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Archive for February, 2011

This event was one of the last things I wanted to make it to before leaving Florida, but unfortunately the cost to get to Tallahassee meant I had to miss it.  However, I was in touch with one of the orgs involved and a dear friend in NY passed this Press Release on to me, so I wanted to share a summary of what the event covered and how it went!

Putting Black History Month in Perspective:
Farmers, Students, Public Officials and Environmental Activists Connected the Pieces and Make Connections at Historic Summit on the campus of Florida A&M University

Tallahassee, FL – Last weekend (February 18-19, 2011) was a historic occasion at Florida A&M University (FAMU) as a cross-section of environmentalists from various sectors including the government, academia, nonprofit sector and community convened on campus to attend the “Embracing Our Traditions of Partnership” Summit.   The 2-day Summit sponsored by the Southeastern Green Network (SoGreen Network) connected a variety of people from a wide-range of fields in an effort to collectively frame an agenda that addresses sustainable agriculture and 1890 Land Grant institutions while re-connecting the resources of these universities for limited resource farmers – a majority of which are African-American.

 

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Raising Voices

You all may remember how inspired I became from my journey last summer/fall – setting off to learn to farm and discover how race and justice fit into my passion for sustainability and healthy food.  The people I met and the feedback I received on questioning the intersection of race and food inspired me to begin working on some projects that will continue to feature farmers and food activists of color, and continue to raise the voice of this community while repainting the picture of agriculture and the good food movement.

I mentioned back in December to keep an eye out for some of these projects, and I have been a busy bee this winter – not just sulking about being broke and unable to farm-hop much –  but writing, grant searching, planning and collaborating with some wonderful people to create  –  The Color of Food — (the title of my series on Grist just kinda stuck – and is sticking within the movement as well check it out!)

….is a place to raise the voices of farmers and communities of color in the fight for just and healthy food systems.

The issue of race and food is something I can’t seem to stop thinking or talking about (as you know),  so I am excited to officially make it my focus through this organization.  Folks I met during my trip and with whom I continue to collaborate have made it so clear to me that this message has to be heard.  And the serendipitous timing of The Color of Food report I linked to above, released last week by ARC,  only confirms for me that the issue of racial inequity in our food system can no longer be ignored.

I will be continuing to build this organization with key partners, mentors and friends and I hope you all will check it out, join us,  give your input and contribute in any way you can!

 

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Florida Eats Money

I was really hoping to get out and about in South Florida while hiding out from the winter here to visit as many farms as possible, but I quickly discovered that wasn’t as easy as I thought it’d be.  Florida eats money… it ate all of mine in the short time I’ve been here – and you can’t really go anywhere here without money.

I haven’t lived in South Florida in ten years, and I’ve gotten quite used to getting around via public transportation in the other places I’ve lived or traveled.  I basically haven’t owned a car in 6 years, and haven’t ever missed having one.  Until, that is, I came to South Florida for the winter.  Immediately, having a car became a necessity.  Yes there is such thing as public transportation here, but it’s pretty unreliable and expensive and takes HOURS to get anywhere since this is a suburban/highway metropolis.  Even by car, it takes 45 minutes on I-95 to get anywhere between the Palm Beach/Ft Lauderdale/Miami stretch.

So my visions of hopping between the urban farms in Little Haiti, Miami, Pompano Beach and Delray Beach (all 20-60 minutes away from me, though I’m staying right in the middle of them all!), not to mention taking road trips to the center of the state where big citrus and beef operations are ( Florida has about 130,000 dairy cows, grows 3/4 of the country’s oranges, 2/3 of the grapefruit – plus other crops like 1/2 the country’s snap beans – and is the second largest producer of sugar cane and a top grower for watermelon), went up in smoke as soon as transportation costs were factored in.

That said, I wanted to share this list of  some farms, markets and food justice orgs I did manage to get out to, plus others that I only hoped to get to:

Miami

Roots in the Cityfocused on community development, creating jobs and beautifying Miami’s inner city, this organization has established several community gardens and tree nurseries in Miami’s neighborhood of Overtown – and they just launched a new farmers’ market!

Y.O.U.T.H Lead MiamiYouth Leading Environmental Activism Through Democracy is an organization that is working to educate and empower young people to adopt healthy, sustainable behaviors and advocate for food and environmental justice in their schools and communities.  They run a farmers’ market in Miami (which I still hope to get to before I leave Florida!)

Earth ‘n’ Us – a beautiful, gem of a place tucked away in the back yards of Little Haiti.  I did get a chance to visit this farm twice and wrote a little about them on Grist.org.

Ft. Lauderdale

Marando Farmsa small organic farm, nursery and farmers’ market.

The Urban Farmer – a hydroponics operation in Pompano Beach that I did have the chance to visit and wrote more about here on the blog.

The Fruitful Fielda community garden aiming to bring food awareness and spiritual into the community of Pompano Beach.

Palm Beach

Farmer Jay a one acre farm in Delray Beach supported by the Ellenville Garden Center and Nursery.  I got to volunteer on this farm a couple times and work with Jay who is a knowledgeable farmer who believes in permaculture and sustainable, smart growing tactics that work in harmony with the Earth.  Great produce and education can be found at the Boca Raton GreenMarket where he has a stand.

The Girls U-Pick Strawberry Farma hydroponic strawberry patch in Delray Beach, where you can pick fresh strawberries…right from the hanging styrofoam strawberry pots?

Oh and in case you didn’t notice, I gave the blog a facelift!  Somebody told me it was too dark to read, so there ya have it – look out for some more updates soon as I add other blog links, books to read, etc!

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I’ve brought up the issue of immigrant farm workers  several times in my last few posts. (sorry! I know, immigration = touchy subject) But, it’s because I’m in Florida; where you can’t go anywhere without the issue of immigration slapping you in the face.

Companies get raided all the time.  Students are getting deported left and right.  And you always here people complaining about all the jobs going to immigrants – while they write a check to their Bolivian pool guy and their Haitian landscaper.  We have a lot of work to do to change peoples’ thoughts on the issue here, and remind them of that little thing called “human rights”.  But at least we’re not Arizona.

Some great work by coalitions here have catapulted Florida to the top of the news in winning rights for thousands of migrant farm workers, so that’s a start.

But I can’t help but want to step back for a minute and look at why we’ve come to this issue in the first place. Why are so many people from Haiti, Mexico and other Latin American and Caribbean nations flooding our borders?  The obvious answer is economic opportunity.  But what’s happened to the opportunity in their own countries? How is coming here to be paid nickels, mistreated and even enslaved the only other option?

The answer is hugely complex, and varies, from escaping government corruption, seeking religious or political freedoms, to fleeing from natural disasters. But how about the US straight jacking their opportunities right out from under them?

(I know that after my last inflamed post, people are going to begin thinking I’m just out to badmouth the US government or something. But that’s not true, I love this country (sometimes) and I think when you want to be proud of your country you have to criticize its flaws.)

Basically, because of our global export system (dominated by ours and other big nations), global trade agreements (lobbied by ours and other big nations), USAID and unregulated corporate practices, we are putting farmers and families out of business worldwide.

The trade off? We get to have Chiquita bananas at $.30/lb whenever we want. That totally outweighs the fact that Jamaican banana farmers are losing their businesses and Colombian plantation workers get shot at if they complain about working conditions. Right? Riggghht.

Then there’s the fact that we love dumping cheap grain on many third-world countries, especially during disasters. Thinking we’re just helping, we actually put those grain farmers out of business.  Because who’s gonna turn down free USAID rice vs. dude’s $1/lb rice up the street?  The only other option they have is to leave to find work elsewhere…in the exact country that screwed them in the first place – it’s a vicious cycle.

And like Food, Inc. pointed out, the food and ag corporations here are taking advantage of the fact that they put farmers in other countries out of business by turning around to recruit them to work for cheap.   Yes, companies are advertising in places like Mexico with messages like “Good jobs working with XYZ food company in USA’ (except written in horribly translated Spanish), then these workers come here, work illegally for these companies, enduring close to zero wages, hard labor, and unfair treatment, only to have the Feds bust them for being here illegally, ignoring the fact that they were actively recruited by XYZ company who gets away clean.  So they’ve lived here for years, working hard, paying taxes, yet we deport them back to their countries where we also own their jobs.

Sounds fair.

The solution? In the paraphrased words of the Border Agricultural Workers Project, how about we stop building walls and start building healthy rural communities in these countries so people can stay on their land and produce food?  Just a thought.

Here are some great stats about immigrant farmers that are coming here and how we can harness their skills and growing numbers to improve their livelihoods and our food system>>>National Immigrant Farming Initiative.

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