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Welcome to the 35+ year old U.S. food-and-farm movement

UPDATE February 15, 2021: When I wrote this post almost three years ago, I pegged the age of the U.S. food farm movement at 20+ years based on my personal experience at the time. Although there’s never a precise moment as to when a movement begins, I now date the current food & farm movement to 1985. Two important events occurred in that year: (a) The founding of Farm Aid and the first Farm Aid concert, and (b) the founding of the first food policy council (FPC) in Knoxville, Tennessee. To me these two events signal the coalition building that began among farmers-eaters-food chain workers and among urban-rural-suburban residents of the U.S.

Wherever “20+” year old occurred in my original comment and post, I have now changed it to “35+”.

To public policy think tanks:
Welcome to the 35+ year old food-and-farm movement

Posted April 22, 2018

A slightly edited version of the comment submitted to Ms. Magazine
In response to blogpost by Anna Chu:
“Diversity and Snap Decisions: How Women’s Voices would have Built a Better Farm Bill”
Ms. Magazine, April 20, 2018

To: Anna Chu, Vice President – Strategy & Policy, National Women’s Law Center
Public Voices Fellow, The OpEd Project

Ms. Chu —

Welcome to the food-and-farm policy world. And nice to know about the National Women’s Law Center. Thanks to Angie Carter, Prof. of Sociology (Michigan Tech) and WFAN board member (Women, Food and Agriculture Network) for forwarding your piece on the Farm Bill and the need for women’s voices.

Your analysis of the latest Farm Bill proposal to cut SNAP benefits is pretty much spot on. However, your recommendation–that the House Republican white males go back to the drawing board—doesn’t address your analysis. After 13 years in the food-and-farm world, I can confirm that it hasn’t been for lack of trying that women’s voices haven’t been more included in the Farm Bill conversation. Elections will help down the road, but “representative democracy” is an inherent contradiction in our government and the food-and-farm movement is exposing that on a meal-by-meal basis.

Here’s some immediate things that you, Ms. Magazine, the National Women’s Law Center, and/or The OpEd Project can do to help those of us who have been trying to make our voices heard in Farm Bill and other national economic policy conversations.


A. Learn about the 35+ year-old U.S. food-and-farm movement, a still-growing movement of policy + project practitioners, of which 80% are women.

Major areas of national learning (that will reward anyone’s time) are:
— Terminology: Also known as food sovereignty, food democracy, food justice, farm justice, local foods, community food security, etc.
— Intersectionality: farmer-consumer, rural-suburban-urban; humans-nonhumans; and every other demographic
— Listservs: COMFOOD (Tufts), FPN (Johns Hopkins), NAFSN (Cornell), HEN (registered dietitians); regional, state, metro, etc.
— Coalitions + coalitions within coalitions: National Family Farm Coalition; National Farm to School, Farmers Market Coalition, Food Chain Workers Alliance, Organic Farmers Association, etc.
— Types of projects (most of which need new policy support): co-ops, farmer training, farmland preservation, urban agriculture, farm-to-school (cafeteria, curriculum, living skills), farmers markets, food-and-farm councils, shared kitchens, food chain labor organizing, nutrition, labeling, composting, non-food crops as part of the food system, etc.
— Food system studies: Popping up in colleges and universities across the country
— Food policy councils are the major contribution that the food-and-farm movement has made to democratic process: municipal, county, state; grassroots, non-profit, legislative authority


B. Help us get unified, coordinated, and integrated into election cycles
— Develop and promote platforms
— Get “food-and-farm” on the mainstream list of issues
— Identify best practices in communications (working with media, publicly archived listservs, Fact sheets, grant writing)
C. Help us find funding, especially at the local project and national policy level
D. Help us think outside the box — like maybe the Farm Bill is the problem?
E. Help us develop our collective women’s authority, not our capacity to beg. The recent and on-going teachers’ strikes are an example of that development.
F. Support and grow the Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (and Plate to Politics) in any or all of the above  (Note: WFAN turned 20 in 2017.)
G. Let us know how we can engage with you.


Thanks for any support you can provide to those of us in the trenches.