Ms. Garrold Goes to Washington Part 2

So the start of my second week in DC was a lunch meeting Monday at the Farm Credit Council’s office. A briefing about the coming farm credit crisis. Interesting stuff if you’re a total nerd about this subject, which I am.  Their mantra was “we are not a leading indicator, we are a trailing indicator, we don’t know and can’t project what is going to happen.”   There were several sour notes in the report however regarding the liquidity of the farmers in many sections of the country.  I came away knowing, first of all, that I understood everything that was said, which made me feel pretty good.   And second, I was very under-dressed for the occasion.  Lots of fancy suits and very high heels in the room.   I have to decide whether to step up my wardrobe or just continue to be the frump from Maine. Probably the latter, it’s cheaper.

That evening Marta and I did Skype pickle-making. She was about to can her first batch of dilly fiddleheads and I was able to participate from DC. Bless technology. Here’s a picture of what the final product looks like, this is last year’s batch.

On Tuesday, I walked by the small park at 1st and D and saw the elderly homeless woman who seems to camp in the same spot most nights and next to her, a pair of Mallard ducks. Male and female. They were all there the next day,too. A bit further up the hill as I stood at the crossing near the Senate office buildings a guy drove by in a little silver car and I thought “That looks like Angus King.” As he turned the corner into the Senate parking spaces I noticed the Maine vanity plate that said “No Gas” and I thought, “Yep, that was Angus.”   There’s got to be some metaphor here but I just can’t quite grasp it.  

On Wednesday I spent the morning at the House Agriculture Committee hearing on the Rural Economy. With Secretary Sonny Perdue, himself in attendance.   I won’t recap my feelings about this, you can read about them in the blog post I wrote for the NFFC site as soon as it get posted. Suffice it to say there was a lot of fawning and toadying going on in that room. And the jockeying for position outside the room pretty intense, too. One guy standing behind me in line said “I could jump the line but I don’t want to be an asshole.” He later choose to manifest his inner asshole and jumped the line. I ended up in the overflow room even though I had gotten there an hour early. Maybe I’ll channel my inner bitch next time and jump the line.  Anyhow, this guy was so clueless that when, coincidently, we happened to be leaving at the same time, before the hearing was over, he had the cajones to say to me in the hallway, “there are seats in there now.” 


That evening I went up to Politics and Prose to hear China Mieville talk about his newest book “October“. The nice surprise was that Barbara Ehrenreich was his host/co-presenter. Such a treat. I kicked myself on the way home for not buying a copy of “Nickel and Dimed” and having her autograph it for my mother who is a fan.

On Thursday I went over to Representative Chellie Pingree’s office to drop off some information I had for one of her staffers. We love Chellie at NFFC. One of the few real farmers on The Hill. We had a American University graduate in the office for the day helping with our archiving project. Lots of boxes of papers to be gone through. Lots of history in this room. And the Library of Congress is already archiving our  (NFFC’s) website. We hope they will be interested in some of this paperwork, too.  The ducks and the homeless woman were still in the park this morning.

On the way home I stopped at GLUT a cooperative grocery store in Mt Rainier MD which is a quick bus ride from where I am staying. This is a real, old-fashion cooperative. Wooden floors, over stacked shelves etc. I felt very at home.

Friday morning, just for fun, I took the bus to work instead of the Metro. It was an interesting trip but not one I will be repeating soon. At least I know how to do it now if the Redline ever goes down. I also took the bus to the USDA farmers market on Capitol Hill. There were two veggie farmers there selling their lovely food. I got salad fixings for the week. The rest of the tents were basically “food trucks in tents.” But that’s okay. At least they are trying. They (the USDA) know that they have to at least appear to being supporting local farms.

Saturday was the big event at the Pink House. Mamajuana cannibis edibles has monthly events where you can buy some merchandise (hats, bracelets, bags of candy) and then for every $10 you spend you get an edible. Mamajuana edibles are tasty; Brownies, no bake cookies, rice crispie treats; and they pack a kick! 2000 people filtered through the Pink House during the course of the day. Everything was pretty mellow.

Sunday was a quiet day. I got the tomatoes transplanted in the raised bed in back of the Pink House. It is going to rain for the next few days in DC so I am hoping they will survive. But while I was kicking back in “the swamp” the kids were busy in Maine building their house. 

And on Monday it all starts over again. Having a good time, learning a lot. I now know, however, I do not ever want to run a B&B. More later.

What Commercials Teach Us (hint: NO YOU CAN’T FEED YOURSELF)

So I’m binge watching Hulu these days. Signed up for the service to watch The Handmaid’s Tale and have been cruising through the other offerings when I have time. I am frugal (read cheap) so I signed up for the level of service where you have to watch commercials. Which would be a pain except I have noticed a couple of things. First, and the more minor of the two, all the ads in the first episode of Handmaid were for the armed forces. Air Force, Marines, etc. Now think about that for a minute. This dystopian tale about fascist military men co-opting women and their uteruses, meant to appeal to liberal-minded, tinfoil-hat-wearers like me, being sponsored by the military industrial complex. Is this what is meant by irony? I think so.

Eventually the commercials changed and then came the one that really pissed me off. It is a Hormel ad, and as much as I hate giving them more bandwidth I need to talk about it. In it a new age guru is having his retreat guests (?) share what food they have foraged from the wild. As he goes around the table each person is more and more disheveled and beaten up by this supposedly horribly difficult task of producing their own food. Watch it and see:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=086KVrtI2I8I

The message being: don’t you dare even try to think about producing your own food. It is just too hard! And the cult like “join us, you know you want to” from the actress at the end of the scene is just plain blood curdling.

So let’s talk about feeding yourself versus buying mass produced crap from CAFOs. (CAFOs are Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, what used to be stockyards and are now inhuman holding pens, for livestock while they are feed hormone laced grain in preparation for slaughter. They are producers of vast amounts of fecal waste, a noxious stew of mud and urine and shit, that contaminates not only that land but the waters and land around it.) They tried in North Carolina recently to protect the surrounding area from these nasty operations. The Governor vetoed the bill and the Senate overrode his veto saying essentially, “this is just a bunch of out of state crybabies and sleazy lawyers. Our industrial farmers have a right to be as obnoxious as they want and especially if they contribute to our campaigns.” To quote the article: “the twenty-six federal lawsuits at the heart of much of the debate were filed by a North Carolina-based law firm against a $14 billion Chinese-owned multinational corporation on behalf of mostly low-income African-American plaintiffs.” There is no protecting of the small family farm going on here. It is straight up corporate greed. The kind that the Hormel ad is promoting. Don’t you dare think you can feed yourself!

But we must remember what Fannie Lou Hamer said: “You can give a man some food, and he’ll eat it,” she liked to say, in a paraphrase of the common proverb. “Then he’ll only get hungry again. But give a man some ground of his own and a hoe, and he’ll never go hungry again.” and from the same article “If we have that land,….can’t anybody starve us out.”

I just learned this about Fannie Lou. I had always known of her as a voting rights activist but DAMN she was a food sovereignty activist before there was even a word for it. “In the late 1960s, as the civil rights movement shifted to address economic injustice, Ms. Hamer conceived agricultural solutions to the plight of her fellow Americans, including a communal farm and livestock share program in Sunflower County in the Mississippi Delta. That work set the stage for the progressive agricultural policies and practices of today, with their focus on food sovereignty and their reliance on community farms.”

Go read the whole article and then (and it is the season for it) go plant some food!

Ms. Garrold Goes to Washington Part One

Well, as some of you know (and many of you don’t) I am checking another box on the old bucket list. I am spending the summer as an “intern” in Washington DC. Well, not really an intern. I am going to be holding down the fort and doing the administrative work at the office of the National Family Farm Coalition, I am on the executive committee of NFFC and since the tragic loss of our long time Executive Director our acting ED has been staying in DC to run the office. It was time to give her a break and let her go on home, so here I am. I will scatter links throughout this post so you can fill in the background of all the events, people and places.
And here is my first week:
Monday: Came down on the train. I do love the train. Only had one incident of people being too loud in the quiet car and I think they may have been a little drunk. They quieted down eventually and I got some napping done and some work. Arrived at the Code Pink House where I will be staying at around 11pm. 


Tuesday: Hit the ground running getting oriented to the ins and outs of running the NFFC office.   Here is the view from my office window.  Yes, that is one of the Senate office buildings (Hart)!  Had lunch at Sweet Greens (thank you Lisa) and then dinner with my housemates and Medea Benjamin. Shrimp and Grits! [I promise not to give you the blow by blow of every meal but since my job/passion/activism is food oriented I am hitting the highlights of my first week as a foodie in DC.]


Wednesday: Took a call from a friend who is helping run a Green candidate’s campaign for Congress. Hope I gave him some good advice. Then took my lunch hour to join the Code Pink “Laugh-in” demonstration outside the Department of Justice. Great fun. Lots of cops, in fact I think at one point the cops outnumbered the protesters. What the hell are they so afraid of? Little old white haired ladies in pink t-shirts. Come on guys grow a pair!
Thursday: All day at the Friends of the Earth office participating in a Pollinator Protection Network meeting. Lots of great energy in that room and lots of interest in the current Farm Bill. Long day, however.
Friday: A somewhat lighter day. Had a call with a videographer who is going to film case studies with midwestern farmers around the bio-fuels issue. Had lunch at the Supreme Court (not that great). On my way back from the bank got stopped by a parade of cops on bikes. And cops on motorcycles. Impressive (and I don’t mean that in a good way.) Had dinner at a great little Ethiopian restaurant in the neighborhood.
Saturday: Farmer’s Market at Rhode Island Row. Staples shopping at the Yes market. Otherwise a quiet day. Oh, except for when I had to climb up into the attic to dig out Code Pink t-shirts for one of my housemates. That made my heart race a bit.
Sunday: To celebrate Mother’s Day I started the day by calling my Mom. In the afternoon, after a leisurely read of the Washington Post I watched a chick-flick and weeded the backyard garden. Then video called my wonderful Reason-I’m-a-Mother. He makes me prouder everyday. Now off to get some sleep and start again tomorrow with a farm credit crisis strategy luncheon.

Vignettes from the work of rebuilding the Local Food Infrastructure in Maine.

This post is somewhat longer than my usual.   It is an essay I’ve been working on for awhile now.  I think of it as my TED talk should I ever be invited to deliver one.   Let me know what you think.

 

My grandpuppy visiting the farm.

 I grew up in a small town in Maine in the 1960’s. My mother was a farm girl from a nearby dairy farming community. As a teenager she had worked at the local canning factory in her hometown. Nearly every town with a stream that could produce hydropower had a canning factory.  

My mother was a great believer in good food. This is how I ate as a child. Every year my parents put a side of beef in the freezer. A grass-fed steer from a local dairy farm. Slaughtered at the local food locker. Best beef I ever ate. And we ate it frequently because as a single income family with four growing children a large percentage of the family budget was spent on food. By buying their beef this way my parents could feed us ribeye for the same price as hamburger. We had a milkman who delivered. An egg lady who delivered. My mom said she bought from her because she had a husband who wouldn’t work and she needed the money to feed her own kids. My godfather got us hand-churned butter from a woman in her 90’s who lived in his town. It was bright yellow and salty, creamy, melty delicious. We had a huge garden every year and my mother canned and froze a lot of fresh veggies during the summer, made pickles, canned applesauce and apple butter from our neighbors trees. They were summer folks and long gone by the time the apples on their ancient tree were ready to harvest. We ate very well in my childhood home.

The country around us, along with being dairy country, was also the last bastion of the poultry industry in Maine. Every year in the shire-town of our county they held the week long Broiler Festival. A celebration of the farmers growing and the plants processing broiler chickens in our county. As a 5 year old I was the “gift girl” at the Miss Broiler Pageant. I met my first politician there. John Reid the Governor of Maine at the time. 20 years later I was the last occupational health nurse and safety officer at the last poultry processing plant in Maine. The industry was moving south where it was warmer and the labor was cheaper. My county’s economy was devastated.

At approximately the same time the poultry industry was dying in Maine a couple called the Nearings, Helen and Scott, I’m sure you’ve heard of them, moved to a small farm out on a peninsula on the coast and started homesteading. Scott wrote a book called “Living the Good Life” which became a run away hit with the 60’s generation and lead a lot of folks to move back to the land. These back-to-the-landers started farming and homesteading using organic methods. Soon they asking the cooperative extension agents to help them improve their methods and yields. One of these agents, Charlie Gould, happens to be the father of a friend of mine. He told me years later that he had all these “dirty hippies” asking him about organic methods so he decided he needed to learn how the organic system worked. From this humble beginning, after a few meetings lead by Charlie and attended by Scott, Helen, Eliot Coleman and many others sprang the beginnings of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association or MOFGA. And the rest, as they say, is history. Having the largest and oldest organic farming association in our state leads to many advantages. We are the only state in the country where the average age of farmers is falling thanks to the apprenticeship and journey person programs that MOFGA runs. We also have the highest per capita number of female farm owners. I don’t know what to attribute that to except that the millennials are pretty gender neutral in most things this aspect included.

In the meanwhile the chicken barns were empty and deteriorating. But we have found some uses for them. One became the home for Fedco Seeds. A worker owned seed, tree, perennials, bulbs and farm supply company that has been expanding at a reasonable rate for 30 years now. A local company serving the seed, equipment and input needs of the revitalized farming culture in Maine. Other empty chicken barns, and there were lots of them, became warehouses or self storage units. One became an antiques mall and yet another became the largest used bookstore in the state.

So the work continued and the farms came back to life and the farmers grew more and more food that they needed to get to market. The holes in the local food infrastructure began to show. Since the 1960’s the local food locker had closed. There are currently only three USDA slaughter facilities in the state. Some farmers drive as much as three hours one way to take their stock to be slaughtered in a way that the government will then allow them to sell wholesale or retail in the public marketplace. The local canning plant closed int he 1950’s and as I said the poultry processing plant was gone. So we had a gap, we had farmers who wanted to grow the food and eaters who wanted to eat it but we needed to rebuild the processing and distribution system. We needed more than just CSAs and Farmers Markets.

We have over the last 10 to 20 years been slowly rebuilding the local food infrastructure. A thing that is made less difficult by the fact that we are only a generation, and sometimes less, away from a rural infrastructure that functioned quite well. My organization , Food for Maine’s Future/Local Food RULES, is one of the smaller non-profits guiding and aiding this rebuilding. Along with MOFGA, Maine Farmland Trust and a few others we are trying to keep open land in farming and farmers on the land. Some of the other components that have had to be reinvented are distribution. We are fortunate to have Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative another worker cooperative that runs several truck routes around the state picking up produce from the farms and distributing it to wholesalers and retailers around the state and New England. Food hubs are opening up around the state where farmers can aggregate their crops and sell to wholesale and retail markets. The Maine Federation of Farmers Markets is a thriving organization that supports markets for farmers around the state who wish to sell directly to customers.   

Other pieces of the puzzle include the access to infrastructure needed to create value added products. Or, on the other hand, protection from onerous regulatory burdens that prohibit the processing of food on the farm for direct customer sales. The granges around the state are going a great job with the first piece. Several, formerly underutilized, Grange Halls around the state have installed licensed kitchens and rent them out on an hourly basis to local folks who want to make a product that they can sell at retail outlets. My friend Julie just recently gushed to me about how much easier it is to make her Happy Honey in the Halcyon Grange kitchen then it was to try to do it in her own cramped home kitchen. In other communities decommissioned schools are being brought back to life as community centers and the kitchens are being licensed and rented out to local folks for food production.

In 2006 we were having one of our Mud-season Dinners and I stood with a group of young farmers bemoaning the recently introduced animal identification law. A set of USDA regulations that was forcing all farmers large and small to keep a paper trail for every animal they ever owned and to spend money tagging or tattooing those animals. One small goat farmer plaintively asked “What are we going to do?” and my friend Tim Libby, a fine small farmer who feeds thousands of disadvantaged folks with his Veggies for All program, turned to her and said “We’re going to keep doing what we we’re doing….it’s just going to be illegal.” And that is the crux of the matter. Small farmers have been skirting the onerous regulations for years. But the more burdensome the regulations get the more likely these farmers are going to be forced to become outlaws. From this frustration along with the frustration of trying to get those regulations changed at the state level came the movement to pass Local Food Sovereignty Ordinances in municipalities around the state.

And speaking of retail outlets the locavore movement is alive and well in Maine. Over the last two years we have doubled the number of brick and mortar food co-ops in the state. These small local businesses are especially supportive of local farmers and producers. In fact they are so successful that the big chain stores in the state are trying to imitate them by having pictures of in state farmers up around their produce aisles. A nice niche market for the slightly bigger producers.

I have already spoken about transportation but I have to tell you about one of the coolest new transportation solutions in my coastal state. MaineSails a project of the Greenhorns, which is a national organization of young farmers, recently (August 2015) had its maiden voyage carrying farm produce with fairly stable shelf life from Portland Maine to Boston Massachusetts. The produce was then transported via bike to the Public Market in Boston. This project was meant to emphasis the need to think outside the box about solutions in the food system with lower carbon footprints.

In 2006 the Brookings Institute published a study about Maine’s economic future. One of the main findings in the study was that what Maine had that was unique and marketable was its pride of place and open lands. They suggested that one way to keep those fields open was to keep it in farming. 

The Maine Grain Alliance is working to restore Maine’s preeminence as the bread basket of the northeast. They have opened a mill in Skowhegan and are not only grinding grain for human consumption but have filled the need of organic livestock farmers for organic feed grains. Each year in August they sponsor the Maine Kneading Conference a multi day event that brings together bakers and grain growers from all over the state and the country.

For years during the back to the land movement many of the small farmers and homesteaders I knew were growing a small crop of marijuana as their cash crop. Recently Maine legalized the medicinal use of marijuana. Becoming “care providers” under this new law has become a nice little cottage industry for many folks around the state. On the November 2016 ballot in Maine there will be a referendum seeking to legalize recreational use of marijuana. There had been two completing referendums. One sponsored and supported by the big tobacco and other firms seeking to regulate marijuana like tobacco, gambling and alcohol and restrict the number of growers in the state to a few deep pocketed folks from away. The other seeking to keep marijuana cultivation int he hands of the small farmer and allow them to continue to use a small marijuana patch as their cash crop for the year. The small farmers won this one. Big tobacco folded their tents and slunked away in the night when they realized they could not get the required number of signatures. The people of Maine were on to them and the small farmer version of the bill won the day and will be on the ballot. 

And now it comes full circle. Last year my daughter-in-law asked me to teach her to can tomatoes and make pickles. This year, for the first time she and my son had their own big garden. The other night when I called they were making gravy fries for dinner out of the all blue potatoes from their garden. Last fall, it was a very good apple year, we had a cider pressing party at my place. We pressed over 50 gallons of cider and set it to ferment so that we would have our own hard cider for the winter. We gathered the community, added value to the local apple crop, prepared for the winter, and nurtured the local food traditions. Doing the work, legal or not, to feed our family, friends and neighbors.

Right to Food Constitutional Amendment

  
Submission for February 4, 2016 Work Session Hendrik D. Gideonse, 
LD 783 calls for a constitutional amendment addressing the right of Maine citizens to food. My support remains the same, however, the evolving context has only underscored the need for adoption. Last year I analyzed the existing provisions of Maine’s Declaration of Rights in the light of the social, political, and economic context of the times when they were written. The original drafters were more concerned about the rights of protection against arbitrary authority than they were in fully articulating all the elements requisite to the pursuit of life and liberty. Everywhere they were surrounded by nature – farms, fish, timber, and so on. It just never occurred to them that access to food as part of the natural rights of humanity needed explicit expression in our constitution, not only to protect the nourished, but the farms as well.

Adding language articulating the right to food is a needed extension of natural rights provisions already in the Declaration. Two factors have changed. The dramatically changed circumstance for contemporary food production has removed it far from our daily consciousness. Its former neighborly connection has been essentially replaced by a substantially removed, complex, and not-fully-accountable-to-the- consumer corporate overlay. Additionally, many families and individuals have become increasingly knowledgeable about where their food is coming from and what kind of food the current system generates, and their commitment to access nutrient-dense food from farms that are ecologically sound has deepened. Increasingly numbers of us are seeking real food that isn’t chemically or GMO laden from farms where we can see, touch, and smell the gardens where it is grown.
Therefore, the rights of citizens respecting food now require specific attention. At the same time that nutritional and environmental consciousness about food and farming is growing, it is also true that too many families have little idea how their food is grown or produced or should be. They don’t know where it comes from, how it is processed, how it is protected (or not!), and why and, furthermore, what role our own senses and understandings and trust play in making our food choices. No longer coming from farmer neighbors, food comes under the aegis of huge corporations from thousands of miles away, regulated by agencies seeking to deny our right or authority to the fundamental choices governing what we take into our bodies for nourishment. And despite all these changes, Maine now finds itself in the unenviable position of being the New England state with the highest incidence of food insecurity.

We are now much more acutely aware of the extent to which the position of corporations relative to individuals and even government continues to alter. Critical arguments, for example, against the soon-to-be-voted-on proposed TPP trade agreement have to do with the inexorable drift toward corporate control of everything. Indeed, NAFTA and the TPP explicitly turn over to extra-governmental tribunals corporate claims over profits they believe denied them by governmental actions in defense of people and the environment. 

The articulation of the basic right to food is an important protection. It provides grounding for the development of sound agricultural and public policy. It would provide a means of protection when either governmental or corporate action should interfere with the right to food in individual cases. Passing this bill will provide constitutional support for increasing our attention to food and farming. It will foster economic growth and development by a much-needed restoration of smaller scale local farming. That will be good for employment and as a hedge against both the causes and consequences of climate destabilization. Natural rights to life and liberty are already in the very first section of Maine’s Constitutional Declaration, but addressing directly the right to food embraces our individual choices through the most fundamental kind of law. It will safeguard us against the actions of misguided corporations and government agencies which seek to keep us ill-informed about what we’re eating when they’re not actually staking untenable jurisdictional claim over our own bodily health.

Black Farmers Matter

This just in from the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association

image

NC FARMER EDDIE WISE

For the last 40 years American Black farmers have lived a hellish nightmare deliberately orchestrated by the USDA and its local Farmers Home Administration (FmHA – now the Farm Service Agency, FSA) offices to confiscate Black owned land and homes. A review of the now historic Pigford v. Glickman Class Action by Black farmers will help one to understand the extremely vicious attack against black farmers. (For details on the Black Farmers Class Action, See https://www.blackfarmercase.com/Background.aspx or http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/pigfordmonitor/index.htm).

The story of this 67 year old military veteran and farmer Eddie Wise and his wife, Dorothy (to whom Eddie refers lovingly as (“my Brown Sugar”), is the latest example of the outrageous action by the U.S. government against a black farmer.
On Wednesday, January 20, 2015, around 7:30 a.m., at least fourteen (14) Federal Marshals in full military gear with full scale military guns drawn, along with several county sheriff officers, descended on the 106 acre farm in Nash County, N C, and forcibly escorted Eddie Wise and his wife, who was still in bed and suffers from a debilitating medical condition, out of their home and off the land that they have owned for more than 20 years.
Not only did the Federal Marshals render Eddie and Dorothy immediately homeless and landless, but did not allow them to take any of their belongings except the clothes on their backs. They also insisted on “securing” every firearm legally owned by Mr. Wise.

A Duke University Adjunct Professor, a friend of the Wises, took pictures (shown here) and acquired some sound, but was summarily put off the property also.
For the last few weeks media coverage has consistently covered visibly armed White militants who have illegally occupied federal land in Oregon. The response by the federal government and local law enforcement officers was a kindly appeal for the White militia to peacefully end their illegal occupation and leave, but until recently to no avail.
Yet, Mr. Wise and his wife have suffered the height of indignity and racist degradation. Which leads to the question, “Don’t Black farmer’s lives and possessions matter?”
Mr. Wise is in fear of his life and the life of his wife. “I believe if I had shown one ounce of resistance, the Federal Marshals would have killed me. I actually believe that’s what they came to do. I may as well live in Russia or Syria or North Korea,” said Mr. Wise, his eyes moist with tears.
Saving their land has been a long and exhaustive process for the Wise family. The ugliness of the one dimensional unfairness, racial characterization, and mental traps set for this family and thousands of other black farmers by USDA, and a corrupt legal system, defy reason and logic.
Black farmers are a racial minority and do not represent a large political power block, and therefore are unfairly treated like terrorized slave captives in their own country, a country they were vital in building.
The farm organization, Black Farmers and Agriculturist Association (BFAA) was organized in 1997 to protect, protest, raise much needed funds, and bring national attention to the plight of Black farmers. At the time Black farmers were losing 2,000 acres of farm land per day. BFAA has come to the aid of Black farmers with such needs as groceries, to pay light bills and tax bills, travel expenses, lawyer fees, and helped buy books for college students of farmers.

How can you help? We ask you to join with us in support of Eddie and Dorothy Wise by sharing this tragic story on Face Book, Twitter, and by Email. Help us get Eddie and Dorothy out of a motel which is costing too much per week just for bed and bath; and support the fundraising to help us get their home and farm back. Please contribute at gofundme.com/jgaaq4.

S O M E B A C K G R O U N D ON THE WISE CASE

1. “In 1993 Wise and his wife applied for a loan to purchase a 106-acre hog farm. Wise said that at first the FmHA County Loan Officer didn’t let him know that the farm had been “earmarked for minority farmers.” Then officials tried to reappraise the farm to increase the value, but the value actually dropped. Lastly, a White farmer who wanted the farm paid a Black woman to apply for him. She was one of the final two applicants whose names were drawn from a hat. “We won the draw,” Wise said with a smile.

Wise continued to face resistance from the county loan office, which is now demanding that he provide a production history going back five years and a production plan for the new farm.”

2. “Eddie and Dorothy Wise raise hogs on 106 acres near Whitakers, in east-central North Carolina. Eddie is a fourth-generation hog farmer but the first to own a farm; his father and grandfather were sharecroppers. During a 20 plus career in the military, and as an ROTC instructor at Howard and Georgetown Universities, Eddie raised hogs in his spare time. It was his dream to return home to North Carolina and farm full-time. When he retired from the Army in 1991 at the age of 48, that’s what he set out to do. Dorothy Wise grew up in Washington, D.C., but she too hoped to one day live on a farm. When she and Eddie met at Howard University in the 1980s and she discovered he was a farmer, it seemed that her wish had come true.

Still, it took the Wises five years, until 1996, to secure the loans they needed to buy their farm. They were repeatedly turned down by local government loan officers who, the Wises are convinced, did not want African American farmers to succeed. It was only through determined effort and much research and legwork that the Wises were able to receive the financial help for which they qualified.
Today the Wises have 250 hogs, which they raise from birth and sell to a black-owned pork processor in the area. Eddie’s lean pork, raised without hormones or antibiotics, is sold at a premium in area supermarkets. Finding such a market niche is the only way the Wises can compete with the much-larger farms that mass-produce hogs for the large meatpacking companies.”

Happy New Year (a bit late)

  So my 2015 New Year’s resolution was not successfully met.   How’s that for blurring the truth that I blew it.   Barely one post per month never mind one a week or one a day.   Ahhh!  Such ambition.   But I have been writing and politicking so here are the remarks I wrote and presented at the Rally for Unity this month at the statehouse in Augusta:

We are at the dawning of a new populist age. Just as the gilded age robber baron railroad tycoon’s misdeeds lead to the first populist movement in the United States. A movement lead largely by farmers and spawning such great egalitarian institutions as The Grange. So we stand now at the end of the Reagan/Clinton, Citizen’s United era of the oligarch about to take back our country from the plutocrats.  

What is my proof you ask? It is in the rising of groups like Occupy and Black Lives Matter. Family Farm Defenders and The New Economy Coalition. The expansion of cooperative business enterprises across this state and the nation. It is in the popularity of presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders and, yes even, Donald Trump. People are pissed off, they are saying “Enough is enough.” They are standing together to take back their lives and their livelihoods from excessive government oversight.    

One of my favorite things about the local food movement is exactly that. People sitting around a table having a meaningful discussion about rebuilding the local food infrastructure. People who might not have ever dreamed they had anything in common with one another. But the thing is everyone eats. The lucky ones eat three times a day. What we put in our bodies matters and people from across the political spectrum get that. Food is a great uniter. When you can have a far left aging hippie liberal finding common ground with a far right tea bag libertarian on an issue then you know you have a good one. And the relationships built over those meals and conversations can translate to other less obvious issues.

  We must seek out these issues that unite us rather than divide us. It is in our best interest, and believe me it will piss off the plutocrats, if we can look beyond our skin color, social standing, economic bracket and find things we hold in common. If we listen to the concerns of people with whom we disagree and seek that space in which we can all agree we are getting equally abused then we can move forward together to fight the monopolies and the greedy rich.

One of those issues is that of local sovereignty over food and water. We are fortunate to live in a state that enshrined home rule in its very constitution. The governance of the people devolves to the lowest governmental body, the municipality. Local people taking back local control like they have in 16 towns across this state so far. Join us at Local Food RULES and Food for Maine’s Future to make it 50 towns by the end of 2017.
I’d like to quote one of my favorite people, Ben Pratt, former legislator and all around good guy. “When the rednecks and the hippies realize that they are both being screwed by the same people, then we’ll have a revolution.”

We are those people. We are that movement, standing on the cusp of history. Ready to take back our basic human rights. To eat what we want to eat sourced from where we wish to source it. To breath clean air and drink clean water. Let’s make it happen!