Posted on Tue, October 21, 2008 by Nathan Leamy
3 Comments | Categories: Events, Farms and Farming, Youth Food Movement,
by 2008 Terra Madre delegate Ariane Lotti
At Terra Madre, lets strategize to overcome the challenges to growing a good, clean, and fair agriculture.
After a stint spent working for the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition on the 2008 Farm Bill, I decided to spend some quality time in the Ground Zero of government-supported, conventional commodity agriculture: Rural Iowa, USA.
New to the land of corn and Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), I knew my mission was two-fold. I wanted to learn the ins and outs of the system that reportedly produces the cheapest, most abundant food supply in the world. I also wanted to find the points of resistance and weakness where the alternatives to a high-input, low-diversity production agriculture flourish.
For four months, I lived and worked on a farm five miles down a gravel road from the nearest town and eleven miles from the nearest internet connection. While I spent my spare time visiting CAFOs, riding in combines, going to county fairs, and driving down dusty roads, I farmed full-time for Jan Libbey and Tim Landgraf of One Step at a Time Gardens in North Central Iowa.
One Step at a Time Gardens is a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm with 120 members from both rural and urban areas. Jan and Tim started the CSA in the mid-nineties after they opposed the construction of a hog CAFO in their neighborhood and lost in a trial that went to the Supreme Court of Iowa. Feeling that the state had betrayed their rights to clean water and air, they took matters into their own hands and started growing vegetables according to sustainable agriculture principles for a local customer base.
Once we recovered from the record-setting floods in Iowa earlier this summer, we spent the days planting, weeding, watering, harvesting, weighing, washing, cleaning, beautifying and packing out of over 50 varieties of vegetables that were featured in the weekly CSA deliveries to members over the course of the season. We also raised chickens in movable pens on pasture.
Off the farm, the opportunities to eat good, clean, and fair food in one of the worlds primary breadbaskets were few. While there were Niman Ranch Pork producers in the area and farmers markets in towns, the eating landscape was the fruit of the surrounding agricultural landscape: fast food restaurants, supermarket chains, and fried food fairs.
At Terra Madre, we as delegates will not only have the chance to celebrate and share the diverse paths that will bring us together in Turin, we will have the time and space to come up with strategies for how to grow the good, clean, and fair food and agriculture movement beyond our comfort zones so that even in the Ground Zero of conventional agriculture, people can eat and farmers can grow the alternative.
With our many talents and bountiful energy, lets take on the challenges and obstacles we face economic hard times, unfavorable farm policies and the monocultures of corn and soybeans in Iowa and transform them into opportunities to build a grassroots movement to strengthen a food system that makes sense for people, communities, and our environment.