Monday, June 22, 2009

Farm Aid meets with the Secretary of Agriculture

JenLast week Farm Aid had the opportunity to meet with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The USDA shares many priorities in common with Farm Aid and so far has demonstrated a commitment to family farms and recognition of their importance to our nation's economic recovery.

President Obama's rural plan starts with ensuring economic opportunity for family farmers, with goals to guarantee a strong safety net for family farmers, prevent anticompetitive behavior against family farms, regulate factory farms, encourage organic and sustainable agriculture, encourage young people to become farmers, and support local and regional food systems among other things. In its first six months, the USDA has made tremendous strides on these goals, from assisting farmers struggling with tight credit markets with direct farm operating loans (which went to 2,636 farmers, about half of whom were beginning farmers!) to demonstrating a commitment to integrate organic throughout the USDA, to instituting Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) to help consumers understand from where their food comes, to committing to resolve the black farmers discrimination lawsuit that has plagued the USDA for years.

In addition to offering our cooperation, collaboration and resources to the USDA to help build a family farm-centered system of agriculture, we were able to discuss the current dairy crisis with the Secretary. Here at Farm Aid we're hearing from struggling dairy farmers on a daily basis. On our hotline, the total number of calls coming from dairy farmers has increased nearly 500% as compared to last year. We are dedicated to advocating on their behalf as best we can.

We presented our petition to the Secretary and discussed the issue at length, including options that may help end the crisis and pay farmers a fair price for their milk, based on the cost of production. The Secretary demonstrated a keen awareness of the issue, comparing this crisis to that of the 1980s, which forced thousands of farmers off the land.

While we didn't come away from our meeting with a commitment from USDA to do something, we are encouraged by Vilsack's knowledge of the crisis and empathy for dairy farmers. This meeting opened the wires of communication to the USDA and both Farm Aid and USDA are committed to continued dialogue. In the meantime, we will continue to explore other avenues by which we might come to a solution. As always, we'll keep you posted.

To read Farm Aid's press release about the USDA meeting, click here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Add Your Signature to Our Petition Before Our Meeting with USDA Secretary Vilsack

JenHere at Farm Aid, we're getting ready for our meeting on Thursday, June 18th, with Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack. We'll be taking along the more than 7,000 petitions we've collected that call on the Secretary to step in and set a fair price for milk that reflects the increased cost of production our dairy farmers are facing. If you haven't already signed our petition, please do so now! Our dairy farmers--and our safe, fresh, local milk supply--depends on you!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Save the Date for Boston's 3rd Annual Tour de Farms Bike Tour!

JenDid you know that the neighborhoods of Boston are home to innovative urban farms and community gardens that are strengthening Boston’s local and sustainable food systems? On Saturday, August 1, come explore them on the 2009 Tour de Farms bike ride!

Depending on which route you choose, you’ll visit urban farms in Roxbury and Dorchester, CSA (community supported agriculture) farms in the Blue Hills Reservation and surrounding communities, and Boston's oldest commercial farm. You’ll also get a chance to sample fresh, locally grown food, discover the benefits of local agriculture, and learn how you can actively support these efforts.

Boston Urban Farm Loop

  • This 15-mile route covers Dorchester, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and Mattapan
  • Farm stops include The Food Project, City Natives, ReVision Urban Farm, and the Minton Stables Community Garden
  • 9 AM start at Franklin Park
Community Farm Loop

  • This 40-mile route covers Boston, Brookline, Watertown, Waltham, Newton, and Milton
  • Farm stops include Allandale Farm, Waltham Fields Community Farm, Newton Community Farm, and Brookwood Community Farm
  • 8 AM start at Franklin Park
  • Please note that this is an advanced ride for experienced cyclists
Both rides will be led by experienced riders and there will be technical support in the case of flat tires -- but please be sure to bring extra tubes and tools!

Online pre-registration is required with a registration and insurance fee of $10. To register, please click here.

Farm Sites on the tours include:

The Tour de Farms is sponsored by the following organizations:

Photo used under Creative Commons license courtesy of Scott Beale / Laughing Squid.

A Celebration of Family Dairy Farmers in Cambridge, Mass.

KariPlease join us for an evening celebrating family dairy farmers and the milk they produce!

  • Hear author (and Massachusetts native) Lisa M. Hamilton read stories from her new book Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers
    in the Age of Agribusiness
    , a narrative non-fiction work that tells of a growing movement of "unconventional farmers" in the United States.

  • Listen to Farm Aid's Executive Director Carolyn Mugar discuss the current dairy economic crisis and how it is threatening family farmers in New England and across the country.

  • Participate in a milk tasting, featuring both organic and raw milk from several local dairies (along with palate-cleansing chocolate chip cookies from Henrietta's Table).

WHEN: Thursday, June 25th at 7PM

WHERE: Harvard Book Store - 1256 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA - (617) 661-1515

PRICE: Admission is free. Books will be available for sale and signing.

From a letter to the author by Wendell Berry:
In a time when agribusiness and the global economy are making the rules,and when most people of the land are striving to be obedient, these people have had the courage to use their own intelligence in their own places. They have been appropriately rewarded for their independence, and readers of this book will be rewarded also. As for me, when I read of the Podoll family's thinking about local adaptation and their effort 'to get the maximum from the minimum,' I wanted to stand up and shout.

Join Us at Farm Aid Day at Belkin Farm in Massachusetts

KariBelkin Family Lookout Farm and Farm Aid have teamed up to hold the inaugural “Farm Aid Day at Belkin Farm” on Saturday, June 20th. The day-long celebration will include children’s activities, live music, cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs, strawberry picking, raffles and special activities that emphasize locally grown food. Strawberries will be in full season and available for picking in the orchards or for purchase at concessions.

Among the live, interactive entertainment will be cooking demonstrations by Chef Evan Percoco of BOXK 109 American Prime in Newton. Chef Percoco, whose home is actually located on the farm, will prepare a special dish featuring strawberries, invite children to help him prepare it, and provide tastings for all beginning at noon. A live musical performance will be held from 1-2 PM, featuring a sign-along with acoustic artist Jeff Jam.

Other activities taking place throughout the day include face painting, temporary tattoos, train rides, a hay pyramid, seeds to bring home for children to help plant, a burlap maze, moon bounce, meet and greets with Belkin Family Lookout Farm’s new apple mascot (and the chance to help name it!), and fantastic raffle prizes. Among the prizes are restaurant gift certificates, free admission passes to Belkin Farm, a season-long pass to Belkin Farm, and Farm Aid t-shirts. For a detailed schedule of the day’s events, visit the Lookout Farm Festivities page.

A portion of the proceeds from admission fees that day will benefit Farm Aid.

WHEN: Saturday, June 20th from 10 AM – 5 PM

WHERE: Belkin Family Lookout Farm, 89 Pleasant St., South Natick., 508–653–0653.

PRICE: $8 ($3 from every admission will benefit Farm Aid). Children under 2 are free.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Pictures From the Dairy Farmer Rally

MattThe Dairy Rally for Fair Prices last weekend in Iowa was a real success; dairy farmers coming together to organize themselves and talk about the best way out of the dairy crisis. We were lucky enough to have people volunteer to help out at the rally by collecting signatures for petitions, recording video (more on that soon), and taking photographs.

We’ve collected some of these photos below in a slideshow to show you the diverse group of speakers and viewpoints at the rally. Our thanks to Fritz Nordengren for supplying us with these photos (check out his flickr photostream to see more pictures from the rally).

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Farm Aid Supporters Speak Out on Poor Oversight of GE Crops

HildeEvery time you eat, you may unknowingly be eating food that has been genetically engineered (GE), a process that inserts foreign genes into plants and animals to give that organism certain traits it would not naturally have. While supporters claim this technology is safe, thorough testing was not completed before GE was introduced to our food chain. The USDA itself has admitted that it has not been able to prevent the accidental release of unapproved GE crops into the food chain. This is especially scary considering the practice of growing industrial chemicals and drugs in GE crops. In addition to our health, the livelihood of our family farmers is also threatened because we cannot guarantee that non-GE seeds will not be contaminated.

Even though the USDA promised consumers and farmers stricter oversight of GE crops by working to tighten controls that protect the safety of our food and fields, its most recent proposed rule would do the exact opposite and would significantly weaken the already loop-hole ridden regulation of GE crops.

The USDA accepted public comments on their proposed rule up until June 1, 2009. Through Farm Aid’s Action Center, 2,496 public comments were submitted, urging the new Administration to reject the proposed rule and take a fresh look at how GE crops are regulated.

Thanks to all Farm Aid supporters who took a stand on this important issue!

Click here to receive updates from Farm Aid about how you can be involved in taking action to support a vibrant family-farmed system of agriculture.

Tune Into DIRECTV for More Farm Aid Shows in June

MattAll month long, DIRECTV's 101 network is replaying some favorite moments from the 2008 concert with one-hour specials presented in HD with 5.1 sound. See below for when the shows air (all times are Eastern) and set your TiVo!

Farm Aid Presents Nation Beat with Willie Nelson & Friends:
6/4 - 7 AM, 12 PM, and 8 PM
6/5 - 8 AM, 1 PM, and 6 PM
6/6 - 10 AM and 4 PM
6/7 - 11 AM, 2 PM, and 7 PM
6/8 - 8 AM and 12 PM
6/9 - 5 PM and 8 PM
6/11 - 1 PM
6/13 - 2 PM
6/14 - 8 AM and 5 PM
6/15 - 8 PM and 11 PM
6/16 - 1 PM and 5 PM
6/19 - 8 AM and 12 PM
6/22 - 1 PM
6/23 - 6 PM
6/27 - 3 PM
6/28 - 8 AM and 5 PM
6/30 - 8 AM

Farm Aid Presents Jakob Dylan & Friends:
6/6 - 9 AM, 3 PM, 7 PM
6/7 - 5 PM
6/8 - 7 AM and 1 PM
6/12 - 8 AM
6/14 - 6 PM
6/20 - 2 PM
6/23 - 1 PM
6/26 - 8 AM

Farm Aid Presents Jerry Lee Lewis & Friends:
6/7 - 10 AM, 1 PM, and 6 PM
6/16 - 7 AM
6/17 - 8 AM
6/20 - 3 PM and 7 PM
6/21 - 10 AM and 1PM
6/28 - 6 PM

Farm Aid Presents The Pretenders & Friends:
6/4 - 7 PM
6/13 - 3 PM
6/16 - 7 PM

Sign up for our newsletter or follow us on Twitter for the latest word on the 2009 concert.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Report from the Dairy Rally in Iowa

Joel Morton at the dairy rallyFarm Aid's Joel Morton speaking at the Dairy Rally for Fair Prices. Photo © Fritz Nordengren
JoelA big shout-out to all those who participated in Saturday's "Dairy Farmers Rally for Fair Prices" in Manchester, Iowa. The rally featured an impressive and diverse set of 14 speakers, many of whom were dairy farmers, both conventional and organic. After hearing the featured speakers, several more farmers stepped up to have their say during an open microphone session.

Even Farm Aid president Willie Nelson got in on the action, calling in by cell phone to voice support for the rally. Dairy farmer and rally organizer Jerry Harvey took the call while at the microphone and everybody got to listen in as Willie and Jerry discussed the nationwide dairy crisis and the range of solutions. Those solutions were presented at the rally and include:
  1. pressure for immediate action from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to set a temporary floor price for milk
  2. a sustained push for the best possible long-term federal legislation on dairy pricing;
  3. a renewed call for strict enforcement and expansion of anti-trust regulation to ensure that independent producers are no longer victimized by big dairy conglomerates, processors, and their cronies;
  4. direct cooperation between family farmers and consumers to ensure fair prices and high quality family farm products for everyone.
The Manchester rally drew about 170 people, including farmers and their families and friends, activists from Farm Aid ally and partner organizations, local and regional supporters and volunteers, and many members of the media. Participants came from at least eight states: Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania. The many farm and community organizations on hand included Family Farm Defenders, the Iowa Farmers Union, the Nebraska Farmers Union, the National Farmers Union, the Center for Rural Affairs, the National Family Farm Coalition, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. In the days leading up to the rally we also had outreach support from dozens of organizations around the country, including Iowa-based groups such as the Women, Food and Ag Network, Practical Farmers of Iowa, as well as longtime Farm Aid allies such as the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.

What a great day! Thanks to everyone for supporting the core group of Iowa dairy farmers and farm advocates whose hard work and long hours made this grass-roots action possible. Now let's build on this energy and keep the ball rolling! Stay tuned to for updates on what you can do to help in this crucial battle to save the family dairy farm in your locale and throughout the nation. Dairy has rightly been called the canary in the coal mine of industrial ag's decades-long campaign to wipe out family farms -- poultry in the 1970's, hog farms in the 80's and 90's. Your action in the present moment will help determine the future of farming in America: whether we get our food from family farms or factories.