Land & Power, Cultivating Food Justice

Panel at MSAN Ag Revival meeting

Ben Burkett Indian Springs Farmer, Federation of Southern Cooperatives leader

“Without owning land, we cannot have much justice. Yet, so many barriers to using that land remain.”

I was in a room recently with the Cargill boss and others like him. They think they make the wheels turn, but we make the wheels turn.”

Rukia Lumumba  Lawyer, back in state after being in NYC working with incarcerated youth. Daughter of late mayor of Jackson MS.  Leader of Cooperation Jackson. 

“The food justice movement cannot be separated from mass incarceration movement.We need good food to retain information, to think critically.”

If you eat healthier, you act healthier.”

“Question the fear we have for people of color, for poor people.”

Nia Umoja  Registered nurse by training. Leader of Cooperative Community of Near West Jackson

“If we are what we eat, what are you?”

We all have a equal right to a healthy diet. (We need a) backyard garden at every home.

I just want gardens everywhere.”

Patricia Cipolitti and Lupe Gonzalo, Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Most here are talking about small farming, but the part of the food business we work in is the huge agri-businesses part. We don’t even have access to land to grow food for ourselves.  We live with modern day slavery in the fields of Florida.We began to organize in the 1990s to force growers to take responsibility for the abuses we faced as farmworkers. To show growers that we had power. Yet, growers were saying that they had no power to change the conditions; therefore the organizing changed in 2000 to call on huge retailers who purchased those goods to make these changes. Taco Bell was the first retailer called on; many ridiculed our efforts, but the organizing grew and helped consumers understand their role in building power and making real changes in the lives of farmworkers. We now know we have the power of people, especially when collaborating with others like consumers.

We had 3 demands:

pay a penny more a pound for tomatoes to get more money back to farmworkers;

respect a human rights  code of conduct for farmworkers;

that the voice of workers would be respected in the field and retaliation against those who spoke out would not be allowed.

Fair Food agreement: 14 corporations are now on board; 90% of the Florida tomatoes picked are now part of that agreement.

Ricardo Salvador, Union of Concerned Scientists

500,000 members who advocate for the issues you have heard this morning. My team is 15 people and works in coalition to have impact on the research we do. (We call that the the Inside DC game.)

The outside DC game is  embodied in out HEAL Food Alliance, a social justice initiative.

We operate on the idea that there is a “Not a lack of food; there is a lack of democracy” (Lappe)

Lappe also points out that one can get lost in argument of which is more effective: To give a man to fish or teach a man to fish when the real issue is who owns the damn pond.

“US History is based on the destruction of the people who were here. The founders were hoping to establish a nice economic niche based on the extraction of resources. That is what we are facing today that use of someone else’s land and someone else’s labor to create wealth for only a few, rather than something for all of us.”

Facilitator: When we fight power, power changes and adapts. If we’re not vigilant, we will miss that adaptation. Be aware.


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