We were honored to join the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, long-time family farmer activists, for their 52nd Annual Gathering in Birmingham, Alabama to learn about their decades of work supporting rural communities of color across the South and legacy of transformative impacts through working cooperatively. Over the years, the Federation has earned over $80M in cooperative sales, made over $211Min loans, and saved over $125M worth of Black land.
In Epes, Alabama we had the opportunity to spend two days at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives’ rural training center, which for decades has been a critical site for training Black farmers on cooperative development, agricultural production practices, and farmer land rights. A core theme of this annual meeting at the Center was defending heirs property, or land that's passed down from one generation to the next without a will or clear title. Heirs property is common in Black families that continue to face discrimination by the legal system, and this particular form of insecure land tenure is a contributing factor to Black land loss.
While sorting fresh okra and eggplants bound for a cooperative grocery store in New Orleans, we heard familiar stories of consolidation in the agriculture sector -- chain supermarkets only buying watermelons from the one largest grower in the region, the sinking farmer revenue from timber as one Koch brothers-owned timber mill bought out all the independent mills, and the disappearance of local independent grain elevators which has forced farmers to drive their harvests to the coast.
The story is similar across both agricultural and maritime markets - a few large companies are monopolizing critical aspects of the supply chain. All of these market pressures further highlighted the importance of alternative food producer-owned economic models, like the cooperative Indian Springs Farmers Association, which in Mississippi is connecting family-scale farmers with restaurants, independent grocery stores, and directly to consumers through farmers markets.
Here are some things you can do today to help fight corporation stakeholders and support community-based fishermen and farmers.
Support the Real Meals Movement - It’s time for Aramark to move away from dirty deals and toward real meals that support food producers, communities, consumers, and the earth. Join us in calling on Aramark to be part of the solution, not the problem. Sign the petition: http://bit.ly/2OlW5OV
Take a stand on social media: Tell @NOAA now is the time to act in the best interests of the public. Don’t let Wall Street investors take over our fisheries.