by Jim Goodman
December 12, 2011
Jim Goodman, his wife Rebecca
and brother Francis run a 45-cow organic dairy and direct market
beef farm in southwest Wisconsin.
His farming roots trace back to
his great-grandfather's immigration from Ireland during the famine
and the farm's original purchase in 1848.
A farm activist, Jim credits
more than 150 years of failed farm and social policy as his
motivation to advocate for a farmer-controlled consumer-oriented
Jim currently serves on the
policy advisory boards for the Center for Food Safety and the
Organic Consumers Association, and is a board member of Midwest
and of the Family Farm Defenders.
Farmers have been through this before - our lives and livelihoods falling
under corporate control.
It has been an ongoing process:
Some of us are catching on, getting the picture
of the real enemy.
The "99 percent" are awakening to the realization that their lives have
fallen under corporate control as well. Add up the jobs lost, the health
benefits whittled away, and the unions busted, and the bill for Wall
Street's self-centered greed is taking a toll.
It may be the Wall Street
banks that are controlling our lives,
or it may be
DuPont, Kraft, or
The system isn't working.
photo: Brennan Cavanaugh /
It's not the immigrants, the homeless, the
unions, or the farmers that have looted the economy and driven us to the
brink of another Great Depression. The public is catching on.
When Occupy Wall Street (OWS) welcomed the Farmers March to
Zuccotti Park in New York on December 4, a natural rural-urban alliance -
the Food Justice Movement, gardeners, farmers, seed growers, health care
workers, and union members - was formed at Wall Street's back door.
Change can come only when you confront your oppressors directly on their
turf. That makes them uncomfortable, it gets attention, and it wakes up the
The Occupy movement is doing exactly what the prominent student
Mario Savio spoke of in 1964, when he declared:
"There comes a time when the operation of
the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you
can't take part, you can't even passively take part and you've got to
put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the apparatus
and you've got to make it stop - and you've got to indicate to the
people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you're free, the
machine will be prevented from running at all."
The people who are now forming a movement to
occupy the food system agree with this sentiment too.
The food system isn't working. People eat too many calories, or too few.
There's too much processed food on our plates. Too many Americans lack
access to food that is fresh, nutritious, and locally grown. This is the
food system that corporate America has given us. It's the food system it's
selling to the rest of the world.
Clearly, this system doesn't have the best interests of the public at heart.
Nor does it consider the interests of farmers or farm workers or animals or
the environment. It has one interest: profit.
We all have to wake up.
Farmers need access to farm credit, a fair mortgage on their land, fair
prices for the food they produce, and seeds that aren't patented by Monsanto
or other big corporations. Consumers need to be able to purchase healthy and
local food, and to earn a living wage.
The parallels are pointedly exact. It may be the Wall Street banks that are
controlling our lives, or it may be Monsanto, Cargill, DuPont, Kraft, or
Tyson's. The system isn't working.
Why do agribusiness profits continue to grow while farmers struggle to pay
their costs of production and more Americans go hungry? We can't feed our
people if we are forced to feed the bank accounts of the 1 percent.
Agribusinesses insist that we have the responsibility of feeding the world.
genetically engineered corn and soy isn't
going to feed the world, nor will it correct the flaws in our food system;
clearly it has created many of them.
The world can feed itself, without corporate America's science-experiment
crops and expensive chemicals. The world's people can feed themselves if we
let them - if we stop the corporate land grabs and let them develop their
own economies for their own benefit.
The message from the Occupy movement needn't and shouldn't be a
specific set of demands. It should be about asking the right questions.
Wall Street, the government, and corporate America need to answer one basic
Why did you sell us down the