Posts Tagged ‘local food’

Black Farmers Matter

This just in from the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association

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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.”

We are Winning

  There is a famous quote from Gandhi that goes: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Well, I am here today to tell you good people that we are winning.

When the Maine State Legislature considers and the Agriculture committee passes several bills that reinforce the rights of farmers to sell their goods face-to-face with their patrons. We are winning.

When Joel Salatin, a hero of the food sovereignty movement, flies in from Virginia for the day to testify to our Legislators in favor of a state constitutional amendment establishing the people’s inalienable right to food. We are winning.

When 13 towns, and counting, in the state have passed the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance. Reinforcing the right of people to participate in traditional food-ways. We are winning.

When the average age of farmers in Maine continues to fall and farmers from around the country are moving to Maine because of the great work they see us doing to rebuild the local food infrastructure. We are winning.

When two of the largest employers in central Maine, Fedco and Johnny’s, are organic seed companies. We are winning.

When the number of food cooperatives in the state more than doubles in less than five years. We are winning.

When we succeed in shortening the food chain because of a four times increase in the number of farmers markets, the rapid growth of the Community Supported Agriculture movement, food hubs and wonderful distributors like Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative. We are winning.

When the FDA becomes so concerned about the local food rights movement in our state that they not only send Mr. Monsanto himself, Michael Taylor, to speak to farmers in Maine but they also open a third field office in a state of 1.3 million people. We are winning.

When national organizations like National Family Farm Coalition, The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Food and Water Watch and the Organic Consumers Association are so impressed with the progress we are making in Maine that they offer logistical and financial help to further our work. We are winning.

When the national headquarters for the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association is in our state. We are winning.

When John Oliver spends a whole segment of Last Week Tonite excoriating the way contract chicken farmers are used and abused by the big poultry processing companies like Tyson. And his New York City audience reacts with horror. We are winning.

When Neil Young records a whole album of pro-farmer, anti-Monsanto songs, “The Monsanto Years”. We are winning.

When the deal to buy Syngenta, a deal that would have further consolidated the ownership of the world’s seed-stock into Monsanto’s hands, falls through. We are winning.

We are blessed to be living in a state with a strong agricultural tradition supported by the 11,000 members of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and small, nimble non-profits like Food for Maine’s Future and Local Food Rules. A state that may well be one of the climate change winners as far as access to water and arable land goes. A state with a long, and recent, tradition of activism, self-governance, and self-sufficiency.

We are winning folks.   

Congratulations.

Home Again

I have such great respect for activists who do this all the time.   Leave home, sleep in strange beds, spend their days talking and talking and talking.   Networking, doing the work.  I want to do the work but I am so reluctant to leave my little homestead to do it.   I know how important it is to go and meet in person with other people trying to change the world but I just wish they would all come here.   Maybe I can figure out the Helen and Scott Nearing approach and get like-minded folks to make the pilgrimage to my little corner of the universe.   Maybe not.

But most importantly when I got home all of my baby chicks were thriving.   My non-farmer son who had been tending them for me said they had been eating like miniature vultures.   He had a hard time keeping their food troughs full.   How lucky am I to have this wonderful support system?   Very!

So home again, home again, riggety jig.   Back to the center of my universe and to a part of my life that is grounding and positive and, most importantly, here.    Oh, and my neighbor took care of the overly brazen fox who had eaten all my adult chickens and was starting in on his, in spite of his five dogs.

 

Marching Against Monsanto, Again.

So I spoke at the March Against Monsanto today.  Thank you to Whitley and the crew for putting this together.  I arrived without my prepared remarks and had to off-the-cuff it.  It was okay but I wanted to share my beautiful, eloquent speech that noone got to hear today.

<I have come here today to speak about the food sovereignty movement.   And I will do that in a moment but first I want to tell you a story and toward the end I’ll offer you a solution to the food situation in which we find ourselves.

Back in 2006 I was standing around with some friends at one of our Mud Season Dinners.   These are events meant to demonstrate that even in the dark days of February or March there is still enough, entirely local, food to feed a crowd. At that moment we were at the height of our resistance against the animal ID law.  This is the USDA regulations that say all farmers who have livestock have to register and tattoo or tag all of their animals with a number and then do all the paperwork that entails.   So if anyone gets sick from eating meat, when that animal goes into the churning cauldron that is our current food system, the Feds can trace that animal’s life and provenance from birth to slaughter.   Naturally the anarchists, non-anarchist, libertarians and plain old left-wing activists, I was chatting with were none too pleased with this development.  One of them asked plaintively “What are we going to do?”   A good friend of mine, a farmer who feeds thousands of people every year, happened to be standing in the group.  He looked at her and said “We’re going to keep doing what we are doing…it’s just going to be illegal.”

And that is the essence of this movement.   It is; in the tradition of Suffrage, Civil Rights and Marriage Equality; essentially a human rights movement.    We got them out of our voting booths and bedrooms now let’s get them out of our kitchens.  We are; by eating fresh local food, sourced from farmers that we know; committing an act of civil disobedience. Like the Palestinians on the West Bank standing in front of their olive trees,  we are standing in front of our apple trees, protecting them from the encroachment of a hostile government.    They, the government bureaucrats, say they are protecting us from ourselves.   They say that we don’t know enough not to eat bad food.  They say that a farmer would sell tainted milk or meat or eggs or vegetables to his neighbors and friends.   They say that we would feed bad food to our own family and loved ones.    Well, let me tell you, the only bad food we are feeding anyone is the over-processed, GMO-ladden, vacant-of-nutrient foods that the big manufacturers shovel our way every day in the chain supermarkets.  If you are eating fresh nutrient-dense foods you are going to eat less, because your body is going to crave less.   And you are going to be healthier over all.  Twinkies just can’t do that.

This is what I call a “just walk away” moment.   My favorite kind of civil disobedience.   Just as Gandhi lead the salt march  to prove to the people of India, and to the British Empire, that they could make their own salt and did not need to remain enslaved to the English salt monopoly, so too we can grow our own food.   As Ron Finley of the South Central Garden in LA said so eloquently:  “Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do.  Plus you get strawberries.”  and my favorite quote from him: “Growing your own food is like printing your own money.”

So we in the food sovereignty movement offer you the opportunity to take back control of what you eat three times a day.   Let the big guys know that they cannot intimidate us into eating rubbish that nourishes neither our bodies nor our souls.   Anyone interested in getting a food sovereignty ordinance passed in your own town can speak to me and we’ll get you started.

We need to protect our small farms and farmers.   They are the people who feed us.  They are also, historically,  the people who brought us the populist movement which lead to so much government reform in the late 1800’s.   And currently the farmers in Nebraska are one of the major reasons we are winning the fight against the XL pipeline.   Farmers are independent, hard-working, tough-minded folk who see the truth more clearly than most and are not afraid to stand up for what they believe.

So stand with small farmers and farmworkers everywhere and take back your power.   Stand up in front of your apples trees or tomato plants or by the side of your local farmer and just say NO.   No to GMOs, no to heavy-handed government oversight, no to caving into the intimidation bought and paid for by the folks that make the most money selling us crap to eat.   Join the next great civil rights movement.   The right to know what is in our food and  to eat whatever we damn well please.

“Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”  Wendell Berry>

Love Your Soil and Eat More Beans!

As I think more and more about local eating and folk-food patterns the radio seems to be talking to me (no I am not having auditory hallucinations).   This morning on Morning Edition the host was talking to a chef who has written a book called “Third Plate.”  I need to read it to have a good grasp of what he is saying but the bit I heard from him was encouraging.   Kind of a “Diet for a Small Planet” ethos re-imagined for the foodie culture.   Listen to it yourself and see what you think.

Then later in the morning on my local NPR station they were talking to a panel about the Maine Food Strategy  2014 Consumer Survey Report which had appeared in my inbox this week.   Now I was not thrilled with some of the layout of the graphs.   I thought bar graphs would have done a better job of conveying the message than pie charts but if you dig down there is some interesting information.    Anyhow, here is the link to the report and the link to the radio show.

And finally a New York Times piece about “What Farm-to-Table Got Wrong.”   About the need for real sustainability right down to the basics.   Right down to the soil!

Update on Baker’s Green Acres

Here is an update on the feral pig story from Michigan.   Mark Baker is running for sheriff in his county.  And he’s made a movie about it.  “Hogwash”  This is a bit of a commercial for the movie but I think it is important so here is the trailer/commercial.  I think I will buy a copy and have it shown at my local co-op.

Bioregion, Sweet, Bioregion

We talk so much about local food and its importance to environmental, food sovereignty and health concerns.   I am reading this book about permaculture and it brought up an interesting point that is a slightly different way of thinking about this issue.  Here is the quote:

“A bioregion is defined as any area,small or large, that has a clearly recognizable identity.  Many factors contribute to this identity: geological structure, soil, climate, types of vegetation, history, culture, ‘atmosphere,’ and magnetic and spiritual forces.  Some of the world’s most notable bioregions can boast well-known ‘regional’ writers, painters, musicians, and craftspeople who, its human inhabitants.  Among outstanding examples of links between art and earth are the novels of Hardy and the landscape of ‘Wessex,’ the paintings of Constable and the landscape of the Essex-Suffolk border, and the operas of Janacek and the Moravian forest.  In many parts of Europe, Asia, and Latin America, village communities can be recognized by the costumes, songs and dances of their inhabitants, many of them inspired by features of the environment.  The patterns of plants of permaculture plots, forest gardens, and other forms of land-working should also reflect the character of their bioregions.  Those who work them are most likely to benefit if their diets consist largely of the plants that contain the minerals and other nutrients peculiar to local soils, and if they subsist as much as possible on local resources, thereby giving jobs to their neighbors and minimizing the polluting effects of mechanical transport.  Such people—rooted or ‘hefted,’ to use the Scottish term, to their bioregional soils—enjoy a sense of psychological security unknown to restless city-dwellers.

Both the Highland clan and the Native American tribe are examples of bioregional organisms.  The relationship of a member of a clan or tribe to her or his duthus (the Gaelic term for communal land) has an intense and poignantly beautiful quality.  The essence of Amerindian religion lies in the effort to unify with soil, the human psyche with the rocks and rivers, the trees and wildlife of the natural environment.”
Robert Hart in “Forest Gardening: Cultivating an Edible Landscape.”  1991 Chelsea Green Publishing,  pages 14-15.