A Salute to the Real Heroes of the Food Rights Struggle--And How to Back Them Up
Liz Reitzig has, over the last few years, become a national leader of America’s rapidly expanding food rights movement. She is the co-coordinator of Grassfed on the Hill buying club serving the greater Washington, DC, area, and co-founder of the Farm Food Freedom Coalition. Liz has spent the past six years working on the state and national levels representing small farms and consumers at the state legislature and in the halls of Congress lobbying for food and farming rights. She is the principle organizer of an annual National Grassroots Lobby Day and Legislative Reception on Capitol Hill. She does all this while raising five young children.
Tomorrow, she is leading a “Know Your Rights Workshop” and on Saturday a demonstration for Lemonade and Raw Milk Freedom—all these events in Washington, DC.
In this guest post, Part 1 of a two-part series, she explores why it’s so important for Americans to support their farmers engaged in producing sustainable nutrient-dense food, and provides specific suggestions for actions people can do on their own to add support.
by Liz Reitzig
I have invested the past six years of my life addressing issues surrounding access to real foods. Many people I know are astounded that food rights are even an issue and that I spend my time working to advance food freedom. Why do I do this, they ask.
I am sure that many of you reading this are aware of the many hurdles our farmers and food producers who care about sustainability go through in order to provide their communities with clean, healthy, safe, wholesome food. It is a harsh reality of life in today’s America that many have become targets of government force for simply feeding their communities.
Since this is the reality we are living with, we must acknowledge the reality that those who continue to provide our communities with real food are doing so at great risk to themselves and that it takes exponentially more time and effort than it would otherwise need to if the threat of government force did not exist.
This is why it is absolutely essential for those of us who make up their communities to take on more responsibility on their behalf. What do I mean by this? A little story about a farm and its chicken and pig might help explain:
Once Upon a Time....
A Chicken and a Pig lived on a farm. The farmer was very good to them and they both wanted to do something good for him.
One day the chicken approached the pig and said, "I have a great idea for something we can do for the farmer! Would you like to help?"
The pig, quite intrigued, said, "of course! What do you propose?"
The chicken knew how much the farmer enjoyed a delicious healthy breakfast. He also knew how little time the farmer had to make a good breakfast. "I think the farmer would be very happy if we made him breakfast."
The pig thought about this. While not as close to the farmer, he too knew of the farmer's love for a good breakfast. "I'd be happy to help you make breakfast for the farmer! What do you suggest we make?"
The chicken, understanding that he had little else to offer suggested, "I could provide some eggs."
The pig knew the farmer might want more, "That's a fine start. What else should we make?"
The chicken looked around...scratched his head...then said, "ham? The farmer loves ham and eggs!"
The pig, very mindful of what this implied, said, "that's fine, but while you're making a contribution, I'm making a real commitment!"
(Story from http://www.agilejedi.com/chickenandpig)
We have successful local food systems today because many farmers, producers and other individuals have made a real commitment. They have taken on an enormous project and dedicated their lives to it so that present and future generations have access to clean, safe food. In the process, each producer has developed a community that benefits from his or her work.
We all know some prime examples of people who dedicate their lives to ensuring community access to real food or teaching people how to produce their own foods or promoting local food.
These amazing food producers, suppliers and teachers are like the pig in our story—they give all for this cause. They are committed! They have given their lives over to this tireless, often thankless, work so that we have choices in what we eat and so that these choices remain for future generations.
I don’t think we need to go into too much detail here for us all to be conscious of the diverse ways these producers are preserving our agricultural heritage through urban farming, seed exchange, and feeding their rural and urban communities. I hope you will each reflect for a moment on how pivotal their roles are and just how much they bring to your community.
Most of the rest of us are like the chicken--“involved.” We’re willing to do something to further the cause. Maybe real food is important to us. Or perhaps we want to eat locally. Or support a sustainable food system. Maybe we’ve joined a CSA or buying club. Or maybe we shop at a farmers’ market. Or maybe we are still waiting for the right time.
Each of us has an incredible opportunity right now to embrace the idea of making a sacrifice in our life, get on the road to true commitment, to further a cause that is so much bigger than any one of us: access to safe, real foods for this and future generations. Whether we are the chicken in the story, or one of the other farm animals not even mentioned, there is room for greater involvement on a path to full commitment.
Not sure what this would look like in your life? Consider the following:
- Maybe it would look like giving up a family vacation in order to donate the money to a farmer facing jail.
- Maybe it means traveling a little further and paying a higher price so that those who produce our food can make an honest living.
- Or maybe it looks like changing your schedule to pick up your groceries regularly at the farm.
- Or maybe it means going to a farm to personally thank a farmer for getting up early on Christmas day and milking cows so that you can have real milk 365 days a year.
- Maybe it looks like scheduling and planning a food-related event in your area.
- Or perhaps it looks like making a movie about local farmers, writing letters to the editor, reaching out to your neighbors or working on legislative issues related to food and farming.
- Maybe it means starting a buying club, growing a garden or playing with someone else’s children so that they can become more involved.
- Perhaps it looks like making signs for a rally, engaging in peaceful non-compliance or throwing a few bucks towards supporting someone else’s planned event.
Whatever it looks like in your life, go ahead and embrace it!
(In Part 2, what commitment looks like in Liz Reitzig’s life, and what it might look like in your life.)