By Christine Batten, CFJC Policy and Outreach Intern
As a new intern with CFJC, I am happy to report on our 9th successful Farm Bill Workshop of the year, held on July 9th at Urban Adamah in West Berkeley, CA. Urban Adamah is a one-acre organic community farm and Jewish environmental education center. Rae, farm manager, and Rebecca, program coordinator, helped CFJC staff coordinate the workshop by providing an inviting atmosphere and facilitating creative group activities to inspire local level action around the Farm Bill. Many thanks to Rae and Rebecca and everyone else at Urban Adamah!
This workshop served community members as well as Fellows of the farm, future farmers eager to deepen their understanding of the relationship between Farm Bill policy and daily life. The overarching question of these workshops is, “The Farm Bill: what does it mean for me?” As a one-thousand-page document that determines funding and regulations for an innumerable number of programs (read: SNAP, community food project grants, beginning farmer assistance, etc.), it can be a bit overwhelming for anyone to tackle alone from a consumer perspective. But this two-hour workshop helped to bridge the gap, bringing transparency to the Farm Bill.
The setting was intimate—complete with homemade popcorn—and juxtaposed with lively questions and debate. The audience was curious about Farm Bill logistics—like the process of subsidization and crop insurance—but also questioned more subjective elements that we at CFJC propound as well; for example, they questioned why entitlement programs (like SNAP) are being defunded.
After Lotta, Research Associate at CFJC, disseminated a brief overview of the 15 titles in the 2008 Farm Bill, we asked the audience to share which issues they felt were of utmost concern. Answers ranged from conservation practices and sustainability, to increased funding for organic agriculture and assisting new farmers in owning and operating farms. These areas are of interest to CFJC as well, but many found it surprising that less than 1% of funding distribution from the Bill goes to measures supporting organic agriculture, urban agriculture, and beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers. Some crowd concerns—like GMO labeling—are not even a part of the 2008 Bill. However, GMOs may be brought in to this round of reauthorization.
Finally, after an information-heavy couple of hours, the audience broke into small groups to brainstorm how to effect change in food policy and make an impact on the direction of the Farm Bill. The best methods are tried and true: calling your legislators and realizing your purchasing power. Many people do not realize that legislators listen if someone voices concerns, and the more voices the better. Additionally, if our budgets allow us to do so, we can chose to only purchase products that support our values, like buying from local organic farmers.
Many great ideas for new programs emerged from the discussion as well. One participant proposed spearheading a program she deemed “Farm Corps,” an idea similar to Peace Corps, where individuals travel to teach others about organic farming. Other ideas involved greater transparency of food policy through community outreach and workshops, as well as an increased availability of gardening or farming programs for high school students or adults.
A few events are coming up at Urban Adamah. This Sunday July 15th is a volunteer day at the farm for anyone interested in lending a hand. Also, On August 7th the Adamah is hosting a screening of Greenhorns, a documentary about America’s youth farmers.