I spent July 4, 2018 in Port Orford, Oregon. It was one of our stops along the America the Bountiful Tour. When we first started organizing the tour, I was calling it Declaring Our InterDependence Tour. The motivation for the tour was to kick start the shared leadership model between NAMA and NFFC. It felt important to start this new role by connecting more deeply with rural farming and fishing communities that make up the two organizations.
Today, July 4, 2019, I find myself once again heading out to visit a few rural communities. In fact, I’m writing this on a west bound train. My ultimate destination is Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Along the way, I’ll be joined by NFFC staff to visit with dairy farmers in Wisconsin. I also get to visit the new Sitka Salmon Shares facility in Madison.
It feels appropriate to be visiting dairy farmers and Sitka Salmon Shares on this trip. What I’ve been learning is that from all parts of agriculture, what’s happening with dairy farming most resembles what’s been going on with fisheries.
The impact of economic disempowerment leading to radically unfair prices, massive consolidation and vertical integration that has taken over the sectors, loss of critical infrastructure due to the corporate takeover of dairy and fisheries, lack of control over the market share and market place… the list goes on. Of course other parts of agriculture feel the same impacts, but the situation with dairy farmers is particularly stark as has been the situation with fishermen.
Sitka Salmon Shares is built on the Community Supported Fishery (CSF) model. At NAMA, we helped pilot the first CSF in the community of Port Clyde, Maine back in late 2007. Since then, many CSFs have sprung and the movement has spawned a whole new generation of values-based seafood businesses that are now part of the Local Catch Network.
Don’t get me wrong. Fishermen aren’t out of the woods. Nowhere near it. But the hope and possibilities the CSF movement has sprung have been really important to the fishing communities who lead our work. My hope is that we can build on that and bring some hope and possibility to the struggling dairy farmers.
So stay tuned for lessons from dairy land with a side of seafood!