Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When farmers call, I listen

JoelFor 25 years, Farm Aid’s Hotline, 1-800-FARM-AID, has been there for farmers in need. I answer the hotline everyday and I can tell you it shows no sign of slowing down — this year we got more calls than we have in many years. And thousands more farmers are finding the resources they need through the Farmer Resource Network, our online tool to connect farmers with resources to strengthen their farms.

Whether family farmers need help to survive these tough times or if they’re looking to make changes on the farm to help them thrive, Farm Aid is there. But we can’t keep up our work without your support — please consider making a year-end gift to Farm Aid today. If you give $40 or more, we'll thank you by sending a Farm Aid baseball cap that's union made in the USA. Your gift will deliver a helping hand at just the right time for farmers in need.

Most of the folks calling our hotline are family farmers in a credit crunch. The banks they used to rely on for routine operating loans are turning them away. Without a loan, many won't be able to keep farming. Farmers call Farm Aid in hopes that we can help. And we do all that we can.

I grew up in farm country and family farmers are some of the most resourceful and independent people I know. If they’re asking for help, you know they really need it. With your support, Farm Aid is determined to help them succeed.

Let me share with you what farmers tell me they need. Recently I spoke with:

  • A group of Southern farmers looking for information about converting to organic methods so they can supply local schools with safe, high quality food;
  • A Nebraska farmer’s son seeking medical assistance for his ailing dad;
  • A couple who recently graduated college looking for new farmer training programs;
  • A retiring Midwest soy and corn farmer with no children to inherit the farm searching for a sustainably-minded farmer to take over his land so it won’t be gobbled up by development.

The support Farm Aid provides means that family farmers can stay in business and keep doing what they love. For 25 years, Farm Aid has been there for farmers who count on us. Can we count on your support to ensure that family farmers will be able to stay on their land growing the good food we all need in the years to come?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Winter Farmers Markets and Gifts from the Family Farm!

JenSome states in the U.S. are lucky to have the kind of weather that allows farmers markets to stay open all year. Others have a year-round indoor market, like Pike Place in Seattle or Reading Terminal in Philadelphia. But even in cold-weather states, farmers markets are starting to follow in the footsteps of resilient and brilliant farmers who extend the growing season using innovative techniques to keep the farm-fresh produce coming. Winter farmers markets are popping up all over! Last year on this blog, we had a short list of winter farmers markets across the country. This year, that list has grown quite a bit. And just today, the USDA reported an official count of winter farmers markets: 898!

Here’s a list of winter markets I was able to pull together, with links to their website if they have one. Let me know in the comments section below if I’ve missed your favorite winter market.

Portland, ME

Vermont


York, ME

New Hampshire

Lebanon, NH

Natick, MA

Wayland, MA

North Amherst, MA

Somerville, MA

Massachusetts

Westport, CT

Litchfield, CT

Pawtucket, RI

North Kingston, RI

Saratoga Springs, NY

Troy, NY

Glens Falls, NY

Lancaster County, PA: Green Dragon Market and Central Market

Princeton and North Brunswick, New Jersey

Leesburg, VA and Richmond, VA

Baltimore County, MD

Here’s a great list for the DC, VA, MD area

Chapel Hill, NC


Chicago, Illinois

St Louis, MO

Columbia, MO

Franklin, TN

Bloomington, IN

Indianapolis, IN

Columbus, OH

Worthington, OH

Des Moines, IA

Dubuque, IA

Milwaukee, WI

Dane County, WI

Eau Claire, WI

Madison, WI

Kalamazoo, MI

St. Paul, MN

Minneapolis, MN

Rochester, MN

Scottsbluff, NE

Stillwater, OK and Oklahoma City, OK

West Wichita, KS and Emporia, KS

Pryor, OK

Basalt, CO

Fort Collins, CO

Salt Lake City, UT

Bozeman, MT

Cheyenne, Goshen County and Laramie, Wyoming

Sioux Falls, SD

Las Vegas, NV

Seattle, Washington

Portland, OR

Oregon City, OR

Corvallis, OR

If there isn’t a winter market near you selling the ham you'd like for your holiday table, you can order your sustainably-raised ham from Patchwork Family Farms in Missouri. Patchwork is a cooperative of family farmers who believe in raising quality meat in a sustainable and humane way, and we've been proud to work with them for 25 years now.

Another long-time partner of Farm Aid is Family Farm Defenders in Wisconsin and they're once again offering their fair trade holiday gift boxes, featuring Fair Trade Family Farmer Cheese!

Are you looking for something to give do-it-yourself-er in your life, or DIY gifts you can make and give? Click on over to HOMEGROWN.org and check out the latest blog on HOMEGROWN gift ideas.

And don't forget about the great merchandise available at www.farmaid.org. T-shirts, hats and 25th anniversary posters are the perfect gifts for those who love the music and the mission to keep family farmers on the land, growing good food for all of us. This Sunday, December 12, is the last day to order to guarantee delivery by Christmas.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Activists Submit 240,000 Petitions Demanding Action to Curb Food Monopolies

JenOn the eve of the final Department of Justice/Department of Agriculture public workshop examining the effects of corporate concentration in food and agriculture, Farm Aid joined with farm and food activists to submit almost a quarter of a million petitions calling on both the Justice Department and the USDA to take swift action to curb the abusive market power that a handful of corporations exert over farmers and consumers.

Throughout 2010, the Department of Justice and the USDA have jointly held public workshops across the country to gather information about competition issues in agriculture. Farm Aid has attended each of the four workshops held so far, focused on the seed, poultry, dairy and livestock industries. Farm Aid staff will also attend the fifth and final workshop tomorrow, which looks at margins, or the difference between what we pay at the grocery store and the price farmers receive for their goods.

Farm Aid's executive director Carolyn Mugar said, "[The promising new initiatives to expand access to good, farm-fresh food] can't get very far if family farmers continue to be driven out of business by big corporations who wield unchecked power over the market. The companies that dominate control of processing, meatpacking, and retailing largely determine what farmers are paid for their products and the prices people pay at the grocery store. It's time we leveled the playing field, bringing fairness to family farmers and eaters alike."

To read the entire press release, click here.

Thanks to all of you who submitted comments on this important issue! We'll keep you informed as the Departments of Justice and Agriculture announce the steps they'll take to address what they've heard from farmers and consumers.

It's not too late to raise your voice for fair farm policies and farmers and eaters! If you're in DC and want to attend the workshop or tonight's Supper from the Family Farm and Farmer and Consumer Forum, check out Alicia's blog from yesterday for all the info!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Join Us in D.C Tomorrow—Confronting Corporate Control Over Our Food: A Farmer and Consumer Forum

AliciaAs we’ve talked about quite a bit this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Justice (DOJ) have been holding an unprecedented series of workshops examining the control that a handful of corporations have over our entire food system. Most of what matters about food safety, access to affordable, healthy food and the reason why so many family farmers still struggle to get by is the direct result of the stranglehold these corporations have on every link of the food chain.

If you’re in the Greater D.C.-Metro area, please join us for a special event to show solidarity with family farmers and learn more about how corporate control impacts consumers:

Confronting Corporate Control Over Our Food: A Farmer and Consumer Forum
Tuesday, December 7th
5-6:30pm, Supper from the Family Farm
6:30-8pm, Forum
The Methodist Building at 100 Maryland Ave NE, Washington DC (next to the Supreme Court)
RSVP to nffc@nffc.net

The event will feature an educational panel of farmer and consumer leaders who will introduce attendees to the DOJ/USDA antitrust workshop process, talk in depth about the impact corporate control has had on the lives of farmers and eaters and offer space for a “Community Speak-Out.”

The next day, Wednesday, December 8th, the DOJ and USDA will hold the final antitrust workshop—a workshop focusing on how corporate concentration affects the difference between consumer food prices and what farmers are paid for their goods. We encourage those in the area to attend this important workshop as well. You can register for the event here.

We hope you will join us tomorrow evening or at the Wednesday workshop itself (or, better yet, both!) to show USDA and DOJ that all of us who eat care about a fair food system and demand meaningful action against bad corporate players.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

An update on food safety and child nutrition legislation

JenYesterday the Senate passed the food safety bill with unique bipartisan support (73-25) with the Manger's amendment and Tester-Hagan language in place, meaning the exemptions farmers, eaters and activists fought for to ensure that local and regional food systems continue to grow should be enacted. Now, the House needs to approve the Senate's language before it can be passed on to the President for his final approval. While we thought this was a sure thing, as the House had previously indicated they would accept the language – there seems to have been a procedural error in the Senate that may hold up the bill entirely, launching a power struggle within Congress. Read here for more information. We will be sure to keep you updated as this saga continues to unfold!

Today, Congress will vote on the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S. 3307) (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-3307), the bill that reauthorizes childhood nutrition programs and includes provisions to help get healthy, farm-fresh food into our school cafeterias. You stepped up to tell your Senators to protect the rights of small and mid-sized farmers as they considered the food safety bill, now tell your Representative you expect them to vote yes on child nutrition and support family farmers and good food for kids! You can get your Representative's name and direct number at Congress.org (just enter your zip code). Or, call the Capitol Switchboard, provide your Representative's name and be directly connected to their office: (202) 225-3121. Once connected, ask to speak to the staff member who works on child nutrition. Our partners at the Community Food Security Coalition, who have been tireless working on this legislation, suggest you use this script:

I am a constituent of ________ and I am calling to ask him/her to vote YES for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S. 3307) when it comes to the floor for a vote this week. Unless Congress sends the bill to the President now, supporters will have to start over in the new Congress. We must not make our children wait any longer.
And if you need a good chuckle this morning, check out Secretary of Ag, Tom Vilsack, as he promotes the child nutrition bill on the Colbert Report last night!



Thanks for doing your part to build a vibrant family farm-centered food system!