Finding Footholds in Food Justice: A Personal and Political Journey on Food Justice Tour #1
On of our greatest successes in organizing our first Food Justice Bus Tour has to be the community building we accomplished. Not only did we get to build with partners at Food What?!, Pie Ranch, The Homeless Garden Project and Swanton Berry Farm but we also got to build more with our Bay Area Community. It gave us so much hope as organizers to model the movement we need to see: multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-denominational, economically diverse and mixed experience levels. We are thankful to those who stepped in and purchased scholarship tickets! With those we were able to have eight folks join us from a home-school who otherwise wouldn't have been able to.
As one rider put it, their favorite thing about our tour was "so many people coming together from so many points of view". It seems ironic but honoring our diversity actually allows us to address identity politics and then move beyond the difference to see our collective responsibilities and interdependence. This is not to say that we want to move beyond identity politics to a politics of seeing no difference but instead rejecting colorblindness we embrace diversity as the foundation of resilience. This is a lesson we find affirmed by nature, learned from plants, from permaculture. As one evaluation of our tour reads, the best part was "just learning about other people's struggles and finding out that we're alike in some way".
It seemed that our incredibly diverse bus load of folks had an equally diverse range of ways food justice was most relevant to them:
- Roots and Culture: For some it was connecting to African roots and Culture through exploring which African Crops can be grown in the bay area and considering how garden 'kits' could be a way for people in the United States to support people in Africa.
- Food Security and Emergency Preparedness: For others the notion of food security is what hit closest to home when they thought about preparedness for stormy weather events including natural and man made disasters.
- Farm Worker Justice: Tour guests resounded that something that was new and impactful for them was "hearing first hand stories form the 2nd generations of immigrant families".
- Climate Change: Some of our tour attendees from Berkeley's Edible Schoolyard also helped us to see the importance of Food Justice through a climate justice framework pointing out the many connections between our industrial food system and climate change.
WHY IS FOOD JUSTICE IMPORTANT TO YOU? WHAT (in our vast food system) DO YOU CARE ABOUT?
- Remembering and Indigenous Solidarity: At Pie Ranch Marcelo shared with us the importance of 're-membering' which helped some attendees to position food justice in a framework of reclaiming land based traditions that have been suppressed through cultural dominance. This is 're-membering' because we are putting ourselves back together again. Marcelo, Pie ranch youth programs coordinator, reminded us that we all come from peoples who had more direct relationships with plants, non-human animals and the planet.
- Segregation, Community and Equality: During a comparative discussion of organizing in Santa Cruz and the East Bay, one tour participant pointed out the ways that de facto-segregation effect peoples sense of 'community'. De facto-segregation is a term for the segregation that occurs not as a result of segregation laws but because of housing prices, school districts, proximity to public transportation and discriminatory renting practices. This participant pointed out that a sense of community that spans across ethnicity is necessary for correcting issues of food distribution, food access and food injustice.
- Sustainable Ways of Growing: Learning about the various sustainable growing methods is what made others feel the importance of food justice organizing. The need to disseminate models like the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) format, local food systems and farming techniques. One such technique was the planting in succession that has been taking place at the UCSC farm and garden. Here they plant six 'blocks', or rows of crops, in their field in two week intervals. This means they will have a steady harvest throughout the season instead of getting all their harvest at once.
- Self Care: We are so happy that one of the young people on our tour identified the importance of self care in a food system that promotes highly processed and highly devastating diets. Self care can be seen as radical or subversive when systems, governments, and corporation are in cahoots to shame, trick and force people away from actual self care.
- Spirit of Service and Compassion: For others, food justice seemed most relevant to their spirit of service and heart of justice. Hearing about how buying organic can help the lives of farm workers -- from tour speaker Vicky a tremendous youth organizer at Food What?! -- left a handful of riders feeling new found commitment to voting with their fork. For others feelings of compassion for people who are struggling is what made the Food Justice work of Planting Justice and the Homeless Garden Project exciting.
- Grounding and Connecting to Nature: At Pie Ranch -- where we took a silent mindful walk among coastal redwoods and pines -- some tour participants found that peace comes from farming not only because you are helping to feed others. Two people mentioned that smelling herbs was a highlight from their time at Homeless Garden Project. Out at Pie Ranch we learned that peace can also come from breathing the fresh air, touching the soil and mindful gardening. We learned the roles farming and food justice play in Pie Ranch curriculum bringing urban youth into empowered centered leaders though recognition of our sacred relationships to food, nature and place.