The Just Food Conference 2017: A Call to Collaboration

The Just Food Conference 2017: A Call to Collaboration

On March 12th and 13th I attended the Just Food Conference in NYC. It was exciting to reconnect with the Just Food community, as I spent much of 2012 as an intern with their Farm School NYC program. Just Food has always inspired me with their commitment to lifting up the leadership and capacity of diverse communities in the food movement to build a more just, equitable and sustainable food system, and this year’s conference entitled “A Call to Collaboration” was no different. The conference included workshop tracks ranging from Community-Led Food Projects to Policy and Advocacy to Youth Leadership in the Food Justice Movement and more, keynote speakers, local strategy sessions, and opportunities to plug into local campaigns for food justice and sovereignty.

The core question of the conference was “through collaboration, what can we do together across our many disciplines to increase the amount of fresh, locally grown food available in our most marginalized, food insecure communities in ways that support self-determination and ensures economic justice for all?” One of the workshops I went to that best represented the theme of collaboration was a panel called “Farm to Bed Stuy: The Worker Cooperative Approach to Building a Local Supply Chain”. Worker/owners from Rock Steady Farm and Flowers, the Brooklyn Packers and Bed Stuy Fresh and Local shared their model of moving food along the supply chain from being grown in Millerton NY, getting packed in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, and then delivered to a Bed Stuy cooperative storefront to be sold to the local community.

All of the worker/owners of these three cooperatives spoke about their desire to merge profitability and food justice, and the possibilities and challenges inherent in this goal. Building a network of support along the supply chain and working in economic partnership with other businesses with shared values was a huge boost for this work. Priorities for all three businesses included finding creative ways to fund projects in an effort to keep prices affordable for consumers, and supporting not only food access but business ownership for residents of color in Bed Stuy. The panel was moderated by a staff member at The Working World, a non-extractive lender who funds and offers training to cooperative businesses. It was really inspiring to learn about a financer who is not interested in taking people’s money to turn a profit but instead in genuinely supporting small co-ops to be successful.

A large part of the conference on the second day focused on action planning and next steps. I went to a strategy session on Food Chain Issues and why it’s so challenging for good food to be both affordable for communities and profitable for small farmers. We identified many of the barriers to food access, including lack of a shared baseline understanding of what affordability means, a food chain that is ambiguous to many, lack of a shared analysis of historical inequities in the food system, federal policies, and more. We also began a group brainstorm of ways individuals and communities can work to reduce the cost of food without harming farmers.

Both keynote speakers, Director of FoodLab Detroit Devita Davison and Dr. Ricardo Salvdor, the Food and Environment Program Director at the Union of Concerned Scientists spoke about the historical roots of racism and classism in the food system that continue to play out today. Dr. Salvador shared that “the future of food justice is the future of the country”, and that food and the struggles around it are so core to who this country is and has been that there is no way to make forward progress without addressing it. He spoke to the reality that the ways Black, Latinx and Indigenous people and low income people have been deprived of their food base throughout history through land theft, enslavement and disenfranchisement have been core to the creation of the economic poverty many people experience today.

Devita Davison shared about the importance of Black ownership and entrepreneurship in food and farming, as opposed to charity models. It was powerful to hear her talk about the human revolutionary capacity to exercise creativity in the face of destruction, and the importance of visioning, faith and relationships in bringing forth the food justice work and labor of love we want to see. It has been a large focus of Groundswell in recent months to ground ourselves in the history of both oppression and creativity/regeneration in U.S. agriculture, and it was beneficial and inspiring to hear the perspectives and framing of these two leaders.

In all, I was glad for the opportunity to attend the Just Food Conference, connect with old friends from NYC (and Ithaca farmers too!), brainstorm with people from around the state about justice and equity in the food supply chain, and learn about the work and organizations of many powerful farmers and activists. It also made me even more excited for the Farm to Plate Conference, coming to Ithaca May 11th-13th!

Our Thoughts on Recent Tragedies and our Role in Social Injustice, Systemic Racism

At Groundswell today our hearts are heavy with the ongoing murder of Black people by police officers. Tyre King, a 13 year old child in Columbus, Ohio, Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlottesville, North Carolina were murdered within days of each other by law enforcement officers over the past two weeks. Their deaths have left people around the country reeling, heartbroken, terrified, enraged, and wondering what it will take to end the violence against Black and Brown people that has plagued the United States since its inception.

In my new position at Groundswell I have been asking the same questions, and what our role is as a farming organization in contributing to an end to this violence. What are the connections we must draw between injustice in the food system and murders of Black people by police? What is the connection between the small percentage of farmers of color in Tompkins County and the land theft/labor exploitation that built the foundation of this country? Farmers and food justice activists of color have been drawing the connections for years, urging the food movement to genuinely grapple with systemic racism and how it undergirds all of our work when left unacknowledged.


I have also recently been inspired by the National Young Farmers Coalition statement “Ending Violence Against People of Color in Food and Farming”. It is a document created by a predominantly white organization recognizing the need to affirm and center that Black Lives Matter in their advocacy work for young farmers. More predominantly white organizations must address racism as a central barrier to creating a vibrant and sustainable food and farming movement, and commit to action steps to dismantle it. All of our lives depend on it. The NYFC statement makes me hopeful that this will continue to happen.


To further our own learning on these topics, tomorrow the Groundswell Staff head to Soul Fire Farm in Petersburg, NY. Soul Fire is a family farm committed to ending racism, injustice and food apartheid in the food system. With a focus on training and empowering Black, Latino and Indigenous farmers, they are doing the crucial work of ensuring food is being grown by and for, farmland owned and operated by people of color. I am excited to learn about how we can support this work in the Finger Lakes Region, and how we can better recognize the interconnectedness of all of our issues in a food system that serves the interests of so few people.


We will share more in the upcoming weeks on our reflections from Soul Fire Farm and about the work we are doing concretely as an organization to address injustice. For now, we say the names of Tyre King, Terence Crutcher, and Keith Lamont Scott. We send our love and solidarity to their families and to those who organize around the U.S. for a country free of racist violence, from the cities to the fields, from Columbus to Tulsa to Charlotte to Ithaca.


– Kate Cardona 9/23/16


ADDENDUM: If others would like to join us on our trip to Soul Fire tomorrow, 9/24, we have available space. Current traveling cars are full, but if somebody can drive their own car, is willing to take others, Groundswell will cover the mileage.  Please email us if you would like to come along.

From the Director May 2016: Seeking the Balance of Equity in Local Farming

From the Director May 2016: Seeking the Balance of Equity in Local Farming

Perhaps you saw the article last week After a Century in Decline, Black Farmers Are Back and on the Rise.” The article received great attention, as it should. It was published originally by Yes! Magazine, and republished by more than a half-dozen other online news sources. The article was forwarded to me by 5 individuals and came through my inbox via 5 different list serves.  To be honest, I momentarily found it refreshing to know that I’m in the loop on current events involving farming and people of color. Rather, I should say, at least my inbox is in the loop.

I ask myself almost constantly; what are we, Groundswell, doing to change a ‘business as usual’ paradigm in farming?

If you read our newsletter regularly, you know that Groundswell’s mission includes the word “diverse”. In the context of our mission, diverse means multiple cultures, nationalities, races, genders, classes, and ages; however, we have a priority to engage diversity in race, culture and class. Diversity is key to establishing a just and sustainable food system that enhances the lives of farmers, food producers, eaters and our planet.

In my four months as director, I have spent much of my time listening to people and reflecting on past actions of the organization with regards to equity and inclusion. I have heard praises, disappointments and all things in between. What is clear is that we have done amazing work training people to be new farmers and to support the continuing education of existing farmers; and we continue to do so. We have provided land access to New Americans through our Incubator Farm Program, who have in turn been able to start successful farm businesses.  Through our farm business class and one-on-one support, we have helped and supported Cha Cha and the development of the non-profit he has created in Ghana called Ndor Eco Village.  We have involved people of diverse races in planning meetings and hiring processes. We have reached out to communities of color in hopes to bring more diversity to our programs. We have paid consultants to educate our staff and board on equity and inclusion and specifically, to help us understand how to diversify our work.

Yet, most of our program participants are not people of color.  

We are still a predominantly white organization.  

This story is not new. Just last fall, Groundswell founder and former Director Joanna reflected on our inclusion and diversity efforts when she wrote this blog post in response to a staff member of color resigning. It’s important for us to revisit these lessons repeatedly.

Consequently, many questions arise for me at this point in the job. Are the relationships that exist between Groundswell and communities of color synergistic and built on trust? Are we having an impact on “creating equitable food systems” and how do we know? What systems have we developed to hold us accountable to ensuring that priority is placed on inclusion and equity in our work?  What are we teaching in our curricula that recognizes the racist and brutalist history of agriculture in our country or the land-theft in this State? How are we committing to diversity and inclusion in all our work, and not just as a “project” of our work? Does being a mostly white organization mean we are not successful? What does “success” look like in this work?  

I’ve just begun to ask these questions and to establish the foundation to be able to answer them. It feels important to me to keep you well-informed to the work we are doing in this regard.  With time, my hope is that transparency helps elicit trust and provides an opportunity for feedback and support.  Food justice work is complex. It is challenging. It is personal. And it takes a committed community working together.

Here are just some of our current efforts:

  • Learning about, engaging with and participating in food justice efforts in the immediate and regional community that support and celebrate all races and cultures.
  • Continuing to educate ourselves through conversations with others and enrolling staff and board members in workshops and trainings on diversity and race including but not limited to NLI – From Scarcity to Abundance.
  • Developing a set of evaluation tools and preparing to conduct assessments of Groundswell program effectiveness.
  • Including in the job description of all Groundswell staff the responsibility of attending and assisting local or regional groups in ways they say they need support.
  • Drafting a hiring protocol that holds us accountable to create accessible position descriptions that value lived experiences as well as ‘traditional’ experiences, publicizes these positions near and far both online and in person, offers alternative forms of interviewing methods, and requires a team of diverse reviewers who make the final hiring choice. We will be sharing this draft protocol soon, through our e-lists and with our partners, in hopes to receive feedback and improve it before it’s implemented.   
  • Hiring staff members who were chosen in large part because of their commitment to a just food system and the promotion of anti-racist communities. We will share more about these new positions once they officially start this summer.  
  • Beginning the developing of curricula to be included in all of our programs that will include but not be limited to historical information about how the legacy of racial discrimination affects black Americans to learn farming, develop food businesses and secure land and what land-grab efforts were like in New York State and the impact on Native Americans.
  • Planning a series of stakeholder meetings in part with the intention of designing programs with input from the groups for which these programs are supposed to serve.

Though the work of Soul Fire Farm deserves recognition and to be shared far and wide, we hope that stories like this becomes less and less rare. Like you, we envision a society where there is an increase in farmers and food producers of all races, classes, genders and cultures; a society without food insecurity and injustice. We are committed to doing our part to train and support these producers. And furthermore, we are committed to expanding and improving our efforts and behaviors to be more inclusive, respectful and celebratory of diversity.  We look forward to working together to achieve these goals. We will make mistakes.  We will make people happy. And we welcome your feedback and support to hold us accountable to this imperative work along the way.

October From the Director

October From the Director

Natasha Bowens 9-20-2015WEBNatasha Bowens’ keynote address at the 2015 Food Justice Fair gave us all a lot to think about. The author of The Color of Food, Bowens talked about the legacy of discrimination and land loss among black farmers, but also about the continuing legacy of innovation, cooperation, and earth stewardship among today’s farmers of color.

Bowens asked us to “dig deeper” into the reasons why so many White-led organizations struggle to “engage” people of color in their agendas. And her answer, in part, is that we too often fail to recognize and honor the existing leadership of farmers and activists of color.

At the post-Fair Community Dinner & Conversation that night, Natasha and a panel of local food justice activists challenged those of us who have access to resources — like leadership positions, fulfilling jobs, land, business ownership, government grants — toCommunity Conversation 9-20-2015WEB“dig deeper” into the reasons why we have access to these resources and others do not.

And in digging deeper, we have to confront the historical and systemic disadvantages that entire groups of people have endured, and that still place them at a significant disadvantage. We need to acknowledge the many advantages that other groups have enjoyed, and that continue to smooth their pathway to leadership and “success.”

This little graphic has helped us to think about equity vs equality:

Equity vs Equality

“Equity involves trying to understand and give people what they need to enjoy full, healthy lives. Equality, in contrast, aims to ensure that everyone gets the same things in order to enjoy full, healthy lives. Like equity, equality aims to promote fairness and justice, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same things. (From Embracing Equity: 7 Steps to Advance and Embed Race Equity and Inclusion within Your Organization, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation)

At Groundswell we are beginning to teach ourselves to think about equity in our programs and in our organization in terms of questions like: What resources and supports do various groups in our community need in order to have the opportunity to farm, and how can we assist them in getting access to those resources? What do they need in order to develop leadership within our own organization, and how can we assist them in that process?

This will be an ongoing learning process, and we invite you to share your own insights and experiences with us as we go forward.

Joanna Green


2015 Binghamton Food Justice Tour

2015 Binghamton Food Justice Tour

Over 20 people from the central NY region participated in a September “Food Justice Study Tour” organized by Groundswell and hosted by VINES – Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments – in Binghamton. VINES is doing amazing work on multiple fronts – check out our photo album below.


Social Justice, Inclusion and Accountability

At Groundswell we talk a lot about social justice, food sovereignty, inclusion and equity. We participate in all sorts of community initiatives that share the vision of a more equitable food system. But are we really making any kind of difference, in the world or even within our own organization?

I have often claimed that, at Groundswell, “We are creating an integrated, multicultural social and economic support network for beginning farmers and market gardeners, one that brings together people from different economic backgrounds and cultures to learn from one another and to strengthen our local food system.”

But is this really happening? And who is holding us accountable to our vision?

Groundswell recently received a kind but firm kick-in-the-behind in the accountability department, causing us to take a hard look at ourselves and our commitment to social justice. Sadly, long-time Groundswell member Rafael Aponte resigned his staff position recently, expressing frustration that we are “unable to collectively put equity at the forefront of (our) work.” (For Rafa’s complete resignation letter, please scroll to the bottom of this blog post.)

Sad as I am to lose Rafa as a staff member, I choose to view the situation as an important opportunity for Groundswell. By being transparent about the issues he has raised, and how we respond over time, I hope that others can learn from our experience, and that collectively we can get past talking the talk, to walking the walk towards real equity and inclusion.

As an organization, we have struggled to achieve a shared understanding of what social justice, equity and inclusion really mean, and what they require of us. At various times in our 5-year history we’ve invested more or less energy in educating ourselves about food sovereignty, racism in the food system, and white privilege. We’ve had hard conversations, and we’ve had long stretches without those hard conversations.

Rafael now challenges us to figure out how to “not just engage but empower” the communities we try to serve. His specific recommendations are to:

  • Collect data and establish metrics to determine whether Groundswell’s programs and services achieve equity and deliver results to the audiences it has committed to serve.

  • Create internal policies, tools, and structures to train and ensure all staff are able to incorporate equity strategies into their work on the ground level.

  • Design and implement programs and services with input or participation of the groups for which those same programs and services are supposed to serve.

  • Solicit consultation from an outside organization that would provide guidance in establishing healthy communication across class, race, and gender between Groundswell, its members, and intended audiences.

  • Create a decision matrix for staff and board that allows for evaluation of current internal and external equity strategies.

I would add to these a recommendation that we establish an Accountability Team of community members and others who can really hold us accountable to our social justice goals, call us out when needed, and help guide us towards our vision of an equitable and resilient food system.

We look forward to sharing our progress – and our missteps – with you as we walk this path. We also invite you to share your thoughts, your experiences, and your suggestions with us. Thank you for contributing in this, and so many other ways.

Joanna Green, Director

Rafael will be spending the next couple of months closing out this season at his farm in Freeville, NY with the continued goal of achieving equity and food sovereignty through his work. He remains in communication with Groundswell and can be reached directly at

Rafael Aponte’s Letter of Resignation:


Dear Joanna and Friends,

Groundswell is an organization with tremendous potential; however, I have recently lost confidence in the ability of the organization to address the growing need for equity in our community. Please accept this letter as formal notification that I am resigning from my position as outreach coordinator with Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming, effective immediately. This has been an incredibly difficult decision because I admire and respect so much of the work Groundswell has been able to accomplish, but it falls short in this critical area.

Throughout my time with Groundswell, first as a member of the board and later as staff, I have been part of the ongoing efforts to create a vibrant, sustainable, local food community. While I am grateful for the many opportunities to work alongside extremely dedicated, talented, and hard-working individuals, I cannot continue to work within an organization that is unable to collectively put equity at the forefront of its work.

If Groundswell desires to remain true to the values and mission to which it ascribes itself, it will take the combined collaborative efforts of its leadership, staff, and all its constituents and not the work of a single individual. It is my hope that Groundswell can rise to the challenge with sustained effort to institutionalize a truly equitable framework that empowers its community and not merely engages it .

I count Groundswell as an important ally in the larger fabric of creating a just and sustainable food system and I hope to make this transition as straightforward as possible. Much gratitude to everyone I have had the opportunity to work with and I look forward to working with you to create an equitable food future.



Rafael Aponte


Coming Soon: A Food Policy Council for Tompkins County

Coming Soon: A Food Policy Council for Tompkins County

Citizens are encouraged to help shape local food policy

The Food System – Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems Social Issues Team and Elliott Kuhn (graphic artist), 2004.

We all eat. A lot of us love to eat local. We care deeply about the food we eat and the farmers who grow it. But most of us tend to ignore an important piece of our food system – the policy piece. That’s in spite of the fact that almost all of our food choices are shaped – and limited – by local, state and national policies.

Many communities are taking food policy into their own hands by creating a Food Policy Council to advise local governments and promote policies that will encourage a more locally-based, sustainable and equitable food system.

About a year ago, concerned citizens got together to start working on creating a Food Policy Council for Ithaca and Tompkins County. Many members of the Groundswell community have been involved in this process. We developed a proposed structure and election process for the Council and are now in the process of seeking feedback from local citizens, organizations and businesses.

Join the Council

We are now actively recruiting potential Council members who can represent diverse policy stakeholders, including low-income consumers, farmers, food workers, and food business owners. Most of the initial 25 members of the Council will be elected this October from different sectors of the food system, with a focus on those who currently do not have a strong voice in food policy. Some will be appointed by groups with a special stake in the food system or that work closely with people who tend to be underserved by it.  If you think you might be interested, please contact the Planning Group at or 607-252-6695.

Become a “Friend of the Food Policy Council”

Unlike some Food Policy Councils, whose members are appointed by government, our Council members will be elected by a larger supporting group we are calling the “Friends of the Food Policy Council.” Friends will play many important roles including providing transportation and child care for Council members who need it in order to participate.  They may also participate in some of the training activities which we will be organizing in order to educate ourselves about policy issues and processes.

Anyone can become a Friend of the Food Policy Council, simply by submitting your name, address, and contact information (phone and/or email). Friends will receive periodic updates and be able to seek a seat on the Council, and/or to vote for the candidates, in October. If you want to be a Friend, to learn more, to offer your ideas on how the food system could be improved, please contact the Planning Group at or 607-252-6695.

Call to Action: Dig Deeper!

Call to Action: Dig Deeper!

by Rafael Aponte, Outreach Coordinator

With the summer almost upon us in the Finger Lakes, DSC_4380things are beginning to heat up, and the time for heavy lifting is here!

During times of hard work I am inspired by the community gardeners I saw as a child in the South Bronx. These gardeners fought to reclaim abandoned plots of land from negligent landlords to create community spaces that would provide healthy food. I watched as they broke through man-made brick and leadened soils to turn barren spaces into ones of resilience and abundance. They took up their shovels as a political act of creating just alternatives to the conditions they faced.

It is in this spirit that I became a farmer.  And each season, I take up my own shovel to provide access to healthy, sustainably produced foods to underserved communities. I founded Rocky Acres Community Farm to support these principles and assist in creating new pathways to a fair food future.

All food is political, whether intended to be or not. The price of food, our access to it, and the hands that harvest it all carry a political implication. Unfortunately, not everyone’s best interests are reflected in what ultimately ends up on our plates. By fostering a space that allows for education and collaboration, we can confront the asymmetrical power structures that deny equity in our food system.

Here at Groundswell, we are pushing to support the many communities that are taking action to create a just structure where their voices are heard and their needs are met. From those returning home from war, families new to the U.S., or those historically denied access to land, Groundswell strives to provide support and education that acknowledges the struggles that both farmers and food citizens face.

If we only scratch the surface, our roots will never fully take hold.  As we dig deeper past the barriers we face and through our dominant cultural paradigms, we can see much larger systems at play. It is this broader systems thinking that allows us to make the necessary structural changes to create a food system that sustains us all.

We must take the time to look at what holds us back. Critical analysis of these barriers is the first step in producing a proactive framework that addresses them. We must all ask ourselves, what is stopping my community from creating a just food system?

Grab your shovel, roll up your sleeves, and lets all dig deeper.

Trainee Spotlight: Steven Kidd, Carrie McCracken TRUCE Garden

Trainee Spotlight: Steven Kidd, Carrie McCracken TRUCE Garden

A photo from the Carrie McCracken TRUCE Garden: “Marilyn Mosely explains the garden’s child-affirming Memorial Sunflower Project to a new neighbor. Though one of our community’s invisible structurally unemployed, she contributes many volunteer hours creating graphic work for the garden. Leaders are but stakes for the vines to begin their assent. The year is starting out  tough; but we are climbing higher.” – Steven Kidd

By Milagros Gustafson-Hernandez

Steven Kidd is a gardener and community organizer in the food sovereignty movement in Harlem, NYC, and participated in Groundswell’s Farm Business Planning Course in 2012. Here he shares his story and his hopes for the future.

Steven became interested in farming in the late 70’s, when he moved from Harlem to Kentucky. There he met his ex father-in-law, a Louisiana native who grew vegetables for his family on a plot of land. When his father-in-law passed away, his children- including Steven’s ex-wife, disagreed about what to do with the land. His ex wife wanted to continue her father’s legacy of farming, but could not come up with the financing to purchase it.  The other sibling sold the land for about 1/8 of what it was worth. Steven feels this is a prime example of the epidemic of black land loss in our country: how predatory financiers scoop up black-owned land at a fraction of its worth, leaving generations of black families landless and with fewer assets over generations.

Shortly after this incident left him shaken, Steven became determined to get involved with gardening. Some friends of his were growing peppers in their backyards and were jarring pepper sauces in their homes, where they had set up processing kitchens. Steven began looking for spots to garden in the city. A sign on the fence of a nearby vacant lot said it was being taken care of as a community gardening project, but no one was really tending to the garden, and it was locked and inaccessible. So Steven had to travel quite a distance to another community to do his gardening. He felt the commute was unnecessary if there was a spot near his home that could be used.  He contacted the City and they eventually provided him with a key to the garden near his home.

This garden became the Carrie McCracken TRUCE Community Garden in Harlem, NY, a garden which “striv[es] for a green and welcoming space offering horticultural, educational, and cultural activities.” This is the garden with which Steven spends most of his time now. Having a space to garden– to grow plants as well as community — was monumental. But Steven felt he needed more education and training.

Under the Giuliani era (1994-2001), many community gardens in NYC were sold to private entities, an issue that sparked a long and heated battle beween the Mayor, NYS Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, and community gardeners throughout the City. Finally in 2002, with the help of administrators and community members, community garden lands were transferred to the Parks Department for administration. This legal change made it more difficult for the property to be sold or taken away because it falls under the category of recreational park land. This was a big victory for city gardeners and the fight for the right to grow food nationwide, and also was a milestone in Steven’s personal goal to bring about lasting and meaningful social change.

Steven came across Groundswell while searching for farmer training in his region. In 2012, through Groundswell’s Farm Business Planning Course, he gained skills in business planning and marketing. Steven believes that the need for farmer training is only growing, and more resources are needed to fill this demand. “There are thousands of African Americans that are interested in growing their own food or exploring the possibilities of being farmers. I’m personally aware of at least 50 families that are interested in growing their own food and I truly believe that it is bringing people together.”

When asked what the biggest thing he got from Groundswell, Steven says “Hope.” He is adamant that we, as a nation, must address environmental issues without exploiting others, and feels inspired that Groundswell is trying to do just that. He says his passion is renewed by seeing people who are working for change every day. “There’s a big movement to go green right now. The biggest problem is apathy; many people just can’t see or don’t care that there’s a problem,” he says. As someone who has experienced firsthand being excluded from opportunities in his quest for knowledge and learning, Steven also feels that it’s hard to find a place “where people are open to you – where you are not treated like an outsider.”

“Groundswell does not put limitations on you. They have you think critically.  They give you the opportunity to think things through and give you the information and training to figure it out for yourself,” he says.

Steven is currently exploring an apprenticeship model to becoming a farm owner, and maintaining active farmland in a sustainable manner. Currently, people from his organization are taking classes with Hawthorne Valley Farm in the Hudson Valley, which is closer to New York City. Hawthorne Valley now provides one meeting a month in NYC. In the future, Steven would like to participate in a plant sale for city gardeners sponsored by the City of New York. In addition, he’d like to set up a company that brokers small farmers and urban entrepreneurs.

We at Groundswell are inspired to hear about Steven’s work for food sovereignty in the City and hope to hear more in the days to come.

To learn more about the Carrie McCracken TRUCE garden, visit

The Jewel of Lisle: A Garden Provides

The Jewel of Lisle: A Garden Provides
The Lisle Community Garden.

by Barbara C. Harrison

“Traveling to Apalachin, NY in June 2011, I came across a community garden. I stopped and walked the area. I was so taken with the size and beauty of the garden. This was not a community garden as we would characteristically think of a community garden, divided into individual plots and worked by individuals. It was one large plot gardened by the community. There was no one around, just a sign saying, ‘Take what you can use for the next two days,’ ” recounts Jodie Van Wert, founder of the Lisle Community Garden.

A seed was planted. As she drove toward home, Jodie began thinking about how this kind of garden could become a reality in the Village of Lisle where she resides and works as a postal employee. “I deliver the mail. I see how people live. There is a huge need in this area for fresh vegetables and food. It is not available,” states Jodie.

A few months later, Jodie contacted Jerry Mackey, the Mayor of Lisle about the concept of a garden for the Village. He agreed, and her idea began to take shape.

Lisle is a small town located in the Southern Tier of New York State where everyone knows everyone else. All you need to do is mention your idea to one person. Word of mouth will spread it around town and bring to the table a group of interested people that have a passion, in this instance for gardening and/or giving.

It started with four women sitting around a dining room table; in addition to Jodie, there was Dee Bodner. “Jodie asked me to help. I told her the summer is a hectic time for me. I am busy with my own garden, yard, and grandchildren, but I will help. The next thing I knew, I was at meetings. I said yes, I could call people. Let’s do some fundraising. Before I knew it, it was all consuming,” explains Dee. Another co-founder, Jane Nohe, lives a few doors down from Dee. The post office, where Jodie works is across the street. Jane offered the land that borders her house, located on the southeast corner of Route 79 and River Road. Today The Jewel of Lisle blossoms in all its glory; sparkling with tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini, broccoli, kohlrabi, sunflowers, beets, lettuce and cabbage to name some of the produce that grows there. A colorful sign catches the eye of those who pass by, letting them know that this garden belongs to all who need produce in Lisle and the surrounding towns. 

Tomatoes and potatoes in the garden.

Asking Jane what prompted her to offer her land and volunteer with the garden, she tells me, “We needed a piece of property for the garden, and in the Village preferably. We had a portion of land available. So I said, why not use it. As far as volunteering, it was something I thought that I could do. My previous volunteer job had ended. I had free time and went with this one. On the day we pick, I record all the produce, by type of vegetable, and the weight. We then know how much we obtained from the garden. We can look back at the record and see what vegetables produced well and which ones didn’t.”

Tressa Smith, another co-founder, a life long resident of Lisle, and who works at Greene’s Hardware, what she calls the hub of the community, continues the story. “The number of people who came to meetings became so large that the dining room table couldn’t hold them all and we moved the to the local library to continue growing Jodie’s idea.

“There was a lot of doubt at first at the meetings. Do you girls realize what you are getting into? Yes, it is a six-month commitment. When you are talking gardens, you can’t always depend on things. We realized that it wasn’t a sure-fire thing and we didn’t know how well it was going to produce, even with a few of us having gardening experience under our belts. Some produce is better than none, and we wanted to try. There was concern about kids vandalizing, which by the way has never happened. This was not a reason to stop trying. And like a miracle it began coming together. Over the winter a friend became restless and started planting seeds for the garden. She was overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do. I told my husband I needed a greenhouse. We wrapped our broken down gazebo in plastic and voila we had a greenhouse. I offered space to my neighbor who was deluged with plants. We put a little heater in and kept going. Every time we ran into an obstacle, there was an answer. Somebody offered help and it changed our situation,” Dee recounts.

“Once the word got out that we were going to create a garden, the Village put the money up front to start a seed fund,” relates Tressa. “I felt guilty going to the greenhouses because they wouldn’t take my money. They would load my truck. I have a sizeable truck and the bed of my truck would be full of cabbage, cauliflower, or a hundred pepper plants.” For many individual community members, this was personal. They not only gave of their time, but after planting their gardens, they donated whatever seeds and plants were left over to the garden. Then there were the contributions of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church groups, and businesses like Tru Value and Greene’s Hardware, that gave garbage cans, buckets, gloves, and paint. The pharmacist contributed first aid supplies. Bottles of water were presented. The Mayor donated seeds. People started seeing things happen. When the garden was being prepared, a local farmer spread manure. New Holland Tractor drove from Vestal about 26 miles away, hauling a tractor on a trailer. Their guys tilled the soil free of charge. Two local growers, Growing Gardens on Route 79 and Whitney Point Flowers on Hickory Street provided many, many plants. Green’s wholesaler supplied quite a few plants to us at the end of his season. The plants are doing well, and are producing!

The community garden received an overabundance of seed donations and plants. In dire need, they sought a second space. Enter Tressa with her meadow and her philosophy of life. “There are those in this world that are takers and those that are givers. This was a way that I could be a giver and be home, work near and from home. I had a meadow that I wanted to do something with, whether it was building a baseball diamond for the neighborhood kids, or something else for the community. The garden seemed to be the most needed,” recounts Tressa. “If I had known about the pressing need that I have found in the last three weeks, and had a larger well, my 80 x 80 foot garden would be four acres. What prompted me to start it was to see what I could do myself and with a few volunteers. Maybe because I work at the local hardware store, I continually have people walking in and asking, ‘Do you have any? What’s coming ripe? Do you have any squash?’ Our need right now is mammoth. I have a list in my pocket of people waiting for summer squash, zucchini, and tomatoes. I can’t possibly meet them all. I’ve had to sacrifice my family pumpkins to make sure I have tomatoes to feed people.”

Through the winter and spring months, volunteers continued with the necessary preparation to ready the gardens for planting. On March 25, 2012, the sign went up, informing people that the Lisle Community Garden was a reality. On June 2nd, the first planting took place. Jodie explains, “We deliver to the needy and the elderly to begin with. It’s a small community. We pretty much know who can use produce and who can’t plant their own gardens. There is a big network of volunteers so we put our heads together. As I run into someone, I ask if they know of anybody that can use fresh produce. We deliver up to the Chow Unit. We go to the senior housing center and the shut-ins that we are made aware of. I set up at the Broome County Fair for a week. I got some more volunteers who gave me more names and numbers of people who could benefit from the Garden’s vegetables. The local churches have helped with the shut-in list.”

Jodie conveys one of many experiences she has had delivering produce. “I was delivering by myself. I went to Whitney Point Estates, a mobile home park. There are a lot of elderly who live there and a few people who are disabled. They were so tickled. I had one gentleman who is probably in his late nineties that use to be a postal employee. He did a lot for the community. I brought produce to his door. He use to garden, but he doesn’t anymore because he is wheelchair bound. I took his produce and put it away in his refrigerator. He sat there with tears in his eyes. That’s what it’s all about.”

There has been a resounding vote of confidence from all who have received food from the community garden. Jodie explains, “We are growing vegetables that people have never tried before. We are expanding their horizons. We try to tell them what the vegetable is, how to cook it and encourage them to move toward a healthier lifestyle.”

Tressa shares another story. “It was a good harvest week. Dee and I had picked over 150 lbs. My truck was full of crates, and baskets. Even my back seat was full of stuff, lettuce. We were driving around town. We have a list of shut-ins from the local mail delivery who can’t get out. First, we stop by the house of a man who is blind. We continue dropping off produce. For some, it was our second visit. We ended up in the trailer park. It’s a well-maintained park. One of the things we’re looking for are ramps. Many elderly live there. The people there are one step away from the nursing home. There is a young woman out in her yard. Her home has a ramp, which intrigued me. I said that we were from the Lisle Garden. I pretty much opened the truck. I asked her if she could use some produce. She said, ‘Sure.’ I asked her, ‘Would you like a head of cabbage?’ She replied, ‘Absolutely.’ Tressa knew that they were a low-income family and that this would help. Tressa asked her if she would like some kohlrabi. She tried to pronounce it. I said, ‘kohl-ra-bi. It’s like a broccoli or a turnip, and tastes like cabbage. You can eat the leaves and the bud.’ I showed her. She said, ‘I don’t have a clue how to cook it but I am going to make a soup.’

“She took kale, which she had never had before. She was going to make a soup. She took me over to her porch where she had tomato plants and squash growing in pots. The plants were looking very sad. I explained that they needed a little fertilizer. I not only dropped off fresh veggies to this woman, but two buckets of horse poop to help her fertilize her own garden to keep it going. I just asked her to return the buckets to the garden when she was done and she did. She was going to take anything we had to offer because she was going to make a soup. She didn’t know the name or how to pronounce the vegetables, but she was going to take it because she could subsidize her family’s food for that week. I’ve stopped back, and her tomatoes are doing better. I’ve taken her on as a project. To make soup you need an onion and a garlic.”

“It appears that more people than ever are in need of food. It’s important that it is all fresh produce. It is imperative not just to feed people, but that the food that they are getting is nutritious. What they get at food banks and pantries is canned and dried food. It’s better than nothing, but this is the best. We are supplying fresh, locally grown, non-certified organic produce,” asserts Dee.

Another story that illuminates the essence of why the Lisle Community Garden is the jewel of the community was shared by Dee. “We had a woman and her son stop by on a Sunday and asked if we had any zucchini. We had had a large harvest on Saturday. It was a big truck and promotion day. I told her that I would go into the garden and see what we had. She told me that she would take anything. It hit me that she was hungry at that moment.

“I took her into the garden with me. Jane and I picked zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes. We had her and her son pick the green beans. Jane proceeded to measure and document what had been picked. The woman thanked us. I informed her about the lunch program that we have at the fire station in Lisle, and told her to be sure to go over to the station on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It’s an hour commitment, but the parents get a lunch totally free. On Friday, you are given food to take home for the weekend. I asked her if she had ever gone to the food bank. She said no, that she didn’t even know where it was. I told her where the food pantry was and that she didn’t need to give out any information. The only thing they asked was how many people were in the family. This way they knew how much food to send home. I got her hooked up with those two things. I would hate for her to be in that position again.”

Lisle Community Garden reflects the true essence of what it means to be part of a community; of what it means when an individual with an idea takes the initiative, and joins together people of many different talents to assist people in need by treating them with respect and dignity, ensuring that they remain part of the community. A community garden not only cultivates the produce the earth produces, but it grows a culture of civic participation and a philosophy of community involvement.

For any questions as to how your community might grow a garden, don’t hesitate to contact the Lisle Community Garden at:

Facebook page:

The Quintessential Black Farmer: Preparing the garden

The Quintessential Black Farmer: Preparing the garden
Weeding the urban garden plot

by Kirtrina Baxter

Today I decided to prep the garden for my spring planting. This will be my first official private food garden. I have grown lots of food in many places over the years, but never have I had the sole responsibility of growing food myself. Last year in I built an herb spiral in my backyard in Ithaca that grew well and I was able to harvest from, and I’ve grown herbs in the past on my own. I also put in a raised bed last year, but was too busy working on other projects to actually grow anything. Over the past 14 years I have participated with neighbors on community gardens, grown veggies at a few friend’s houses and helped grow produce and flowers at farms. However, this is my first very own food garden and I am totally excited. It is ironic that I lived in the country for 8 years and had to come back to the city to grow food, but I am up for the challenge and really excited to be urban gardening again.

While looking for a house in Philadelphia I had 3 priorities: lots of windows and sunlight; large closets; and a kitchen with lots of counter space. But I attached to this list a desire to have a small place to grow food. I figured, it was the city, and I didn’t want to expect too much. Well, I got everything I asked for and more. Not only do I have lots of light, closet and kitchen space, but my little backyard is actually a nice-sized garden plot. AWESOME!! I don’t need a bunch of trees and grass, although that is nice, as long as I can place my hands in some dirt and come up green!

The realtor who showed me the place said that it was set up as a garden, though no other tenant had used it as such. At first look, it seemed my 2 adjacent neighbors, who have the same lot as mine, could be gardeners as well. One had what seemed to be a rock garden, and the other had filled her space with rock mulch. To my surprise, when I met my neighbor with the rock garden (or so I thought) she told me that the women who lived here before me grew lots of veggies the last two seasons and that she too was planning on growing some this year. She had a bad case of moles two years previous and decided to do an overhaul of her space, hence the covered backyard and the large rounded rocks that were just placed there to keep the covering down.

My neighborhood, Brewerytown, has a rich African American history and actually hosts the former home of the late great John Coltrane. As one of the city’s most promising revitalization projects, it claims to be the next “up & coming” neighborhood in the city with new restaurants, condos and a vibrant community garden not too far from my home at a recreation center. However, as anyone who knows Philadelphia will tell you, it is the not the neighborhood that defines a great place to live, but the block. And by far I have a wonderful block. Houses are nicely kept, we have a small community center at one end of the block where community meetings are held, and there is a children’s playground and basketball court at the other end. We even boast an active block association.

Materials for a soil acidity test

So as I ponder what to grow and the layout of my garden, I have been utilizing some of the wonderful websites that I have found geared towards urban gardeners. There is a wonderful gardener and teacher out of Atlanta, who has a host of information on his website. He has podcasts and demonstrative Youtube videos for the beginner to the experienced gardener. Listening to one of his podcasts, I was instructed in a little known secret of how to test the acidity levels in soil with uncomplicated home utensils: soil, vinegar and a teacup. He also had a great home application for doing a soil fractional analysis. Both of these I tried out today and found that I have a pretty balanced alkaline/acid level in my soil and it is more sandy than clay. Did I mention that I have also decided to do some basement vericomposting? Well, this gardener has a video of how to start basement vermiculture with instructions so easy anyone could do it. Look forward to hearing more about that soon, too, as I will share with you pictures on the progress of my garden project.

Til next time,

Plowing Over: Can Urban Farming Save Detroit and Other Declining Cities? Will the Law Allow It?

Plowing Over: Can Urban Farming Save Detroit and Other Declining Cities? Will the Law Allow It?

This article from the American Bar Association Journal addresses the legal intricacies of urban farming in Chicago and other cities- how organizations are acquiring land, what zoning challenges they face, and how some city governments are bending their own rules to make way for the new green industry.
The article also links to three urban farming resources (in PDF) that are available for public view:
Growing Food in the City: The Production Potential of Detroit’s Vacant Land
Re-Imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland
Vacant Land Management in Philadelphia

It’s a warm day in April, and Skip Wiener is showing off the crown jewel of gardens that the Urban Tree Connection has created out of 29 vacant lots in the poverty-ridden Haddington neighborhood on Philadelphia’s west side.

The site, tucked away in the center of a block of 60 homes, once was used by a construction firm for storage. When Wiener, the founder and director of the UTC, was first alerted about the property by a local block captain, it was overgrown, riddled with industrial waste, and a haven for drug dealers and prostitutes.

It was just what the UTC was looking for. The nonprofit organization supports renewal efforts in low-income communities by turning abandoned open spaces into various types of gardens, including some devoted to growing fruits and vegetables.

The site is now called the Neighborhood Food Central Production Farm. Any remaining debris has been pushed to the side; wood chips have been sprinkled over the driveway; and, in the center, neat rows of vegetables are growing, marked by cheerful hand-painted signs announcing such crops as potatoes, bok choy, collards and cabbages.

The “farm” is special, partly because of its comparatively large size—two-thirds of an acre—but also because it’s the only property over which the UTC enjoys actual legal possession. On the others, says Wiener, the organization’s founder and executive director, “we’re basically squatting.”

The UTC’s farm typifies a growing but still uncertain movement to bring agriculture back to America’s cities.

Read more…

Via Campesina: Shashe Declaration

Via Campesina: Shashe Declaration

Via Campesina, the International Peasant Movement, just released the Shashe Declaration, a culmination of a recent meeting of agroecology trainers from around the globe. The document discusses threats to food security and affirms the goals and commitments of Via Campesina as they work to support sustainable farming by farmers with small holdings. To learn more, visit

1st Encounter of Agroecology Trainers in
Africa Region 1 of La Via Campesina
12-20 June 2011
Shashe Declaration


We are 47 people from 22 organizations in 18 countries (Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Angola, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, South Africa, Central African Republic, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Portugal, USA, France, and Germany).  We are farmers and staff representing member organizations of La Via Campesina, along with allies from other farmer organizations and networks, NGOs, academics, researchers, interpreters and others.  
We have been meeting at the Shashe Endogenous Development Training Centre in Masvingo Province, Zimbabwe to plan how to promote agroecology in our Region (Southern, Eastern & Central Africa). Here we have been privileged to witness firsthand the successful combination of agrarian reform with organic farming and agroecology carried out by local small holder farming families.  In what were once large cattle ranches owned by three large farmers who owned 800 head of cattle and produced no grain or anything else, there are now more than 365 small holder peasant farming families with more than 3,400 head of cattle, who also produce a yearly average of 1 to 2 tonnes of grain per family plus vegetables and other products, in many cases using agroecological methods and local peasant seeds.  This experience strengthens our commitment to and belief in agroecology and agrarian reform as fundamental pillars in the construction of Food Sovereignty.

Threats and Challenges to Small Holder Agriculture and Food Sovereignty

Our region of Africa is currently facing challenges and threats that together undermine the food security and well-being of our communities, displace small holder farmers and undercut their livelihoods, undermine our collective ability to feed our nations, and cause grave damage to the soil, the environment and the Mother Earth.  
These include local and regional manifestations of the global food price crisis and the climate crisis that have been produced by runaway neoliberal policies and the greed and profit-taking of Transnational Corporations (TNCs).   Cheap subsidized food imports brought by TNCs, made possible by misguided free trade agreements, lowers the prices we receive for our farm products, forcing families to abandon farming and migrate to cities, while undermining local and national food production. Foreign investors, invited in by some of our governments, grab the best farm land, displacing food producing local farmers, and redirecting that land toward environmentally devastating mining, agrofuel plantations that feed cars instead of people, and other export plantations that do nothing to build Food Sovereignty for our peoples, and only enrich a few.
At the same time, uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from Developed Countries and from the global corporate food system based on long distance transport and industrial agriculture are changing the climate in ways that directly affect farmers.  Our lands become more arid, with water ever more scarce, we face rising temperatures, and increased extreme weather conditions like severe storms, floods and droughts.  The dates of the rainy season have become completely unpredictable, so that nobody knows when to plant anymore.  The changing climate is also implicated in epidemics of communicable diseases of humans, crops and livestock.  All of this hurts farming families and affects food production.
We face TNCs who want to force GMO seeds into our countries, whether or not we currently have GMO bans, and agencies like the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) who conspire with TNCs like Cargill and Monsanto and with our governments to buy off national research and seed systems in order to sell GMO seeds. These seeds threaten the integrity of our local varieties and the health of our consumers.  The same companies even manipulate regional farmer organizations to push GMOs, and we call on such organizations to resist being used in such ways.
While our soils, agroecosytems and forests are ever more degraded by industrial agriculture and plantations, and local seed biodiversity is lost, the costs of production under the conventional “Green Revolution” model are more expensive and out of the reach of small holder farmers.  The price of chemical fertilizer on the world market, for example, has risen more than 300% in the last few years.
Faced with this bleak situation for small holder agriculture and Food Sovereignty in our region, as members of organizations belonging to La Via Campesina we take the following positions:
Positions of La Via Campesina in Africa Region 1
We believe that…
  • Agroecological farming as practiced by small holder farmers, and Food Sovereignty policies, offer the only reasonable and feasible solutions to these multiple challenges facing our Region.
  • Only agroecological methods (also called sustainable agriculture, organic farming, ecological agriculture, etc.) can restore soils and agroecosystems that have been degraded by industrial agriculture.  Even chemicals do not work after severe degradation, but with agroecology we can restore soil organic matter and fertility, along with functional agroecosystem processes and services like nutrient recycling, soil biology, natural pest control, etc.  We have seen that small holder agroecological systems have much greater total productivity than industrial monocultures, with little or no purchased inputs, reducing the dependency and increasing the autonomy and well-being of rural families while producing abundant and healthy food for our peoples. Global research by La Via Campesina demonstrates that Sustainable Peasant Agriculture Can Feed the World, based on endogenous knowledge and agroecology.
  • The global food system currently generates between 44 and 57% of global greenhouse gas emissions, almost all of which could be eliminated by transforming the food system based on the principles of agroecology, agrarian reform and Food Sovereignty.  Sustainable Peasant Agriculture Cools the Planet, and this is our best solution to climate change.
  • In order to adapt to a changing climate we need the greater resiliency of diversified agroecological systems (and water conservation and harvesting, watershed management, agroforestry, ground cover, etc.) and the genetic diversity of local peasant seeds and peasant seed systems.  We demand that our governments withdraw support from the corporate seed industry with it’s standardized and often genetically modified seeds, and instead support peasant seed systems based on recovering, saving, multiplying, storing, breeding and exchanging seeds at the local level.
  • Our national education and research systems are heavily biased toward the very industrial agriculture practices that are killing our planet and contributing to the failure of Africans to feed ourselves.  We demand the reorientation of research toward farmer-led methods and agroecology, and the transformation of curricula at primary and secondary schools levels, and in higher education, to focus on agroecology.
  • We call for an end to trade liberalization and the renewed protection of domestic markets so that African farmers can receive the fair prices that will enable us to boost production and feed our peoples.
  • We call on governments to create comprehensive programs to support agroecological farming by small holders and to rebuild Food Sovereignty, including genuine agrarian reform and the defense of peasant lands from land grabbing, the reorientation of government food procurement from agribusiness toward purchasing ecological food at fair prices from small holders to supply schools, hospitals, institutional cafeterias, etc., as a way to support farmers and to provide healthy food to children, sick people and government employees, and programs of production credit for small holders engaged in ecological farming instead of subsidies tied to chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  • At the COP-16 in Cancun, Mexico, the governments of the world (except Bolivia) met to conduct business with TNCs who traffic in false solutions to climate changes like agrofuels, GMOs, carbon markets, REDD+, etc., instead of meeting to seriously and effectively reverse global warming through real emission reductions by Developed Countries and the transformation of our global food, energy and transport systems.  We demand that our governments behave more responsibly at COP-17 in Durban, South Africa, refusing to sign agreements imposed by the North and by TNCs, instead supporting the Cochabamba Principles on the Climate and the Rights of the Mother Earth.
Commitments of La Via Campesina
While we demand that our governments act in all the ways mentioned above, and will turn up the pressure on them to do so, we will not wait for them.  Instead we pledge to continue to build agroecology and Food Sovereignty from below.  We pledge to take the following practical steps:
  • We will build organizational structures in La Via Campesina at the regional level to support our national member organizations in their work to promote agroecology among their member families.  This includes regional training programs, exchange visits, the production and sharing of educational materials, and the identification and documentation of successful cases in the region so that all can learn the lessons they offer. Among the structures we will build is a network of agroecology trainers and practitioners in La Via Campesina in our Region.
  • We will promote the creation of agroecology training programs and schools in our organizations, and farmer-to-farmer and community-to-community agroecology promotion programs.
  • Through our own organizations we will promote the creation and strengthening of local peasant seed systems.
  • We will document the experience in Zimbabwe of agrarian reform and organic farming by beneficiary families, as successful steps toward Food Sovereignty that we who are in other countries can learn from.
  • We will work to “keep carbon in the ground and in trees” in the areas under our control, by promoting agroforestry, tree planting, agroecology, energy conservation, and by fighting land grabs for mining and industrial plantations.
  • We will engage and pressure governments at all levels (local, traditional provincial, national and regional) to adopt Public Policies that favor agroecology and Food Sovereignty.
  • We will build a powerful small holder farmer and peasant voice to be present with other sectors of civil society at COP-17 in Durban, and at Rio +20 in Brazil, with the message that we oppose false solutions to climate change and demand the adoption of the Cochabamba Principles.  We will insist on Small Holder Sustainable Agriculture and Food Sovereignty as the most important true solutions to climate change.


Africans! We Can Feed Ourselves with Agroecology and Food Sovereignty!
Sustainable Agriculture by Small Holder Farmers Cools the Planet!
No to the Corporate Food System, GMOs and Land Grabbing!
Yes to Agrarian Reform and an Agroecological Food System!
Globalize Struggle!  Globalize Hope!
Masvingo District, Zimbabwe, 20 June 2011

Seven Principles of Food Sovereignty

Seven Principles of Food Sovereignty
Reposted from savingseeds, this is La Via Campesina’s (The International Peasant Movement) “Seven Principles of Food Sovereignty.”

Seven Principles of Food Sovereignty

  1. Food: A Basic Human Right. Everyone must have access to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity. Each nation should declare that access to food is a constitutional right and guarantee the development of the primary sector to ensure the concrete realization of this fundamental right.
  2. Agrarian Reform. A genuine agrarian reform is necessary which gives landless and farming people – especially women – ownership and control of the land they work and returns territories to indigenous peoples. The right to land must be free of discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, race, social class or ideology; the land belongs to those who work it.
  3. Protecting Natural Resources. Food Sovereignty entails the sustainable care and use of natural resources, especially land, water, and seeds and livestock breeds. The people who work the land must have the right to practice sustainable management of natural resources and to conserve biodiversity free of restrictive intellectual property rights. This can only be done from a sound economic basis with security of tenure, healthy soils and reduced use of agro-chemicals.
  4. Reorganizing Food Trade. Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade. National agricultural policies must prioritize production for domestic consumption and food self-sufficiency. Food imports must not displace local production nor depress prices.
  5. Ending the Globalization of Hunger. Food Sovereignty is undermined by multilateral institutions and by speculative capital. The growing control of multinational corporations over agricultural policies has been facilitated by the economic policies of multilateral organizations such as the WTO, World Bank and the IMF. Regulation and taxation of speculative capital and a strictly enforced Code of Conduct for TNCs is therefore needed.
  6. Social Peace. Everyone has the right to be free from violence. Food must not be used as a weapon. Increasing levels of poverty and marginalization in the countryside, along with the growing oppression of ethnic minorities and indigenous populations, aggravate situations of injustice and hopelessness. The ongoing displacement, forced urbanization, repression and increasing incidence of racism of smallholder farmers cannot be tolerated.
  7. Democratic control. Smallholder farmers must have direct input into formulating agricultural policies at all levels. The United Nations and related organizations will have to undergo a process of democratization to enable this to become a reality. Everyone has the right to honest, accurate information and open and democratic decision-making. These rights form the basis of good governance, accountability and equal participation in economic, political and social life, free from all forms of discrimination. Rural women, in particular, must be granted direct and active decision-making on food and rural issues.