At Equal Exchange, we buy from co-operatives of small-scale farmers who love what they do. And they want you to love what they produce. But the system is stacked against them. While corporations strengthen their grip on the food system, consumers and farmers lose. Consumers lose their connection to the land. Farmers lose the land itself. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Our new campaign, “Small Farmers. Big Change: Creating a Green and More Just Food System,” represents a path to bringing justice to the food system and health to the planet. Through our actions, we can take steps to reduce our environmental footprint, help farmers save their local ecosystems, and advocate for agriculture and trade policies that actually benefit small-scale producers and workers instead of corporations. The positive impact of these actions would indeed represent a powerful change.
Why are small farmers and their organizations so important? Quite simply, they provide us with really great, high quality, healthy food. They also take care of the land. Sustainable farming protects the forests, soil and watersheds, and helps cool the planet. Small farmer co-operatives encourage democratic decision-making, provide dignified livelihoods for their members, and give opportunities for producers to feel pride in their accomplishments and hope for the future. These organizations help keep communities healthy and strong, and keep local cultures vibrant. They provide real alternatives to migration, gangs, and the cultivation of coca and other illegal crops.
Today, however, small-scale farmers face tremendous challenges. Many of our agriculture and trade policies are designed to favor large, agricultural corporations. The subsidies, credits, and tax incentives the government awards to agribusiness dramatically undermine the ability of small farmers to compete in the marketplace. Even our energy policies and consumption patterns, which contribute to global warming, affect small farmers disproportionately. Although they farm in ways that steward the land and keep the planet cool, global warming causes changes in weather patterns which affect crops and crop cycles. Unusual storms have become more frequent and severe, causing a loss of lives, homes, crops and livelihoods.
But we can reverse this environmental degradation and take steps to ensure that we leave a greener planet for our children. We can take back the food system to maintain our connection to the land, the food we eat, and the farmers who grow it. We can demand the right to know what’s in our food, and to have real choices over what we eat and from whom we buy. We can continue to support small farmers by purchasing Fair Trade products, buying from co-operatives, and supporting local farmers in our own communities. It’s important to continue to exercise consumer power through our purchases and reduce our environmental footprints through changes in behavior. Today, we would also like to invite you to join with us to take further steps to affect change.
This blog is dedicated to small farmers and consumers, the food system we are part of and building, and the planet we share. We offer these pages as a space to launch our campaign and invite all of you to participate in its development. We welcome your thoughts and ideas on this blog and believe that your input, creativity and actions are necessary to take back our food system and care for our planet.
Our campaign has three components, each of which is represented in this blog:
· Home: Education about the connections between small farmers, our food system, and the environment. On this page, we hope to encourage informed discussion and debate about the vital role small farmers play – as agents of change in their communities, as environmental stewards, and as critical actors in the type of personalized, healthy food system we all crave; we will also engage debate around agriculture and trade policies that support our vision of a green planet and a healthy, vibrant food system.
· Green Partnerships: These pages will present concrete environmental projects that our consumer, interfaith, and food service partners are undertaking in their communities, workplaces, schools and congregations; we will also present some ways in which our farmer partners are making efforts to protect local ecosystems through reforestation, organic conversion, and other farm renovation projects and offer ideas for how you can support them.
· Take Action: On this page, we will identify key legislative areas and other opportunities for political action in which we can influence trade and agricultural policies to benefit producers, consumers, local communities, and our planet.