Know Your Farmer, Know Your Representatives 

With the Republican National Convention about to descend on Northeast Ohio, we turned to activist and Co-Owner of Snowville Creamery, Warren Taylor, to tell us why he thinks knowing your farmer is just the first step to improving our local food ecosystem.

 

Warren in DC2For those of us committed to local sustainable food, we all embrace the daily or weekly commitment to visit farms and farm markets, to be members of CSAs, to patronize grocery stores which offer local products, and even to take the time to grow what food we can in our limited time and space.

We have learned the exquisite pleasure of the relationships we have made and the wonderful food we have shared and savored together. Now, we must do more.

We must continue to evolve, progress, and build on what we have accomplished. This process is like building soil fertility. Thank heavens it will never end! There will always be more to do, and we should take great joy in this.

Just recently the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Foresty published the proposed GMO labeling bill which we have been expecting since January. Sure enough, it stopped short of requiring GMO labeling on food packages and took the cowardly and dishonest dodge of requiring scannable codes instead. Many of us will be calling our Senators’ offices this week, letting them know we are watching, and expecting better from them. This is progress.

There is more progress which even very engaged foodies may not be aware of, particularly if they are not familiar with HR 1599, the original DARK Act passed by the House of Representatives last July. Keep in mind that only two of Ohio’s Representatives in the House voted against that reprehensible bill. It declared that animals eating GMO food made “non-GMO” milk, eggs, and meat. As someone concerned about the Roundup poison in our food and its effect on our children’s health, this was devastating, discouraging, and despicable.

The good news is that this Senate bill, as I read and understand it, removed this dishonest ploy. Although it states that the milk, eggs, and meat from animals fed GMOs do not need to be labeled as GMO, it does not allow labeling them as “non-GMO.” A small victory.

There are so many complex and interconnected issues in our broken food system. They include a financial system which fails to provide capital to food entrepreneurs, fails to provide healthcare or a living wage to the vast majority of people working in food, fails to control powerful monopolies which prevent free markets from working, and fails to support the renewable energy innovations we need to reverse global warming. Raj Patel points out in a wonderful 11 minute TedMed talk that the way to reduce world hunger is to increase gender equality. Duh! We must fix our entire world, and we can do it through our engagement in a possibly democratic political system. We the People.

Warren in DC3It is time that the progressive food movement takes the call to action to Know Your Farmer and expands it to include the need to Know Your Representatives in Congress. The work of many nonprofit NGOs, including The Center for Food Safety and Food Democracy Now, has taught thousands, if not millions, of Americans how to call their Congressional offices in DC and affect public policy by their comments. Now we need to make this practice a regular and continuing part of our daily life. Just like knowing all our farmers. Just like raising a garden. Just like preparing and sharing food together. We need to get past fighting rearguard actions against a hostile corporatized Congress and start changing the people who are there so that they are our representatives. We can do this. We may be limited in our options for President this year, but there are hundreds of Representatives to Congress, the individuals that will write and pass the laws, who we can also vote for this year. This is where we must learn to make a real difference.

The work of a farmer is never done, and neither is the work of a citizen in a nation striving to be a functional democracy. Let’s celebrate our victories, small and great, and be encouraged to create more.

Want to call your Senator and make your voice heard? Here are phone numbers for all the Senate offices to help you get started getting to Know Your Representatives.