543-5675,

Ahna Kruzic, 510-927-5379,

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:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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:

Coalition of Immokalee Workers:

Community to Community:

Detroit Black Community Food Security Network:

Farmworker Association of Florida:

Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund:

Food Chain Workers Alliance:

Getting Food Grown Collective:

HEAL Food Alliance:

Hmong American Farmers Association:

Honor the Earth:

Indigenous Environmental Network:

Intertribal Agricultural Council:

Land Loss Prevention Project:

Migrant Justice / Justicia Migrante:

National Black Farmers Association:

National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Association:

Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network:

Urban Tilth:

Voces de la Frontera:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment