Sunday, June 5, 2011

Plate to Politics - 2012

Look up "moms against" in your favorite search engine and you'll find an untold number of organizations comprised of moms against such and such. Moms Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Moms Against Mercury, Moms Against Climate Change, and (my favorite) Moms Against Sarah Palin. Moms definitely have reason for their anger and advocacy for change. And now there’s a new collaborative of moms, and not moms, that will be working to engage more women in food politics. And do we need it! Despite our efforts to shift our national food policy in a more progressive and healthful direction during the last Farm Bill, we're still getting served up more of the same. This past spring, for example, many of the progressive programs funded through the last 2007 bill such as ATTRA were eliminated and other organic programs were put on the chopping block. Fortunately, organizations such as the Organic Farming Research Foundation were able to preserve organic research funding. Despite budget cuts attacking a broad spectrum of social services such as organic food and farming research, health care reform, and education, military spending is only slated to increase in 2011 and 2012. So it was with a happy heart that I received the press release below announcing a new coalition of women who convened to discuss policy and food system reform.

What Plate to Politics posits is that women's leadership in political positions will activate change through the entirety of the food movement's various branches - labor, farm to school, consumer awareness, Native foods, organic research and practices, health, and environment. This was expressed through the diversity of attendees at their first meeting, women who represented all of these facets of our food system. It will take all of us in this movement to make headway next year and Plate to Politics is sure to be a great force in organizing rural and urban women alike around a progressive food policy platform. So visit the website and get involved!

Women from Around the US Gather in Wisconsin to Strategize Ways to Strengthen the Healthy Food and Farming Movement
A diverse group of 30 women food system leaders from across the country met May 23-25 near Racine, WI, to begin the process of creating a national strategy for strengthening the influence of women in the healthy food and farming movement, from the farmhouse to the White House.

“We called this gathering ‘Cultivate 2012,’ reflecting the fact that next year will be a pivotal year for increasing women’s leadership and voice around food issues through the next election cycle and farm bill,” says Liz Johnson, National Director Rural Leadership for The White House Project, a non-profit aiming to advance women’s leadership in all communities and sectors.

The Cultivate 2012 summit was the kickoff of Plate to Politics, a nationwide coalition of women in sustainable agriculture sponsored by The White House Project, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), and Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN).

“Women have always been the primary drivers behind the healthy food and farming movement--as farmers, purchasers of their families’ food, and staff at the non-profit organizations that support the work,” says Leigh Adcock, executive director of WFAN. “Plate to Politics is the beginning of a national coalition of women in the movement who will work on a series of projects and initiatives to magnify our voices and influence in the arena of sustainable agriculture and healthy food systems.”

Women attending the Racine gathering represented a wide range of backgrounds, such as Lydia Villanueva, a Latino farmer organizer from the Texas Panhandle, Severine von Tscharner Fleming of New York, a beginning farmer advocate and producer of the film The Greenhorns, and Aurora Conley, a tribal leader working to preserve native strains of wild rice in northern Minnesota. The group included farmers, leaders of national grassroots organizations, federal agency staff, political activists, researchers and communications professionals. Meet all of the women leaders here.

Key initiatives that emerged from the Cultivate 2012 gathering are development of:
• an authentic, positive message in the national media prioritizing the triple benefits of the movement for health, economy and food;
• a national database and social media platform for collecting and championing diverse and inspiring stories of women farmers and food activists across the country, including connecting them with opportunities to be policy leaders from the local to the federal level;
• a targeted education campaign for Congressional staff and leaders on policy issues of importance to women in sustainable agriculture;
• and an informational toolkit and resources to educate and inspire a broad diversity of voters on food issues.

“The core of our work and conversations at Wingspread was a deep and collaborative commitment to social and racial justice that drives the action agenda we developed, including perspectives from rural and urban, women of color, young women, native women, immigrant women and elders,” says Lisa Kivirist, director of the Rural Women’s Project for the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) and author of Farmstead Chef and Ecopreneuring. “We proved at the summit that as diverse as we are, we can coalesce around several key initiatives that will support the millions of women working to change America’s food system for the better.”

Visit the Plate to Politics website to learn more about these initiatives and find out how you and your colleagues and constituents can get involved in this vital work!