On December 4th there was a food policy protest in Manhattan. The farmers joining Occupy Wall Street was a co-production of Occupy Wall Street's food justice committee and Food Democracy Now.
In the afternoon people came to the La Plaza Cultural Community Garden to hear local farmers and activists explain everything from why a food policy that is based on $30 a barrel oil cannot sustain itself to how much local farmers have been hurt by this industrial food policy. After the gathering to hear speakers hundreds of farmers and their allies marched to Zuccotti Park to be seen and heard.
I went along with my camera and listened as I took a few pictures of the people demanding justice. For photos and stories about the gathering and march from the East Village to Zuccotti Park, see below.
It was a holiday season event and a La Plaza Cultural pine tree was decorated.
La Plaza Cultural de Armando Perez is a green space and open air garden on 9th Street & Avenue C, a place for the people.
When you consider how many farms there are on the Lower East Side, it would seem that there was a surprisingly large turnout.
The speakers came up one by one to tell their stories. A list of speakers can be found at this link from The Paramus Post.
George Naylor - Iowa farmer and president of the National Family Farm Coalition.
Jim Gerritsen - Maine based farmer who was named one of 20 world visionaries by Utne Reader in 2011 and is the lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against Monsanto.
Karen Washington - Founder of City Farms Market and board member at NYC based organization Just Food.
Severine von Tscharner - Food advocate and producer of the film Green Horns, profiling young farmer entrepreneurs.
Jalal Sabur - Founding member of the Freedom Food Alliance and advocate working on the alliance of black urban communities with black rural farmers.
Mike Callicrate - Colorado cattle rancher, entrepreneur and rural advocate .
Andrew Faust - World renowned permaculture expert and educator.
Examiner.com took a closer look at some of the speakers and Jim Gerritsen even has a little piece in Monday's NYT, A Maine Farmer Speaks to Wall Street. But there is little else from the media and I didn't see any politicians there.
This was the view of the speakers from the upper balcony.
It seemed to me that the event was mostly to point out that this nation's agricultural system is at the center of the world's global warming crisis and that the government has supported big agriculture for too long at the expense of the family farms. A quote from the Food Democracy Now invite.
Occupy Wall Street was born out of a legitimate frustration with the collusion between Big Business and elected officials of the U.S. government. And nowhere is that collusion so great as in food and agricultural production, where 4 firms control 84% of beef packing, 66% of pork production and 1 company (Monsanto) controls more than 93% of soybeans and 80% of corn grown in the U.S.
Pointing out the fact that it was "our government" that has made our food unhealthy, moved our food thousands of miles from our homes and transformed our food supply into junk that needs so much salt, sugar, chemicals and preservatives. Food that is harmful to the population in a nation where big agricultural corporations own our government. The speakers spoke and the people responded.
It wasn't just about the speakers and it wasn't all about protest. There were tables with useful information for small farmers, one table that was all about mulch and most everyone was exchanging ideas. You could also pick up a tee shirt to spread the message.
There was a map of America where you could post your food issue in the section of the nation where you lived. The nice lady handing out the index cards was wearing one great hat.
It was all about the people.
And the message was very clear.
Two nice drummers I met who were waiting to help bring that message to Wall Street. One of them had previously enjoyed the pleasure of playing outside of the Bloomberg mansion.
Here are a few photos from the march as the protesters walked along Houston Street.
You can learn a lot from farmers.
Like simple arithmetic that even the smartest politicians can't seem to grasp.
But there are two sides to every story.
I fully agreed with both sides of this sign.
The drummers were making noise.
People were being heard.
Some were having fun.
And the march moved on, to Zuccotti Park.
There were many other topics at a gathering that was about the benefits of locally grown food. One topic discussed was the horrors of Monsanto and genetically modified seeds. Seeds that are not owned by the farmers who grew the plants that provided the seeds but are the patented property of Monsanto. Stories of how this large corporation with the help of the government has created a hostage situation for small family farms that never wanted anything to do with Monsanto.
So at the end of the march, when the protesters reached Zuccotti Park, there was a seed exchange. Free seeds were handed out, heirloom seeds and seeds that were cross pollinated by farmers, anything but the patented property of some major corporation.
The whole day was all about people helping other people. It turned out to be a good day for the people.