My Dear Friends:
I am sitting at the Harvesting Change Conference in Detroit, one of more than 600 attendees, listening to a young generation of food activists demanding to know, “why has my city privatized the health department? Why is it small business fees in Detroit are 3-4 times that of [other] surrounding counties?” and on and on.
The young sister believes she has a right to know the answers. That corporate control of Detroit’s “renaissance” or rebirth does not give license to ignore food security, sovereignty and justice for local residents.
Many collaborative efforts are being celebrated here in Detroit, but most notably, not GOAT. It is awkward, as many of the attendees have participated in at least one of more than 145 weekly calls over the past couple of years. And several conference workshop facilitators are among the most active GOAT participants.
So why this seeming aversion to accord props to the GOAT process? A process that gathered 433 organizational signatures from across the country, from Berkeley, California to Epps, Alabama, demanding a Full and Fair Farm Bill of Congress? That continues to dog the Farm Bill implementation process (currently, the Congressional Appropriations Committees) to get the best outcomes for our farmers, families and communities? That is gearing up for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization process.
Maybe one answer lies in the manner organizations work together in the GOAT process.
For CFJC, we approached GOAT in November of 2011 as we approach all work. Our job is to support efforts of local, regional and national organizations helping to change the food system. Our goal is always to celebrate their efforts, and what we ask in return is a commitment to equity.
But perhaps we’ve done all GOAT participating organizations a disservice by emphasizing the work and outcomes of GOAT, and not individual organizations like NSAC, UCS, CSI, NESAWG, the Acequia Association, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, and many others.
GOAT represents a different way to work together. Every week 30-85 members from more than 200 organizations, some representing scores of additional organizations, meet via conference call, to share intel and strategies that helps inform daily activities in D.C., and in communities around the country. The focus is on learning how to connect the dots between the needs of local communities and national food and other policy.
In a demonstrable manner, GOAT fulfills a critical role in the building of a new food movement that learns from and celebrates the efforts of generations of our predecessors, while supporting emerging leadership at every level.
GOAT also opens the inside-the-beltway federal food policy process to activists from across generations, sectors and geographic boundaries.
Individual relationships that have been forged in the GOAT process also help provide the foundation for the work of other collaborations, such as Good Food for All.
But it is clear that we have to get the GOAT story out to more people and groups in more communities ourselves.
Because, if GOAT is not celebrated at a national convening of activists, academics, and philanthropy, then each of us must make sure every community knows there is a means for them to participate in determining the food policy that affects their daily lives.
The acronym “GOAT” stands for Getting Our Act Together. Evaluation surveys disclose a variety of opinions about the name. A couple of comments are illustrative.
First, some say that after one, two, or three years of collaborative efforts we should acknowledge that in fact we Have gotten our act together. Also, that legislative staff in Congress, now very aware of GOAT, believe that we are saying that they don’t have their act together.
For now, we continue with the GOAT name however, because we recognize the work still before us, and we believe that we are organizing for challenges as yet unknown.
The title of this column refers to an expression from my youth, so I don’t know if it resonates with any of the readers.
When I was growing up, the phrase “cat got your tongue?” was what mom said when you were at a loss for words, in a given situation.
Likewise, the phrase that something “got your GOAT?” was said when an egregious act or situation was intolerable, and lodged uncomfortably in your throat.
That seems appropriate for the work before us—if we really are to change the food system, and our society—we cannot tolerate the current food system, and how public policy is crafted.
Hence, the GOAT process.
Please celebrate with us, this effort by groups all around the country, and in D.C.
As always, you can rely on CFJC to represent the values we share—because together we are the people who are making change. Celebrate the GOAT process, then Stand to be Heard.
We can make and be the change, together, now.
All the best.
Y. Armando Nieto