2011-12-15 / Columns

Farmers ‘Feed the Movement’

Our Farms, Our Food
By Josey Hastings

Feed the Movement is a group of farmers and food advocates from Vermont and Massachusetts who are working together to support the Occupy Movements in New York and Boston by sending them weekly shipments of as much as 500 pounds of farm produce. Many Vermont farms, including Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford, have donated produce to feed the Occupiers.

Cat Buxton, education coordinator at Cedar Circle Farm, is beginning to organize farms in Orange and Windsor counties to participate in Feed the Movement. She expressed a desire both to support the Occupy Movement and to be sure that farmers’ voices are heard.

Buxton wants to “get the message out there that big, industrial agriculture has created a food system that is not sustainable for the planet or the people that live on it. Small, sustainable farms are working to change that. We have a lot to say about how to move forward in a way that is more beneficial for the land and for people.”

Feed the Movement began in mid-October and is largely coordinated in Vermont by Emily Curtis-Murphy of Fair Food Farm in East Calais. According to Curtis- Murphy, “The mission of Fair Food Farm is to make healthy food affordable to everybody. So, feeding the Occupation is a logical offshoot of that.”

Curtis-Murphy tells of growing up in the Boston area where “everything we ate came from the supermarket. We never had a garden.” She noted that “If I heard something on the radio about the Farm Bill, I thought it had nothing to do with me, but it does. It has to do with everyone’s health and with rural economies.”

The Farm Bill will be rewritten in 2012 and it is Curtis- Murphy’s hope that sending healthy food to the social activists in Boston and New York will “bring food issues to the Occupy Movement and emphasize that farmers’ issues are everybody’s issues.”

Buxton added that “having a broken food system makes it really difficult for the average person to stay healthy. As farmers, it is our mission to grow great food, great soil, and healthy communities. We are a business, but we don’t put our profits before people and the planet.”

There has been some criticism that Feed the Movement is depriving the Vermont Foodbank of much-needed donations of fresh vegetables.

Curtis-Murphy responded that “These farms send tons of vegetables to the Foodbank.” She added that the same farms also end up composting a lot of vegetables that the Foodbank cannot accept due to quantity and quality restrictions.

John Sayles, CEO of the Vermont Foodbank, confirmed that the Foodbank cannot accept all the produce that it is offered, and that sending some of it to the Occupy groups makes sense.

“The Occupations are working to make the situation of poor people in Vermont better,” Curtis-Murphy said. “The purpose is to fight for economic justice. I don’t see it as a conflict of interest.”

Feed the Movement’s transportation system makes it easy to collect and deliver donated produce with minimal environmental impact. They use an existing food distribution network to deliver to New York and Boston. Deep Root Organic Cooperative, a collection of Vermont vegetable farms, picks up donations along with their regular orders and delivers them to Black River Produce, which then drives them to Boston. New York deliveries have been shipped with volunteers headed down to join the protests, but starting this week, Black River will be dropping off vegetables in the Pioneer Valley so the Massachusetts branch of Feed The Movement can add them to their regular New York deliveries.

“We’re not burning any extra gas to get these vegetables down there,” commented Curtis-Murphy. Deep Root has donated their transpor­tation service to Feed the Movement, and Black River only charges $1 per box.

Although farms started out donating food, Feed the Movement recently received funding from the Occupy Wall Street General Assembly to pur­chase farm food.

Feed the Movement also accepts on-line donations at feedthemovement.wordpress.com to help pay farms for their produce.

Farmers and other community members in Orange and Windsor counties who would like to participate in Feed the Movement are encouraged to contact Cat Buxton at cat@cedarcirclefarm.org.

Please e-mail any local agricultural news you would like to share to joseyhastings@gmail.com.

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