Fundraising and community organizing can be the death of many an activist…I’ve seen it happen right before my eyes, organizers dropping like flies in D.C. Stress, no sleep, downing coffee and vegan muffins for 16 hours straight, and subsequently killing immune systems. Feeling like giving up while trying to juggle the work, the outreach and the money-chasing in order to do both of the former.
Fundraising and community organizing while farming, trying to publicize your farm, make money and win the endless battle against the damn weeds…is a whole different ball game.
This is a challenge that many small farmers face on a daily basis – whether they’re involved in community work or not. There is always the juggling act of trying to increase income, by increasing production, while looking for capital to do so, and looking for help to maintain all the new work…and stay on those damn weeds.
But for a small farmer also trying to do community work – such as food justice work – where there needs to be fundraising, organizing and providing support in the community, the dichotomy of this faced with growing a profitable, productive farm can seem impossible. And most of the time for small farmers, especially Black and Brown farmers, it’s purely about survival.
Before I go on, I want to say that yes I am on a farm that is trying to juggle all of these things, and yes I have been spreading myself a bit thin with one foot in farming and the other in community organizing. But this post is not about the struggles of this farm or my work, so don’t pull out the violin just yet– I’ve only just begun this journey and so far it’s nothing compared to the long hard years of work that so many farmers and organizers in this movement have put in and continue to put in on a daily basis.
But my experience here in Wassaic, and working with so many food justice, community groups in and around NYC, has really sparked the question in my head: Is it possible to both run a profitable, production-focused farm and fight the injustices of the food system by participating in and building community-led work? Or do you have to choose one or the other?
So many small farmers want to participate in food justice movements and community building, but they spend most of their time just trying to keep their heads above water. Keep their farms from going under, keep food on their own tables. If there were more time in the day maybe, or if there were more support for small farmers, it could be possible. Or if the uphill battle to fighting injustice in our food system wasn’t so effing steep.
Our new volunteer farmer started last week, and today she asked me what I thought the hardest part of farming has been. I honestly couldn’t think of an answer at first – couldn’t narrow down just one thing. Then it came to me: finding time. The hardest part about farming is finding the time in the day to do first everything you need to do, next everything you want to do and finally everything you should do as a provider of healthy food and a representative of food sovereignty in your community.
This lack of time and support, faced with the dichotomous decision of having to choose survival over fighting back, is going to be the death of our small farmers and of our movement unless we can figure out a way to do both.
Once again, do we have to choose one or the other? I’m going to leave the question open to you – is there a successful model out there for growing a successful farm while building successful community food-organizing? Or is it just a dream?