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Building Alliances

There is a tendency, in any circle of people, for the construct of an ‘us’ and ‘them’ delineation.

Playground squabbles, family factions and wars are based on this construct. In agricultural groups, these lines may be drawn between biodynamic and organic practitioners, use of hybrid seeds or open pollinated varieties, hand milkers or machine milkers, conventional or unconventional. The list goes on, yet the pattern is the same.

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These distinctions serve to reassure us that our methods are better, that our identity – in standing behind whatever clain – is secure. If I am convinced, for example, that biodynamics can feed the world nutritious and vital food, identifying as a biodynamic grower above any other identity will bind me first and foremost to other biodynamic growers. Our group can then share practice and continue to produce nourishing food.

However, these identity claims come at a price. We can end up pigeon holing ourselves and others, which shuts down the possibility for strong collaborations and cross-fertilisations within a movement.

So, in the spirit of unified action in the ecological farming movement there are two networks I’d like to draw to your attention to this week.

The first is the Landworkers Alliance, the UK chapter of Via Campesina, a coalition of small and medium scale ecological producers. Next week they are holding a demonstration outside DEFRA as part of Via Campesina’s International Day of Peasants’ Struggle to encourage better support of small scale farmers and their vital role in the UK food system.

Head to London on April 17th; bring seeds to swap, and produce for a Farmers’ Market if you are a producer, and be part of the Via Campesina movement, which 200 million small scale producers over the world.

The second is the UK CSA network. It was initiated last year as a way of supporting CSAs to establish, grow and develop as a viable farm business model. CSAs are a commonplace approach in the States, where they were pioneered over 20 years ago.

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The network in the UK is currently fundraising in order to help set up CSAs across the country. They have raised half of their first milestone of £6,500 via crowdfunding, which they need to reach or will have to give the other pledges back.

In the CSA structure, communities pay membership to a scheme before the growing season, thus sharing the benefits and risks of the farm with the farmer. In connecting a community directly to the farmer who grows their food, CSAs can provide a powerful gateway to connection with food and nature for people. Do support this excellent campaign, and let us continue to build alliances across the sustainable agriculture community.

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