2008 Friday Sessions
Opening & Welcome Session
- Will Allen, CEO, Growing Power
- Mayor Tom Barrett, City of Milwaukee
- Gary Griggs, Consultant, Growing Power and GFJI Steering and Conference Committees
- Rutherford H. Platt, Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Introduction: Will Allen
The ultimate goal of this new food movement is to provide the same food to everyone worldwide. The movement must be multi-cultural and multi-generational because that’s the way the world has become.
The Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative (GFJI) is about strategy and breaking down barriers. How did it start? GFJI is a growth from a small Community Food Security Coalition committee. From a few people it has grown to over 400, but this is only an infancy stage.
Community is about connections. The food crisis transcends boundaries. Inner city communities need to ensure healthy food is available. We are all responsible for dismantling racism and ensuring more sustainable communities, which is impossible without food security.
Mayor Tom Barrett
Tom has worked to promote urban and local food growth in the city of Milwaukee. He is facilitating plans for a vertical greenhouse and integrated fish farm. As a community leader, he feels that leaders are only as good as the people in their community (this was a reference to Will Allen and Growing Power Staff). Growing Power is the antithesis of the problems that communities face. “Macro-problems have micro-solutions.” Cities are organic in their change. The major challenge we face is to bring the “American Dream” to communities that are facing problems of “big agriculture” and food security. The answer: grassroots initiatives, neighborhood agriculture, and local partnership.
America and its communities are a kaleidoscope of race, ethnicity and culture. Letting the light shine through this kaleidoscope reveals a beautiful abundance of energy.
We are going to farm and remove racism. The support of people in GFJI and equal communication/input is crucial to success. Growing Power is about spreading out, through cooperation and partnership, so no one is crushed. This is directly opposed to a top-down hierarchy.
Rutherford H. Platt: Growing a More Humane Metropolis
Rutherford began by mentioning his book “Sprawl City,” which laid out the framework for how urban sprawl expressed racism in government planning. Urban sprawl is the inevitable result of racist land law and policy. Growing Power works against this, and is the 21st century embodiment of a new “public garden”.
Suburbs and sprawl have increased extensively over the past 40 years. There are now 10 emerging megaregions: Cascadia, the Great Lakes, the Northeast, Arizona, the Texas Triangle, the Gulf Coast, Florida, California, and Piedmont Atlantic. The effects of these regions include a lack of housing equity, congestion, pollution, agricultural land loss, a loss of habitat and diversity, degradation of watersheds, and worsening tolls from natural disasters near sprawl. The overall effect of this trend has been abandonment and decay in the inner city, and sprawl along the fringe. Urban and suburban wastelands result.
There is reason for hope. Grassroots initiatives make cities, suburbs, and neighborhoods more humane. How? Through environmental education, storm water management, smart growth, environmental justice, civic spaces, etc.
The Ecological Cities Project: helped organize the Humane Metropolis Symposium, which eventually led to his book. What is the ecological city? The following are the “twigs and branches” of an eco-city:
- Urban green space
- Urban ecology
- Rehabilitation of water
- Urban agriculture
- Reclaim and replant!
Examples of twigs and branches in practice:
- Urban Resources Initiative: Reclaiming Urban Spaces, New Haven, CT
- Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative: Stave off gentrification
- Green City, Blue Lake (Cleveland): Develop eco-villages
- NYC Restoration Project
- Manhattan Waterfront Greenway
- Sustainable South Bronx
- Bronx River Alliance
- Chicago Wilderness Network: Calumet River – The Ultimate Brownfield Project
- Anacostia River Watershed (D.C.): Marvin Gaye Park Green Corridor
- Nuestras Raices: 20 acre tract, market, bakery, greenhouse
- Just Food (NYC)
- Urban Harvest (Houston)
- Young Kim, Executive Director, Fondy Food Center
- Rekha Banerjee, Marketing and Distribution Manager, Minnesota Food Association.
- Peto Chang, SE Asian Farmer Outreach Coordinator, Minnesota Food Association.
Immigrant farmers face the same challenges that all small farmers face, but have additional burdens of cultural, racial, and social barriers, together with limited experience and knowledge of the agricultural system and farming in America. Issues and experiences of Hmong-American and Latino farmers are shared related to training and seeking technical/production knowledge, farm business planning, government and other farmer programs, marketing and land access. Unique strengths, challenges, and cultural considerations of immigrant farmers, and requisite cultural competencies when working with immigrant farmers are covered.
Minnesota Food Association
- Training immigrant farmers – immigrants as a resource
- Loss of farmers – immigrants may fill this void
- Help these farmers market their product to wholesalers
- Our work focused in and around Minneapolis, MN
- Certified organic land rented to immigrant farmers
- Empower people to eventually work on their own
- Funding issues as a non-profit organization; pressure to fund themselves off of sales to wholesalers
- Provide people with the tools to succeed
- Relationship between Latino and Asian farmers – educate and work with one another
Barriers and problems facing immigrant farmers
- Need another job – farming not their main source of income
- Census data shows very few immigrant farmers within a community because they also work elsewhere
- Paperwork – must navigate this process in order to do their own farming
- Biased attitudes/racism
- Cultural expectations
- Advertising or lack thereof
- Transportation of people and product
History of Hmong people and their farming tradition
- Longstanding tradition in Laos
- Migration of Hmong people to the United States following the Vietnam War
- Isolation due to new cultural/language barriers
- Challenges due to farming in a new country/climate
- Past and present farming practices – impact on social issues and community building
- Watch “Becoming an American – A Hmong Documentary” on YouTube
- Healthy food systems within a local market
- Food chain: Farm – Market – Customer – Kitchen – Fork
- GrowRight Program
- 4 to 7 acres of land
- Second job for most Hmong farmers
- Involves the entire family
- Very labor intensive – not tractors or other large equipment
- Minimal use of pesticides
- No cost accounting
- Land is expensive and poor in quality
What to do?
- Acquire more land – rent at reasonable rates – more farmers
- 5 year leases
- Higher value, perennial crops
- Must be a free market
- No discussion amongst farmers or market coordinator about prices
What can be learned from working with immigrant farmers?
- Be aware of cultural biases
- Find allies within a culture
- Communicate in a way that will be hear
The Deep Roots of Our Land-Based Heritage: Environmental, Social, and Cultural Implications
- Owusu Bandele, Ph.D. Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center (obandele [at] cox [dot] net to request a text-version of the presentation)
A discussion of Black contributions to agriculture – other than labor (so many people only think of labor).
Land has been a focal part of a lot of Black culture: music, literature, medicine, political and social movements
An overview of black historical connection to land and then talk about what you can do.
The culture of agriculture
- “Reclaiming Earth” Haki Madhubuti – founded 3rd world press, alternative school in Chicago, publisher of many books on African American culture
- Margaret Walker poem “Lineage“
- Haki Madhubuti: “We were forest people … feet fastened to soil … where music soared … where smiles were not bought.
- Land-based heritage has influenced holidays
- Kwanzaa means “first fruit”
- African proverbs reflect agriculture.
- “Treat a guest as a guest for two days. On the third day, give him a hoe.”
- “Knowledge is like a garden: if it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.”
- “Words are sweet, but they never take the place of food.”
- “We will water the thorn for the sake of the rose.”
- Also influenced by agriculture.
- “Cotton Eyed Joe” – Nina Simone
- “My life as a Tree” – Alvin Batiste (listening to part of the song) “leaves fall but the roots stay,” “the branches sway, but the roots stay”
- African American farms as historical sites: In Georgia African American Centennial Family Farms – James Fowler, Zach Hubert (2003 Centennial Heritage Farm)
- Land-based political movements
- History of collective self-help and resistance
- 240 chapters of the Colored Farmers Alliance in Georgia in 1889
- Cotton pickers’ strike in 1892
- Farmers and rural families were involved in the Civil Rights Struggles of the 1960s . . .
- Deacons for Defense – over 20 chapters
- Righteous white people participated, but not many from the south (most from north)
- No small wonder that so much culture is based on land and agriculture
Ancient African Origins
- Ancient Egyptians
- First to establish irrigation
- Imhotep (not Hippocrates) considered to be the true “father of medicine”
- Medical milestones
- salicylic acid used by Bantu
- cryptoleptis in Ghana used for malaria treatment
- African rice, millet, etc.
- Africans predated Columbus (to the Americas)
Labor and Wealth
- Slave labor was the basis of agricultural and industrial wealth.
- Contributions in science that were ag-related :
- Henry Blair, Norbert Rillieux, George Murray, Peter Smith, Joseph Smith (lawn sprinkler), William Richardson (cotton chopper)
- River Road African American Museum (near New Orleans) features images of African inventions
- RRAAM’s Freedom Garden – initiative to plant crops that Africans survived on while using the underground railroad, Owusu suggested to expand to introduced crops of African origin.
- Deep history of land grant – Women were instrumental in the Negro Cooperative Extension Service – beautification of surroundings in 1920 home and vegetable gardens.
- George W. Carver – laid foundation of crop rotation, composting, legumes,
- Booker T. Whatley – another small farm guru 1915-2005. Whatley changed southern agriculture. Many farmers adopted his plan – CSA models.
- Towns where African Americans were completely removed (from the whole county often)
- “Banished” – a documentary shown on public television (Independent Lens)
- Buried in Bitter Waters: Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America by Elliot Jaspin
- African American slave labor was basis for nation’s prosperity
- Unfulfilled promise of 40 acres and a mule
- Reasons for decline in black farming and land ownership:
- Migration away from the south
- Lack of farm profits, particularly with agronomic crops
- Tax sales
- Heir property and partition sales
- Adverse possession – if someone uses the land for a particular time, it can become theirs
- Discrimination by USDA
- Organizations arose to stem the loss of black-owned land. Owusu used to have radio program and did a show on loss of black-owned land.
- History of legal redress
- Pigford vs. Glickman – Glickman was Secretary of Agriculture, Pigford a black farmer. Glickman admitted discrimination : denial of loans, insufficient loan amounts, delay of loans, greater supervision.
- Obstacles in redressing complaints: lack of records or documentation, failure of government to process complaints
- Provisions of class action suit: had to have farmed in specific period, had to have attempted to participate in USDA program, must identify a white farmer with similar land who was treated differently.
- Farmer options for settlement: if successful after one day arbitration, received $50, 000. Results: most claims were turned down, because they were late.
- New Farm Bill says if you filed a petition after 2000 and got turned down, you can have your case reopened, if you got turned down for specific reasons.
- Organic farming is one of the fastest growing ag segments in US. Many people can’t afford premium prices, but you can start your own community garden. Some programs to help African American farmers get into organic agriculture have started, including at Southern University.
- Don’t forget food service, food science aspects of agriculture; it doesn’t all have to be in the field. People can also participate in research and extension.
Closing quote from Chief Seattle: “What befalls the earth befalls all of the sons and daughters of the earth.”
Discussion/Questions from Audience
- Sometimes education can destroy your creativity. If you’re brought up thinking small-scale agriculture won’t work, you’ll have a bias. Sometimes, you’re blessed not knowing; then, you’ll try.
- Woman’s story: 54, going back to school to become a farmer. “I was laughed at by my own people.” Where are the young people going? Do they see the face of the black farmer? How can we bridge the gap to bring black farmers to the forefront? How do we get people to say, “I want to do that. I want to become part of the food system.”? Don’t be afraid as a young kid to go into farming and go into farm research. Such a divide, being from the city, that the kids are missing out.
- There is such a stigma to being black and being in the fields. We allow another culture to educate our kids about themselves and their history. They’re taught to be ashamed. They took the best of the best [from Africa] and brought them here. We need to give our children a paradigm shift. We have to be the transformation.
- Young people watching as an urban farm developed only saw it as providing food, but didn’t see the power in the land. But when they start to see the political structure in how the land was used, they decided that they wanted to come to meetings. They see how the land is connected to economics.
- It’s not only the children who aren’t aware of where food comes from. I got a friend to start a garden in Brooklyn – people walking by had never seen tomato, okra, long bean growing. I don’t think it’s only the children; we also must include adults in education.
- You can do farming, but you also need an outlet for the produce.
- We’re underrepresented in a lot of sustainable ag meetings. You find a lot of white volunteers spearheading community gardens and things of that nature. You have issues with economics and single mothers working and all of that comes into play (with African Americans not spearheading the efforts).
- Now with the economic crises is a chance to transform our economic system so that it gives organic farmers a chance. We need to become more radical.
- Policy issues: African American farmers dealing with sustainable ag issues. USDA had been talking about allowing irradiation and GMO food in organics, but because of thousands of people writing in, that didn’t happen.
- We keep hearing about influx of green jobs, but our school systems are not sharing with our youth about the opportunities. We’re too dependent on our curriculum, which is too slow to communicate these expedient things to our children. How can we communicate this information to them sooner?
- Who do African American farms employ? It depends. Some African Americans have huge farms, some have a couple acres. Some use migrant labor, some use kids.
- We vote with our forks. We need to create the places for the next generation to sell their food. Keep the food money local. How many African American food establishments can you think of? Even if corner stores become healthy, the people owning the stores take the money elsewhere – let’s get kids to sell directly to their own communities.
- African Americans have food “conversations”, exchanges: food became money, survival. Think about canning, preserving. Think about using empty lots. If they only knew the power of the empty lot! It’s one thing to have the community agency come in and tell you that you have the power; it’s another thing for you to BE the community agent and BRING the power.
- Keep food growing for the people and not for the market. Youth are lacking spiritual connection to the food, connection with the elements that help them begin to respect the land.
- “After all is said and done, more is said than done.” – shared by Owusu Bandele
- Ken Meter, Crossroads Resource Center, Minneapolis, MN
- Nikki Crow, Intern, White Earth Land Recovery Project, infonorth [at] honorearth [dot] org
Notes from Mr. Meter –
- Ken has worked with local food since ’74. He worked with the state of MN to implement the most advanced social & economic indicators in the US.
- In the debate about the industrial food system, we often forget about the perspective of the communities where commodity foods are produced.
Goals of local food:
Asset based development:
- First – identify community assets
- Then – ask about community needs
The State of Minnesota is the sixth largest farm state
- 86% of farm sales go to livestock, feeding livestock, and biofuels
- 3% to fruits and vegetables
- Farmers farm at a net loss. Why? Government subsidies. But most of the subsidy goes toward paying off farm loans. In other words, it’s a bank subsidy, not a farm subsidy. In recent years there have been two good farm years: 1973 and ’74. The oil crisis caused a shortage of dollars. The US needed to remedy the shortage so they encouraged farmers to overproduce and sell to Russia. This expansion led to the farm crisis in the 80s
- Minnesota is the sixth largest farm state and yet it imports 90% or more of its food. This is unacceptable.
- The average distance from farm to table is 1500 miles. $139 billion pays for transportation to get the food to the table every year.
- California is suffering a similar fate. It is a net importer of food. The best farmland is dying at the hands of urban sprawl. It has become cheaper to import food than to buy direct from the farmer.
What is being done about it? Direct food sales are increasing all over the US.
- Case study: Milan, MN
- $20,000 loan to farm
- Built winter greenhouse to grow fresh produce in the winter
- Operating costs amount to only $50 per year for heating
- Produces fresh local produce from November to April, typically a time of high importation of food.
- Black Hawk County, IA
- Local food sales increased from $250K to $2.5 million simply from making connections between local producers and local consumers.
- Rudy’s Tacos serves 72% local food. “We can’t go back. If we went back to the industrial system, we would lose our clientele.”
- Grinnell College, IA
- Had goal to increase use of local food sources.
- Decided to build warehouse and share space with community. By combining their resources to provide for a common need, they both saved money and have built up the community.
- Woodbury County, IA
- County has committed to buying organic
- Offers property tax breaks for farmers in transition to organic production
- “Homestead” policy aims to repopulate the county with local and organic food growers .
Local foods may be your strongest path to economic development. Industry and retail business comes and goes but food sticks around for the long haul.
In the past we expended vast amounts of resources building up an infrastructure to facilitate exportation and importation. We have never really designed and built an infrastructure for regional food systems.
Notes from Ms. Crow
- Food assistance programs to her tribe encourage consumption of processed foods. As a result, health has deteriorated and obesity has increased. In addition, the younger generation has lost respect for and a connection to the land.
- Launching a green economy for brown people: program to assist Native American urban dwellers in working with solar- and wind-energy projects.
Organizational Change: Strategies on How to Prioritize Diversity and Inclusion Issues in an Institutional Program and Its Make-up
- Akiko Minami, Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
The University of California Santa Cruz farm operates a 100-member CSA while offering on-farm training and education. One program component is classes on social issues. The 2003 apprentices of color composed a critique of the apprenticeship program and presented it to faculty. Their critique concerned the lack of diversity in the program and argued that the faculty should do more to foster participation from students of color. Their critique also included recommendations on how to promote diversity. The program subsequently formed a social justice advocacy committee (SJAC).
The faculty hosted three workshops with a focus on participant diversification. They also began an annual Labor Day event that involves students in a day’s work with farm laborers on a production farm.
- Predominantly white apprentices and staff
- Program advertised mainly through word of mouth by (mainly white) alumni
- Financially prohibitive – tuition, food, and supplies, no paycheck for 6 months, travel to California
- Lack of connection with communities and organizations of color
- Non-inclusive curriculum and programming
- Tent/rustic living is not always welcoming to urban population
- Difficulty drawing diverse faculty candidates because of the lack of diversity in Santa Cruz, its reputation as a white program, etc.
- Limited staff time with busy schedules/programs. Constant struggle between new changes and continuing day-to-day logistics.
- New changes/programming not prioritized
- No clear plan for promoting diversity (short-term or long-term)
- Seen as a side project
- Fear, defensiveness and resistance by apprentices and staff. Having to bring up the importance and uniqueness of institutional racism repeatedly (as different from individual racism).
1. Lack of understanding of the importance of diversity and inclusion issues in the apprenticeship and food system movement
2. Issues seen as only for people of color, not recognized that everyone misses out if we do not have “everyone at the table”
The SJAC then identified some strategies to increase diversity.
1. Willingness to commit to this work and bring it up repeatedly, even in the face of resistance.
- Set up a committee to focus on this work for the program every year (the SJAC)
- New group of second-year apprentices bring in fresh ideas and energy
- Open communication with current apprentices and willingness to hear their critique and recommendations for change
2. Educating staff
- “The color of fear” movie
- “White privilege: unpacking the invisible backpack” article
- Book: “Where We Stand: Class Matters” by Bell Hooks
3. Educating self
- Understand institutional racism, how it has culturally/structurally kept us out
- Develop skills: organizing, facilitating, mediation
- Participate in conferences/workshops
4. Get support
- Meet peers and mentors in this work
- Find white allies. Whites can educate whites and often in a way that makes a white person feel less defensive. The burden cannot all fall on people of color to do all the “educating.”
The workshop then broke up into 5 small groups to discuss challenges people face in promoting diversity and to generate strategies to promote diversity. These are the challenges and strategies identified by one group.
- Working in solidarity and not doing “charity”
- Being from outside the community – how to identify who could benefit most, how/who to outreach to
- Including diversity as part of mission, expressed purpose
- Getting staff/community to commit time and energy to anti-racist work
- Non-profit hierarchy – not finding support from directors
- Field teams are representative of community, but office staff are not
- Staff doing direct services do not represent community (how to effectively/mindfully outreach)
- Not feeling qualified or informed enough to facilitate address the perceived problem
- Contacting experts/mentors/facilitators
- Culturally appropriate foods priority over “educating” consumers to change behavior
- Incentives to involve people and introduce them to services
- Building relationships over time with people (especially locally based organizations and community figureheads), stepping out of comfort zone, meeting people, dialogue, talk past fears/assumptions
- Notice that your discomfort in situations is growth that is a conditioned reaction to feeling difference.
Metro Ag – The North American Urban & Peri-urban Agriculture Alliance
- Martin Bailkey, facilitator
North American Urban & Peri-urban Agriculture Alliance proposed mission: “The aim of the Alliance is to bring together a wide and culturally diverse range of stakeholders involved in urban and peri-urban agriculture in North America in order to share knowledge and best practices, to foster linkages externally, and to give voice to its advocates and recognition and legitimacy to its activists.”
At this point, the Alliance is comprised of a founding group and is working to assemble a board of directors that authentically reflects the diversity of people and sectors it aims to represent. As the Alliance prepares for the next phase of its development, the follow questions remain:
To a large extent, the topic of the open session focused on the relationship between the Alliance and growers, organizers, community members, and on-the-ground practitioners within in the Urban Agriculture Movement. The predominance of white participants at the Open Session was representative of the emerging gap between the Alliance’s homogeneous leadership and heterogeneous self-conception/goals. How can the Alliance engage or build stronger partnerships with food justice groups who have expressed theoretical support for the Alliance? What is the Alliance’s relationship to these groups? In what was can it be accountable and of service toward shared
- What is the best way to get more people to the table as part of Alliance visioning?
- How much power and responsibility should membership entail?
- What is the role of the Alliance to its member, and what services should it provide to members and non-members?
- Will staffing be centralized in one place, and if so, where?
- How should local chapters connect with the Alliance?
- Will the Alliance focus its efforts around individual action campaigns?
goals? The Alliance is currently in the process of compiling a comprehensive website (which it will fine-tune with focus groups), developing its branding, creating a brochure, and preparing for its launch event in Philadelphia in November.The Solution to our Current Food and Farm Crisis – Food Sovereignty!
- John Kinsman, Family Farm Defenders
- John E. Peck, Family Farm Defenders
What are some of the myths that influence our notions of food production and culture?
- The majority of the world’s food is produced in large fields and rural areas.
- The U.S.’s massive yield of crops is feeding the nation and the rest of the world.
- It is possible to achieve a well-balanced diet through supermarkets and processed foods.
The truth is…
- Around the world, three times more food is grown in urban areas than in rural areas.
- Those farmers on huge tractors that travel across vast expanses of fields are not producing food for direct sale, but rather they are fueling the agribusiness trade.
- Half of U.S. crop production is corn or soybeans, which are subsidized and feed the corporate commodity trade.
- The U.S. is malnourished.
- One-third of vegetables consumed by children in America are chips or fries.
Food Sovereignty Principles
- The ultimate example of “Food Sovereignty” is the Boston Tea Party. Our country is founded on the principle that food is a right!
- There should be no global price on food; food is a local-based item and should therefore be community-based.
- There are human values inherently tied to food systems. Food Sovereignty takes values into consideration.
- Do humans have the right to own a patent on a life form? Currently U.S. crops must grow from mass-produced seed patents.
- What’s the difference in social interaction between farmers’ markets and supermarkets? 10 times more conversation at the former!
- Food Sovereignty reflects the basic tenets of an “alternative food system”:
- Food is a human right
- Agrarian reform is necessary to return ownership and control of land to farmers
- Sustainable land and resource management
- Food imports should not displace local production
- Production and trade should be democratized
- It is imperative that food be:
- Culturally Appropriate
- The Fair Trade concept should be applied to all other foods/food trade. First production and trade must meet local needs. Then and only then can fair trade be implemented.
- What are barriers to Food Sovereignty?
- Federal regulations on trade
- Restrictions on non-patent crops
- State regulation against milking cows without ear tags (Wisconsin)
- Differences between Security and Sovereignty:
- Security does not guarantee quality, origin, or future supply of food.
- Security can involve the dumping of genetically modified foods in developing countries risking health and the integrity of local food systems.
- Sovereignty values safety and health, and emphasizes community control.
- How is Sovereignty achieved?
- Changes in food policy and systems brought about by…
- Food charters or declarations
- Increased local production/trade points
- Reclaiming the argument about our food production against agribusiness!
Mantsa Tlala: Dispelling Hunger in Lesotho
- Clark Tibbits, Tibbits Nature Sanctuary and Land Stewardship Center
Land conservationists should learn to present their ideas in different ways. We must learn to tell stories and to speak more out of our heart and not just our heads.
The setting is Lesotho, Africa, a small country about the size of Delaware in South Africa. The elevation ranges from five thousand to seventeen thousand feet, having the highest low point of any country in the world. The country was formed when people fled to the mountains of South Africa due to the apartheid system. In 1967, Lesotho’s land was communally owned. It was the third poorest country in the world but you wouldn’t know because everyone had access to land for subsistence. Their susceptibility was to drought, especially because of a dependence on corn. Family ties where a key strategy to mitigate the effects of poverty. Clark was part of the Peace Corps groups sent to spread the Green Revolution across Africa. They convinced many people to invest in fertilizer, corn hybrids, and tractors. The success with increased yields were staggering and Clark felt pretty proud of what the green revolution project was accomplishing. Then the 1970s oil embargo hit and oil prices increased dramatically. Farmers could not afford fossil fuels or fossil fuel-based products (pesticides, fertilizers, etc.). The soil was depleted and the corn was not working.
In the mid 1970s, Clark remembered the stories of the “potato man” who grew in the highlands. He began to dig up information on the work that he did but it was not clear what became of him.
In the 1980s, Clark returned to Lesotho to help train Peace Corps volunteers in organic gardening. He ended up meeting one of the “potato man’s” sons at the local universities when he was asking around about him. The son arranged a meeting. Clark met Machobane at a café. He had a fierceness and energy in his eyes that Clark had never seen before. Machobane told him, Thank you for your interest, and for making the journey, but I don’t do interviews anymore.
Backtrack in the story
Machobane was a gifted student. He wrote the first three novels in the Lesotho language. Sadly the publishers tried to alter his work.
Machobane had two especially transformative experiences in his life. First, while attending the Christian school the Anglicans would not feed or pay him. He ate from the scraps thrown out for the pigs. Second, widowed women were treated with cruelty and they had no way to make a living for themselves. Many took to brewing beer to generate income. Machobane watched as many women were arrested for this practice, and he tried to defend them. The priest ignored his requests and shot down his calls for fair treatment.
Machobane told the priest he could not be part of such an institution and he returned to his village. Over the next thirteen years he conducted his own research to develop a food growing system that was:
- Locally adapted
- Based on three-acre parcels (what he determined to be the maximum size plot that could get adequate biomass returned to the soil to retain fertility)
- Crop rotation
- Introduced potatoes which could survive drought better than corn
This system was also the result of what Machobane characterized as “visions” (a striking resemblance to the accounts Rudolph Steiner gave about how he developed biodynamic farming). The production from this system became an important supplement to local consumption and also to export for income. In good growing years people mainly ate corn (the preferred food) and the potatoes were sold to South Africa. In bad years locals largely consumed the potatoes, because the corn failed to produce adequately.
Once he had worked out his system of growing (the 1950s), Machobane taught twelve of his closest friends; they had to teach twenty other people. He opened a college to teach all kinds of subjects to the local Lesotho people. A woman from the Ford Foundation came to visit and was amazed at all that had been accomplished to improve people’s lives.
In 1961, Machobane was named International Volunteer of the year. He was sent on an around-the-world trip. He did not like it, and returned home before finishing.
Soon after, Lesotho achieved its independence from Britain. Some aspiring government officials where concerned that Machobane’s influence would get him elected and ruin their chances for political power. Although he never had an intention to run for office, the aspiring politicians began a harassment campaign against him and his family. They told him they would leave him alone if he went “underground.” For the next twenty-five years, he lived his life quietly in the slums. The political leader that got elected did not allow further elections so that he could stay in power. When a coup overthrew him twenty-five years later, Machobane re-emerged from the slums. During this time Machobane had taken five wives (mainly widows), had fathered thirteen kids, put them all through school, and wrote twenty-five books.
Return to earlier story line
When Clark finally met him in the 1980s, Machobane told him, “I don’t do interviews anymore.” Not knowing what to say, Clark began talking about some of the growing systems he had seen. He described John Jevin’s system and how it reflected many of the insights of Machobane’s system. Machobane was amazed and they talked for hours about their growing experiences. Clark eventually showed Machobane a film about Jevin’s system and Machobane could not believe it! He then devoted himself to the Peace Corps program to work with volunteers to re-establish his system in the countryside.
Clark went to the government to get support. People said it was too taboo of a subject to politically support. Even his friends in government would not get involved. Only one woman, Letla Mosenene, of the agricultural ministry stepped up. She was able to secure international grants and arranged for side-by-side trials of the Machobane system and the green revolution practices. When the results came in they got additional grants to reestablish Machobane’s group of village level trainers to guide the reintroduction of the system.In this process, men were very resistant to the Machobane system. What they decided was to approach women and children because this was a system that did not cost much to get started on and women and children were the most vulnerable part of the population (especially in terms of food security). Today there are 2500 village farmers using this system. In 2003 Machobane died at the age of 93; his program of education and agriculture are going strong.
Re-Framing Food, Changing the Story for Justice
- Shana McDavis-Conway, smartMeme
- Doyle Canning, smartMem
(Powerpoint available at www.smartmeme.org)
smartMeme is a training and strategy project based in San Francisco and Boston. It was founded 2002 with roots in radical ecology movement. They are working on urgent topical social justice, environment, and peace projects, such as family farmer food sovereignty in Vermont. We seek to span movements and look at how storytelling can help a movement grow. We give workshops across states.
- Explore dominant stories in culture about food
- Present concepts and tools: narrative power, and story-based strategies
- Share perspectives on stories we’ve been telling about food and food justice
How many of you have tried to educate people about food justice? How many have tried to tell people what’s wrong with the food system, given the information, but didn’t change their mind?
Everyone stand and form line across room. If you agree with statement, you move toward one wall, if you disagree move toward the other wall.
- Statement: I am having a great time at this conference. [people move toward agree, though don’t stick to the wall] Why aren’t you standing closer to agree? My flight was late. Why are you standing here? [talking to person closer to wall]
- Statement: I am hopeful about the future. [no one moved much] Person closest to disagree: Whose future are we talking about? Person closest to agree: We’re all here together and doing so much, how can we not be hopeful?
- Statement: The food system is broken. [everyone moves closer to agree] There’s a problem with distribution. When you look at food available, it’s overpackaged and not grown sustainably. Closest to disagree: The problem isn’t that it’s broken; it’s that it was terribly designed
- If people knew what was going on, they would join our group and take action. [people spread out across the room] Person closest to disagree: Just because I know something doesn’t mean I’ll act accordingly. Even if people know what’s happening and how it’s happening, they’re addicted and trapped. Person in the middle: People don’t get outraged enough when they’re informed of something, but it might really be that they don’t know/understand. Framing the mind and getting people to do things is a process. People who agree: We just need to work harder; people will get it eventually.
A power analysis: If you’re in a movement, where’s your power and entry point? Where can you do the most damage to the power players?
Example: Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Florida wanted to improve wages for tomato field workers. The workers had to target beyond the growers; they went to Taco Bell to have them exert pressure.
Strategy is how you make a plan to change the power dynamic. How does your strategy tell a story about your vision of the world you want to create? This is how to make social change and build movements.
What makes a good story?
- Characters – people we can identify with.
- Images – work with our senses (show don’t tell).
What about the underlying assumptions that make that story believable/true?
Activity: Have one person in each group tell a story about school lunch. Everyone has 10 minutes. After, the group discussed the instances of strong characters, conflict, images, and foreshadowing they heard in the stories.
Presentation with examples of narrative power. For example we use the European version of the world map to understand the world.
How is power exercised in our society? Power over, instead of power with or power within. Narrative and mythological dimension of the power structure are unstable and held up by control mythology. These are the “structures” that keep the power in its place.
Example: Creation myths of United States: First Thanksgiving, The Statue of Liberty. These are fundamentally stories that hold white supremacy in place. Why do people believe in this? The dominant story of the American dream is a myth. The dominant story becomes the truth; other stories become invisible. If this is what people believe in, they might not hear what you’re saying. However, you can’t just pull the foundation out and not offer another story.
Another example with images from Hurricane Katrina. Captions were reworded from the original Associated Press articles: “finding” versus “looting.” The lie is in the verbiage and how you spin it: the black boy didn’t have a right to what he took, but the white people did.
“Meme” is a term that refers to how a story spreads through a culture – “a unit of self-replicating [cultural] information.” Anything is a meme if it’s passed on. How good of a meme is it? Memes are just pieces of culture that spread.
Our structures of education in this country and our approach to banking knowledge rather than teaching critical thought is a way to keep the system in place.
Image: The food pyramid. Do people remember when the food pyramid changed? There was a hierarchy in the original pyramid. Now they’ve removed the hierarchy. There is no bad food, it’s about getting exercise.
Memes from food justice world: locavore, slow food, food desert, sustainable. These terms steal memes and turn them to change memes: monoculture, industrial food, food sovereignty, food apartheid, food miles.
Story-based strategy frames the conflict: simplify and narrow in on what we want people to know. We’re looking for relevant spokespeople who will tug at heartstrings, be the hero, victim, or villain. We’re not focusing on data. Sometimes statistics don’t work; people really relate to stories. People only go somewhere they’ve been in their minds first. We want to go to a world where everyone has access to a garden.
Image: CNN coverage of fall of Saddam statue with the meme that these are empowered Iraqi people. What’s the truth? The photograph that circulated in the international media showed a different perspective: the tanks in the picture have the power.
Several other images and examples followed.
Show, don’t tell. Don’t show complicated diagram of food system; use happier images. Allow people to come into their own values about what is rightEconomic Development: Strategies for Developing Latino/a Leadership
- Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, Latino Enterprise Center, a program of Main Street Project in Minnesota
Grew up in Guatemala in the middle of the civil war in the 1990s.
- Began chicken production in the ravaged highlands of Guatemala.
- Arrived in Minneapolis and found limitless opportunity.
- Founded Fair Trade Federation: Founded Peace Coffee among other companies.
- 2006: Kicked out of a farm in Bell plain, poor strategic position.
- Moved to Northfield to found Latino Enterprise Center (LEC).
Latino communities growing very fast. LEC target Latinos to get face-to-face contact in economic development. Target two areas:
- structures that define this system
- seizing opportunities and building an image to get on entrepreneurial map
Main Street Project’s work:
- Poverty – Latinos are among the poorest citizens (affects level of engagement)
- Rural Enterprise Center – Address some of the poverty issues structurally
- Civic partnerships – One family at a time, working with other organizations
- Education – Expand the educational prospects for Latino Citizens
- Sustainable Development
- Understanding the family unit (skills, values, needs, etc)
- Understanding the community
- Understanding the infrastructure (political, social, economic) and how it perpetuates injustice
- Developing the criteria to grow targeted projects that transform injustice with leadership
- Developing portfolio of projects, build institutions, etc.
Building the institution through its programs
- Rural Enterprise Center
- Rural Community Center
- Media Justice
Enterprise Center Mission: “Strengthen communities by organizing programs, resources, and the support infrastructure needed to maximize the success potential of rural Latino Entrepreneurs.”
Key projects: Community gardens, CSA farming, small scale live stock production, infrastructure development.
Problems with racial profiling cannot be dealt with on the target community level. This is why we need national, regional, and state support systems.
Standard business management model:
Local level developments:
- Marketing and Communications: Just Food Co-op, 125 direct households, news coverage, churches
- Operations and HR: 5 Latino families involved
- Finance: Families build the structure, use recycled materials, sweat equity, cash, labor.
Regional level developments:
- Families host freezers to penetrate new market areas
National Level Developments:
- Documented for replication
Northfield Area Community Gardens
- Incorporating food production for healthy diets and living.
- Bringing people together to learn habits of growing healthy diverse communities through shared knowledge and resources.
- Building an experimental station for potential Latino farmers.
- Incorporating cultural traditions and encouraging whole family involvement in the gardens.
Northfield Market Gardeners
- Incorporate food production in building healthy diets and living.
- Develop an alternative income supplement.
- Rebuild part of the immigrant family (land-based) infrastructure to pass on traditional knowledge, values, and ethics, while keeping the young from the streets.
Developed traditional strain of black beans that harvest earlier to avoid wet fall.
Northfield Area Range Poultry Growers
- Corporate mission: To build a profitable locally supported range grown poultry operation.
- Social objectives:
- Incorporate food production for healthy diets and living.
- Generate economic development for the region while addressing the core economic needs of families.
- Built fences/coop in fall of 2006 and spring of 2007. Next year: processing plant for 25,000 chickens? 2-3 years out: 50,000+ free range chickens.
- Spreading the risk and opportunity, disperse the operations