Greenhorns November Digest AND special plug for brand new performance from Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping ... "Monsanto is the Devil" streaming live from 2-4pm Eastern time TODAY (more on this below)!
Table of contents:
1. Grange Future Tour of California!
2. The Day of the Living
3. Slow Money Conference videos!
4. Techno-Utopia Conference audio!
5. The FFA by Eliza Greenman plus Amazing videos!
6. Thanksgiving by Severine v T Fleming (encouragement to take on the hard task of training our family)
7. "Monsanto is the Devil" LIVE STREAMING NOW! (2-4pm EASTERN)
Grange Future California Tour!
attended to by Jen Griffeth, Severine v T Fleming, Audrey Berman.
This grange future tour celebrates the long history of the grange movement, and studies the relevance of this farmers' fraternal organization as a logical, local, and community-scale venue for political organizing, potluck-ing, moral education, leadership and cultural life. As you likely know, the Grange grew up as a platform for anti-monopoly legislative action by farmers against the railroads and was a major force in women's suffrage, cooperative enterprise development and rural free mail delivery. Today's grange revival echoes these same themes: food preservation, buying clubs, contra-dancing, GMO labeling initiatives, film screenings, and farmers mixers.
Starting up north in Mendocino County, in partnership with the Grange Farm School, THE GRANGE FUTURE TRAVELING EXHIBIT, features the work of the Beehive Collective, Hudson Valley Seed Bank, Rural Academy Theater, and other rural cultural workers expressing the Grange Idea.
The Grange idea
It is is the idea of Fraternity, of kinship and solidarity with one’s fellow man. Carey McWilliams called it "a bond based on intense interpersonal affection."
It’s the idea of democratic intellectual life, with rural lectures, book clubs, public speaking and adult learning.
It’s the idea of a moral family, moral household, and moral economy
It’s the idea of freedom from monopoly, speculation, the oppression of boom and bust
It is the idea of improving the living conditions, beauty
It’s the idea of cooperation and unity, prosperity and equality
And that of solvency instead of debt.
Grange Future Tour CALIFORNIA DATES:
Dec 3-4 - Little Lake Grange
Dec 11- Anderson Valley Grange
Dec 12-14 - Sebastopol Grange 306 + Farmers Guild Entrepreneurial Event & Party
Dec 20 - Live Oak Grange, Santa Cruz
Jan 14 - Shaping San Francisco
Jan 20 - Eco Farm
March 16-20 San Louis Obisbo, Ojai, San Diego, San Juan Capistrano
TBA- Fort Bragg Grange
Stay tuned for more Southern and South-western, Minnesota/Michigan and then North-Eastern Grange Future Tour Dates in the coming year. And be in touch with us if you’d like to join the committee for a hosting the exhibit in a grange in your town. Ideally, you’re already a member of the grange, and there’s a good feeling of kinship between old grangers and new. Be respectful and patient, remember, this is a fragile organization that wears hearing aids, bouncing around with excitement can be upsetting to such a system. Listen, learn the rituals, honor the history, and do more than your share of dishes.
This obsession is likely to continue for a while--we’ve been recording, memorizing, and spontaneously belting out aloud on car-trips these old-timey Grange songs performed by Brian Dewan. We just laid down 11 more tracks at the Keeseville Grange, which turns out is across the street from a major hub on the underground railroad, and just down the road from the Farm Cafe. Here’s more songs from last year. There’s a micro-version of the Grange Future Presentation online & a whole website dedicated to celebrating the history and FUTURE of the Grange: grangeFUTURE.org
Grange Future Album- Victrola version coming soon!
The day of the LIVING.
A week ago I sat in the City Hall of Burlington, Vermont, 20 steps up from the town square in a windowpane, looking out over the choppy waves of Lake Champlain. Standing room only, with at least 3 dogs in the hall, the community gathered to listen to Vandana Shiva speak to the first state in the nation with a GMO-labelling law on the books. This is the little, green, mostly rural state, transformed by 'back to the land' migration, which now boasts a bundle of progressive wins. It’s the best in the country for affordable housing, for political refugees, for local food in schools, and is about to take on an estimated $12 million in legal fees in the fight against Monsanto (you can help by donating to the Vermont Food Fight Fund!).
Vandana was speaking to this crowd, who'd birthed the Vermont Right to Know Act, to boost morale for the long legal battle to come (click to see video of Vandana Shiva speaking in Vermont). Oregon and Colorado had similar labelling bills, and Maui County had a moratorium on Genetically Engineered planting, until those plants, their ecological and health impacts have been proven safe.
Maui is the first county-level initiative to focus on the precautionary principle, though it follows the success of Mendocino and other GMO free zones. AND THEY WON!!
To the Vermont Right-to-Knowers, Vandana said:
This is a grassroots bill. Its from the grassroots we will bring change.
Even in a country with elections on terms no democracy should tolerate, on the terms of money
But the money blocking California and Washington from making a similar ruling did not scare you … There are advantages in being small, you get forgotten, and out of that you can spread the wings of freedom. It is around food that all colonialization, totalitarianism has been established. Food is the source of life, that is why it is the site of control. These corporations have created a fantasy of money, a world that is so unreal-- that it no longer is life.
Vandana Shiva practices Satyagraha ("truth-force" or “insistence on truth”). In Ghandi’s words: Satyagraha is a weapon of the strong; it admits of no violence under any circumstance whatsoever; and it ever insists upon truth.
Slow Money National Gathering (see videos)
This week Severine spoke about land access at the Slow Money Conference, an honor to open up for Vandana Shiva (video of Sev’s talk at 8:30:47). The Slow Money National Gathering gathering featured Wendell Berry and countless other thought leaders in agriculture, investing, and philanthropy, alongside food entrepreneurs who are leading the way rebuilding local food systems. We are honored to be a part, discussing the mission of our latest project on farmland access, Agrarian Trust.
Last month in NYC, 45 leading scholars, authors, and activists convened at The Great Hall of Cooper Union for a public Techno-Utopia Teach-in examining the profound impacts—environmental, economic and social—of runaway technological expansionism and cyber immersion; the tendency to see technology as the savior for all problems. Click click to listen to the complete audio of Techno-Utopia!
A Report on the FFA
by Eliza Greenman
Greenhorns, in partnership with Organic Consumers Association were in attendance last week at the national gathering of the FFA. The FFA National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, saw a sea of 60,000 students representing every nook and cranny of America (and its territories) gathered together for fellowship, belonging, education and scholarly competition. Between the ages of 13 and 18, many of these students are next-in-line to the family farm and occupy a strategically powerful position in the future of American Agriculture; they are kids with land. With a self-confidence rarely seen in teenagers and impeccable public speaking skills, these students in their blue corduroy jackets cut quite the impressive figure, particularly in a stadium context.
They are team-spirited, motivated and articulate, and most of them credit these qualities to the organization that brought them together, the FFA. The FFA is turning these next-in-line farmers, agriscientists, ag teachers and farm sympathizers into successful leaders, fierce entrepreneurs, and good Samaritans...for Big Ag.
This polished youth constituency at the FFA sing the praises, almost exclusively, of Big Ag. How did this happen? Lets start with the obvious place, and let’s follow the money.
Based on the funding sources published in the 2012 National FFA Annual Report, corporate sponsorship represented 89% of total funding for the organization, or 18.6 million dollars (see page 17). This funding came from companies like:
Zoetis- World's largest producer of medicine and vaccinations for pets and livestock under Pfizer
Cargill- Distributor of agricultural commodities such as the raising of livestock and production of feed
Monsanto- Leading producer of genetically engineered seed (GMO) and herbicides (Roundup)
Dow- 2nd largest chemical producer in the world
Syngenta- Biotechnology and genomic research, distribution of seeds
Elanco- Global animal pharmaceutical branch under Eli Lilly and Company
The corporate influence of the companies above and others were widely detected by all of the Greenhorns, as well as many of the parents and guardians in attendance at the convention. Throughout the expo, flashy, digital, draconian and utterly Orwellian interactive displays and mountains of corporate schwag beckoned students to answer the question: “Who will feed the world when it reaches 9 billion people by 2050?”
The “feed the world” sloganeering has been carefully crafted by “Big Ag” to make organic agriculture seem inadequate or even dangerous to the health of the world. The energy from the main stage resembled an arena playing Jock Jams more than an address by a CEO. Full of college football jeering, promises for thousands of future scholarships, and cheering for money (“Scream if you think money is neat-o”), students were all riled up. Tyson Foods, Elanco and Monsanto executives coached the students, with polished evangelical speeches, about the “grave risk” we face if we can’t use “technologies we have (including drought resistant seeds) to feed the world.” Afterwards, FFA students approached the Greenhorns booth to [politely] ask us why biotechnology isn't currently accepted by our organization. We were accused of not knowing the facts and dabbling in unethical, fear-mongering tactics (in league with Chipotle) giving consumers false and condemning information. Sweet, clean, well-meaning students explained to us why organic agriculture just isn’t realistically able to feed the world. It’s not innovative and technologically advanced enough, they said.
Our retort: Without a return to restorative organic agriculture, our legacy won’t have a world to feed. But that’s almost besides the point. The goal is not for ‘we biotech’ to feed the world, but for the world to feed itself with foods appropriate to the culture and landscape - empowerment of communities with food sovereignty and seed sovereignty. The goal is to grow food in a way that respects the land and soil while building a biodiverse and environmentally resilient landscape that can provide us a well balanced diet, not just corn and its myriad of products. “Who will Feed the world in 2050” is a marketing tactic for big businesses that realize the destruction they are causing now, to our diets and our soil health, but don’t want to lose any market share. They don’t want to talk about feeding the world today.
To help transform the public conversation from questioning our diets and soil health towards being concerned with the future of feeding two-billion more people, companies like Monsanto are smartly investing their money to indoctrinate the FFA's 610,000+ student member base, the next generation of agricultural leaders, their own young farmer lobby. For example, funding is being poured into extensive public speaking training for these students so their voices will stand out, even in the sensory-overloaded social-media generation. Just watch the extemporaneous public speaking finals from this year for proof of success, their stage presence is impressive to say the least.
It’s all about diversion. The keynote address from the CEO of Tyson Foods was delivered after first telling the young audience it was okay not to pay attention: don’t put your phones away, was the first thing Donnie Smith said, as he took a ‘selfie’ on stage. Instead, he ordered the young audience: “GET YOUR PHONES OUT! Let me see your phones, Louisville! Let me see them all! Light it up!” His main point, and the point of the phone gimmick was to ask the crowd to use social media to “take back” the “story of agriculture:” “These people are hijacking your story and you need to take it back!” Within hours of delivering this message with the hashtag of #myagstory, Donnie Smith's message trended #1 on Twitter.
But, for those of us who were listening instead of tweeting, we want to know: take back the story of agriculture from whom?? Tyson Foods and others indict the organic industry, corporations like Chipotle, “basement dwelling loser bloggers,” presumably even our very own young farmers movement, have stolen the story of agriculture and distorted it with fear-mongering. These students are taught that the organic movement has co-opted the “story of agriculture” because we want to vilify and condemn America's farmers. How unreasonable to question the farming practices of the most patriotic and hardworking of Americans. Watch these Amazing videos and see for yourself, learn the facts and know the issues, help us defend our work, help us insist on the truth.
Videos to watch from the 2014 National FFA Convention:
Tyson CEO Donnie Smith Delivers Keynote to 2014 FFA Conference
Monsanto President Brett Begemann speaks to 2014 FFA Conference
FFA introduction for Brett Begemann, Monsanto President
Extemporaneous Public Speaking Finals
So why is Big Ag investing like this in the youth? These corporations are working towards rewriting America's rural identity into one where hard work ethic, ingenuity, entrepreneurial spirit and family values are based, not on real relationships with the soil, land and local communities, but on the use of high-cost and high-input biotechnological innovation. Students at FFA have bought into the fairytale of Big Ag: that the best way to farm is with bigger-better-newer equipment, leasing or buying ever-larger parcels, and cultivating with high-tech seed and synthetic chemicals to ensure high yields. As one student said: “Why should I farm 600 acres organically when I can farm 6000 acres with GM products? It just makes more business sense and the world's gotta eat.”
These bright and charming kids are getting hooked on a narrative that undermines their autonomy as business people, and gives them a shortsighted picture of farmland and soil stewardship. It is no secret that chemical inputs for monoculture crops cause serious, long-term soil degradation. It is no secret that farmers, especially those under contract with Tyson Foods and Tyson’s subsidiaries, have little control over the fates of their small businesses, where they get big or are squeezed out with crushing debt. (Read: The Meat Racket).
Given the current political and economic landscape, it would appear to make a lot of sense for young entrepreneurial-minded rural farmers to grow crops like corn because the market is demanding it (ethanol, livestock feed and export) and tax payers are subsidizing it. As farmers and advocates of diversified and specialty crops, a monoculture largely supported by American tax dollars seems to have a precarious future, yet these FFA students don’t see it that way. One feisty young man swore on his family’s farm that if subsidies were taken away, his family’s corn and soybean business would still prosper like it has been, even with the recent purchase of a $380,000 harvester. This may or may not be the case for this young man, but according to David Griswold of the CATO institute in a 2007 debate with the Farm Bureau: “Subsidized farmers are selling out their future competitiveness in the market for the sake of federal handouts.” From 1980 to 2005, cash receipts for subsidy supported crops like corn, soybeans, wheat, sugar beets, etc rose 14 percent while cash receipts for non-supported crops like fruits, vegetables, and nuts, soared by 186 percent.
We have reached a moment where the mainstream American public has begun to question the contents, supply chain, ethics and health of their food supply, and wants it labelled. Big Ag is getting worried. Last fall the “Farmers and Ranchers Alliance” paid for and distributed a ‘documentary film about young farmers in America,’ called Farmland. This film was distributed to Farm Bureaus across America in order to hit their target audience of sons and daughters born into conventional agricultural families who feel squeezed and misunderstood by mass media depictions. Outside of the Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s reach, this film was dismissed as an elaborate high-cost puff-piece (“more like a feature-length advertisement than like a documentary”). Many students we talked with asked if we had seen this film, which they felt was a fair portrayal of their lifestyle.
Through millions of dollars in donations, corporations have created a heroic strawman, an all-American, football loving narrative painting themselves as saviors of global hunger and harbingers of sustainable agriculture. This heroism gets piped into rural schools right alongside the pledge of allegiance, beckoning student farmers to join them in their effort to intensify production in order to meet growing food demands. The rewards are big and the conventional way of farming is seen as a sure thing for right now.
The national FFA conference was best summed up by Greenhorns teammate Katie Murray: “These corporations and FFA mindsets are in-put, output driven. These students aren't being taught to think of the long-term effects. They are a rising generation of agricultural thinkers and actors who aren't considering the whole system.” Feeding the growing population, 9 billion by 2050, is just a piece of the whole-system puzzle, including our diets and soil health today, in 2014. The FFA is built on camaraderie and relationship building, yet it seems to fall short when considering the ecological relationships needed to sustain this earth for centuries to come. This is a disservice to the members of the Future Farmers of America, who deserve to learn and be exposed to more than what the current educational constraints dictate.
Can we feed 9 billion using organic techniques? This UN report says its the only way forward. In order to further this train of thought and practice, we’re going to have to invest in relationships with the incoming generation. The FFA students are smart, friendly, respectful, hard-working, down to earth, and completely insulated by the FFA curriculum. It's our job to help them to make more connections with a more diverse nature and expose them to the way of life we believe in. Reach out to your local FFA chapter and see what you can do to help. Volunteer, offer guided tours, be a guest speaker and get to know these students clad in blue corduroy jackets. They are good kids, and we’ll need them on the team.
In the words of William C. Gehrke, who as farmer-teacher-advocate in 1936 wrote a letter published in The Kansas Union Farmer about "a better way to get farmers to realize social problems": If the common people would awaken, especially your farmers, shake off the shackles of ignorance and quit following blindly, you would become master of your own destinies. Let's learn from this history and stop teaching ignorance.
The Greenhorns Intergalactic Agrarian Mixtape
The Greenhorns Intergalactic Agrarian Mixtape features 18 tracks created by musicians, farmers, and folks living on the land, from Georgia to Belgium. These songs are meant to be shared, mixed, modified lyrically, and pollinated exuberantly! Victrola version coming soon! Listen to The Greenhorns Intergalactic Agrarian Mixtape for free at archive.org!
by Severine v T Fleming
It hurts my heart to see the videos from FFA, the Orwellian recruitment (accelerating crescendo Do you like money? Do you like scholarships? Do you like Monsanto?) Yikes. Asking young people to shill for a totalitarian corporate growth monster, what a con. How is our memory so short? Why don’t these kids parents intervene with the truth that its a pyramid scheme built on subsides and boom-times? How is it possible that mainstream agriculture has forgotten the Farm Crisis of the 1980’s-- and the dispiriting exodus of young people? Here’s some young farmer testimony from that era, the prologue to a music video “Rain on the Scarecrow.” It was a crisis that forced family farmers across the country to cannibalize each other. Learn this history, and use it: Debt and Dispossession.
At least in my family, and I know its true for many young farmers-- we're the ones to bring the turkey, the squash, and the sweet potatoes to the Thanksgiving table. Dirty knees and career choice may have been a point of contention for your family. You may have been forwarded hotlinks from Wall Street Journal by eyebrow raising aunties, and you may be sick of defending your life choice by now. But, but, but. Inspired Eliza’s report, and the INSANE streaming video of the FFA convention and live tweets! * make me doubly committed to NOT BACK DOWN from the conversation about food, land, landscape, technology, and corporate control-- and to make sure that my family, at least, is fully effing literate, passionate and even evangelical. Our rituals are not born of social media platforms, our ceremonies are not for sale, but we must join this discourse with every tool at our disposal.
As a reader of this newsletter, you’re probably familiar with the work of Reverend Billy, and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. For years Billy and co. have been helping us opt out of consumer culture. Here's one of our favorite songs ("I've got apocalypse fatigue, my honey bee and me ... ") plus a sermon (Honeybeelujah, People!).
More recently, Billy has taken on the land issue. The latest campaign is called: “Monsanto is the Devil.” Yes, he’s going for it. The opening performance of the show will be LIVE STREAMING AT 2PM EASTERN TIME from the oldest non-profit theater in America. Most recently the choir broke into a Harvard micro-drone laboratory to exorcise the robo-insects, and interview the scientists making them about what that work actually means. This year they are issuing the Stop Shopping Thanksgiving Challenge, to commit to an all organic, pesticide, herbicide-free dinner, and doing the legwork and conversation work that that takes. Join them!
It's hard to know how to win when Monsanto dumps a million bucks into the election a day before voting, and confuses voters with ads. Players like Nutiva, and Dr. Bronners, have put more than 20 million dollars, THIS YEAR, into GMO-Free campaigns in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, California. Those brave Hawaiians have a fight ahead, keep your eyes on them. Despite the scare tactics, some environmental health science still comes out. Pro-GMO spending in 2014 is already triple what it was in 2013.
As a young understory of new entrant farmers and ranchers, young brave trees, we've been blessed to receive wisdom, crumbs and grant funding from the Organic sector, training from the Organic elders. Now they're busy fighting the toxic Tyrannosaurus Rex and the corporate ag Juggernaut, and frankly the media has gone a bit funny too. Whats NY Times doing with an industry front-group up in those fabulous Stone Barns ?
Here’s a thought experiment. If we wanted to bring in a bunch of CASH POWER to the organic side-- and reclaim some serious policy dollars (for research, grants, trainings and regional food expansion) and leverage some major territory-- we could go out and find some benevolent billionaires to bring into the fold. It wouldn’t be that hard, many of us have fancy restaurant accounts in the major cities, connections to high-line food press, a mailing list of raw-milk addicted princess mommies with powerful husbands, and powerful woman tycoons with stay at home broth boiling daddies. Yes, I’m saying notice, we’re already feeding, and passing money through our hands from the San Francisco digerati, the Chicago literati, the Los Angeles Hollywood liberals and the New York hedgefunders alike. You know it, and may sometimes flinch--- but our young farmers club includes a small, but growing ‘serf club’ who farm for billionaires, millionaires and major poobahs like Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg, Julia Roberts, Andre Balazs, Sergei Brin and all those dudes.
* from Current Opinion: Volume 41, January 1, 1906
One line of thought is that we need to do a better job mobilizing that power and money and orienting it towards our wonderful policy reform organizations -- I’m talking about National Sustainable Ag Coalition, Center for Rural Affairs, Land Stewardship Project, and even the National Young Farmers Coalition. That would be one approach, fight fire with fire. Larry Ellison, he’s a curious dude, he just bought a whole island in Hawaii as a sandbox. Maybe he wants to take over Monsanto, break it up, and sell off the parts?
I’m not so sure that this is the approach. Lawrence Lessig has famously launched a MayDay Super Pac campaign to use a big pulse of BIG MONEY to crack open the juggernaut of ‘politics for sale.’ He gives a great talk about it called “Lesterland.” He’s launched a crowd-sourced platform to take on the big-money struggle. When the Koch brothers pour in hundreds of millions of dollars to take an election, its hard to know which horse noses ahead. Could we cultivate a squad of fascinatingly powerful 1% allies to fight fire with fire?
Young farmers, you and me, we are in a weekly handshake with people who care about their personal, and community health and their happy bouncing babies. CSAs the way of the future, a powerful organ for community food sovereignty, and at each interaction a place to build consensus, firepower and commitment in our customers.
My friend Judith Windfrey came over with a comment while I was proof reading -- and I agree!
Lets use our connections, our customers, our chefs, our CSA members, and everywhere we interface with the public as education opportunities. Share with them the deeper issue and problems underlying our movement. Talk about GMOs, talk about land access, talk about the need for capitalization. Point them to solutions: Slow Money, NSAC, Land Trusts, etc. Make this a part of your regular communication. Become a propaganda machine for the movement. You have access to the people who can help move our culture and our world in a better direction. They are your allies because you are feeding them and they need your good, healthy food. Indoctrinate them, be a fulcrum for change. Be methodical, deliberate, consistent and undaunted. You are the good hope for the world.
Anna Isserow, Operations Manager
Eliza Greenman, Biodiversity Coordinator, Communications
Charlie Macquarie, Almanac 2015 managing editor
Ines Chapela, Assistant director
Brooke Werley, Agrarian Trust web coordination
Ann Marie Rubin, Agrarian Trust, Agrarian Lawyers
Tyler Christie, Angeline Gragásin, Our Land editors
Evan Driscoll, Radio producer
Jen Griffeth, Christian Ripley, Paula Brooks, Grange Future project
Anne Dailey, Eliza Greenman, Blog
Audrey Berman, Intergalactic mix-tape
Brian Dewan, Grange Song recordings
Brooke Budner, Illustrations for guidebooks
Louella Hill, Henry Tarmy, Bruce Forrester, Norah Hoover, New Farmers Almanac 2015
James Most, Chestnut Agroforestry project (Thanks to Nutiva)Tim Humphrey, Chris Roddy, Pete Land, tech team!