Read

Search form

Free Farmers, Food Liberty: This Fourth of July, Local Growers Declare Independence

Free Farmers, Food Liberty: This Fourth of July, Local Growers Declare Independence
Thu, 7/3/2014 - by Evan Wiig

Can real change take root in the aisles of a grocery store? In the past few decades, consumers the world over awoke to rapidly diminishing choice. We began asking what freedoms we still had left within this ever-conglomerating, homogenizing, alienating food system to truly determine how our next meal is grown, raised and brought to our plate.

Today, only a generation later, we find grocery store shelves swathed in new labels—local, artisan, organic—all claiming to empower shoppers with the information they need to choose, connecting them with the source. But do all these new options really give a voice to the farmers on the ground? Can a real food movement be driven by the expectations of consumers alone? And do these new, “enlightened” purchases give farmers the full freedom to truly grow by their values?

This Independence Day, we ask those growing our food to speak up. We ask them to reveal the very real obstacles between their production and consumers’ ever-loftier expectations. And we ask them to look forward to what’s possible by declaring their own statement of liberty. We call them “free farmers.” You can read the declaration here.

Discovering What Connects Us

Two farmers riding tractors on opposite sides of the world can today communicate with a push of a button, all without leaving the field. And likewise, consumers can today connect with producers through all variety of social media. Not every farmer carries a smartphone in the pocket of their overalls, nor do they have time to update their Twitter accounts. But in today's connected world, we should no longer have to rely on trade organizations, lobbyists or government departments to speak on farmers’ behalf.

That's why this month farmers are setting down their hoes and picking up cameras. The Farmers Guild – a new wave of California farmers, ranchers, chefs, artisans and sustainable food system advocates with a passion for feeding our local communities – is asking them to snap a photo of themselves holding a sign that begins with the words “free farmers” and concludes with their own declaration of what food freedom means to them.

From an intern in Mendocino, Calif., who writes "Free Farmers shouldn't have to look for loopholes," to celebrity agrarian Joel Salatin who responded, "Free Farmers are land-caressing multi-speciated direct-market entrepreneurs who have access to their own neighborhood to freely provide food that enables all parties to win," the perspectives of our farmers are many and diverse. That's why we want to hear from them.

Meanwhile, those with vocations beyond the field are taking the opportunity this July 4th to leave the dining table, step into some work boots and consider the farmer’s perspective – from chefs to schoolchildren to celebrated authors like Michael Pollan. Their statements speak to the eaters, the policy-makers, restaurateurs and to the aspiring young farmers and ranchers in this country. They’re declaring not only what freedom means to them but what it will take to make that freedom possible.

From market fluctuations to complex regulation, from the rising price of land to onerous contracts with corporate buyers that makes indentured servants of our local growers, the principles of even the most virtuous farmers often collide with the constraints of our modern food system, economy and culture. Today’s consumers want their food grown locally, organically, in harmony with our natural resources and by family farmers who provide social equity to all parties involved – but we also want it cheap, convenient, cosmetically flawless, centrally regulated and available year-round upon our slightest craving.

Labels offer poor substitutions for relationships. But for those, like me, who like their coffee despite living so high among the latitudes, they are sometimes necessary. Rather than visit Costa Rica to simply meet the harvester of my coffee beans to ensure the integrity of my purchase, I trust that the “Fair Trade” label will at least offer some assurance. But only by hearing from those farmers directly – if not across a table than on a screen – can I choose freely. Only together as one can we declare food liberty.

The Farmers Guild invites you to take a stand to empower farmers by completing the phrase “Free farmers…” however you see fit. What does Food Freedom mean to you? Simply write it down on a piece of paper with your name and share the photo by sending it to freefarmers@farmersguild.org. Find the movement on Twitter and Instagram at #freefarmers and #farmersguild, and on Facebook.

 

Sign Up

Article Tabs

U.K. housing prices, soaring home prices, soaring rent costs, Eviction Resistance, housing bubble mortgage-backed securities, Great Recession, rising homelessness

Housing prices in London have risen by 50% in the last five years – and when the UK property bubble goes boom, it will be proportionally bigger than the U.S. housing bust at the onset of the financial crisis in 2007.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, corporate trade deals, Investment Court System, German Magistrates Association, Investor State Dispute Settlement, ISDS, Global Justice Now

The German Magistrates Association (DRB) last week dealt a major blow to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, as judges said special courts allowing firms to sue countries were unnecessary and "had no legal basis."

Keystone XL pipeline, tar sands, TransCanada, carbon emissions, pipeline projects, NAFTA, corporate trade deals, Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, Investor State Dispute Settlement, ISDS

The Canadian oil giant is suing under the provisions of NAFTA because the U.S. rejected the Keystone pipeline – and demanding an amount that would cover annual community college tuition costs for nearly five million U.S. students.

Fascinating, creative initiatives around the world – from co-operative finance and crowdequity schemes to alternative currencies and reclaiming the public's control over money-creation – are emerging to strengthen the commons.

Housing costs are skyrocketing in Seattle – up 12% for a family home in the last year – and a 2012 study in the Journal of Urban Affairs showed that an increase of $100 in median rents results in a 15% increase in the homeless population.

One in five renters in Britain could not afford to pay January’s rent out of their normal salary and were forced to resort to credit cards, loans, overdrafts, pay day loans and borrowing from friends and family in order to pay housing costs.

Posted 6 days 21 hours ago

This week we passed the five-year anniversary of Tahrir Square, but do we even know – or care – what's happening there now, and do we see the parallels with what's going on right here? We speak with an Egyptian activist who sets the record straight.

Posted 4 days 16 hours ago
Chinese economic integration, Chinese financial power, G7 nations, emerging market power, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Asian Development Bank

China and other emerging economies, frustrated by their lack of representation in global financial decision-making, could potentially create their own parallel institutions and, in the long term, construct a parallel or opposing economic system altogether.

Posted 5 days 22 hours ago
corporate tax avoidance, corporate tax breaks, tax havens, tax shelters, corporate tax evasion, Citizens for Tax Justice

Sanders pledged Friday to close loopholes that allow Fortune 500 companies to exploit offshore tax havens, which last year enabled them to avoid paying U.S. taxes on over $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits.

Posted 6 days 22 hours ago
divestment movement, fossil fuel divestments, coal divestments, oil divestments, Copenhagen renewable energy

If the mayor's proposal is approved at a finance committee meeting Tuesday, the Danish capital will become the country’s first investment fund to sell its stocks and bonds in fossil fuels.

Posted 6 days 21 hours ago

It marks the largest investment to date in worker co-ops by a city government in the U.S.

Congressional hearings on the Flint water crisis were convened on Wednesday – but two people who should be in the hot seat weren't there. Next up, Iowa Caucus: Is this what Democracy looks like? And Obama signs the TPP.

Flint water poisoning, Flint water contamination, Flint lead poisoning, water privatization, Rick Snyder, Darnell Earley

Incidences of poisoned water, not isolated to Flint, are snowballing into a colossal emblem of government's prioritization of corporate interests and profit over the basic health and human rights of citizens.

divestment movement, fossil fuel divestments, coal divestments, oil divestments, Copenhagen renewable energy

If the mayor's proposal is approved at a finance committee meeting Tuesday, the Danish capital will become the country’s first investment fund to sell its stocks and bonds in fossil fuels.

Kamala Harris, Southern California Gas Co, methane leaks, Sempra Energy, Clean Power Plan, emission reductions, climate change goals

The civil suit accuses Southern California Gas of violating state health and safety laws when it failed to promptly control the release of 80,000 metric tons of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.