The dirty secret of the food movement is that the much-celebrated small-scale local farmer isn’t making a living. After the tools are put away, we head out to second and third jobs to keep our farms afloat. Ninety-one percent of all farm households rely on multiple sources of income. So what about basic necessities like health care, paying for our kids’ college, preparing for retirement? Forgedaboutit.
Others of us rely almost entirely on Department of Agriculture or foundation grants, not retail sales, to generate farm income. And young farmers, unable to afford land, are increasingly forced into neo-feudal relationships, working the fields of wealthy landowners.
A few of us have loosely banded together to create an alliance called Know Your Grower Atlanta (KYGA) so that we may be able to highlight our experiences of what its like making ends meet as farmers around the Metro Atlanta region. From pursuing our other passions including making artisan crafts, working in the food service industry and schlepping for any nonprofit that could stomach the stink of mud on our boots and clothes, we have become the chosen few dedicating our lives to growing food and human consciousness about healthy living. While we may have become the foodie elite, laden with college debt, with fb updates glorifying our #unemployedenvironmentalist statuses and waxing nostalgic with our partners in our small abodes dreaming about having kids because it’s cheaper than the real thing; we remain committed to our craft and love of growing food. Coupled with our boundless optimism and increasing tech savviness, we seek ways to figure out how to make a decent living wage out of the important work we do.
The food movement — led by celebrity chefs, advocacy journalists, students and NGOs — is missing, ironically, the perspective of the people doing the actual work of growing food. Their platform has been largely based on how to provide good, healthy food, while it has ignored the core economic inequities and contradictions embedded in our food system, especially from highlighting the perspectives of local growers. While weekend farmers’ markets remain precious community spaces, and our ability to provide to a select few restaurants are greatly appreciated, sales volumes are often too low to translate into living wages for your much-loved small-scale farmer.
It’s not the food movement’s fault that we’ve been left behind. Our collective actions have turned food into one of the defining issues of our generation. But now it’s time for farmers to shape our own agenda. That is why we have organized around Know Your Grower Atlanta so that we may be able to articulate our needs and fight for our rights in the future of farming. We need to fight for loan forgiveness for college grads who pursue agriculture; programs to turn farmers from tenants into landowners; provide housing for urban farmers who live in the community they grow; guaranteed affordable health care; and shifting subsidies from factory farms to family farms, especially in urban areas. We need to take the lead in shaping a new food economy by building our own production hubs and distribution systems. And we need to support workers up and down the supply chain who are fighting for better wages so that their families can afford to buy the food we grow.
None of these demands will be met until we organize — and use modern tools like this multiplatform website to shape a vision of a new food economy that ensures that growing good food also means making a good living.
We invite you to become part of our burgeoning movement for collective liberation. Are you a grower hoping to share your story? Do you know a grower who inspires you? Share it with Know Your Grower Atlanta!
Send your words, pictures, videos, and ideas our way at firstname.lastname@example.org