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Farmer and Food Advocate

The farmer; she is the reason why we eat
The farmer; she is the reason

She’s got no time to be at the table
We lose her voice because she is too busy
With dirt between her nails
The dirt between her nails and the holes in her jeans
And so her voice is lost

But she tries because she has something to say
And the hungry to feed
Something to say of the plight and of her food – your food

She wants to speak of what she sees and what she feels
But when she’s let in at the table the language spoken is foreign to her ears,
Food justice is not what she hears and that’s the language that feeds her

She cannot string the pretty pattern of words together to make her voice heard
And so her voice is lost
We have become a society that values things based on how much these things cost – we don’t value food. Our farmers, those who have been given the task of feeding the nation, are not being paid fairly. We have a cheap food policy and a cheap food mentality in this country. We need food that will sustain and heal in all ways.

We forget about those who are producing the food. As a society we even expect them to act and look a certain way. If you ask the children of farmers, many will speak of hardships of fitting in. It doesn’t feel good to know that although your family is too proud to participate in the free lunch program, deep inside you know that your family probably qualifies.

Everyone eats and everyone needs food. We need to keep talking about the fairness of farmers, farm workers, fishermen, producers... everyone. Everyone who eats. In these current conversations about the future of our food system and the injustices felt within it, we much more often see the people with paid salaries, which affords them the time to think about being politically correct, so that they are ready to talk food justice and food systems.

Farmers get left out of the conversations that are critical to their livelihood, our communities’ well-being, and our collective future. A farmer can be left out of the conversation even if s/he is sitting where the conversation is happening. We need to create spaces and opportunity for farmers, people of color and those who are overlooked and overworked to have equal say and equal rights. And to be heard and seen as a person who is knowledgeable, educated and professional.

We need equity for everyone, and to bring equity we need to bring each other to the table. I ask you to step into your circle of comfort and push the conversation to the next circle. To commit and say “within my circle, I will…

Go local
Not judge my farmer
Purchase from a farmer at the best price (for them, not for me)
Insist on fair wages for everyone
Buy someone a hot meal
Be more than good intention
Take a step back and listen
… look my farmer in the eye and say “I am lucky that you exist”

Maria Moreira, Executive Director and Co-Founder of World Farmers has been mentoring beginning farmers since 1984. She is a businesswoman, a farmer, a mother, an advocate, and everything in between. Maria has been a leading force in identifying and marketing ethnic foods in Massachusetts, making these culturally appropriate crops more readily accessible to immigrant and refugee communities.