Food for thought: The politics of famine

Sound Consumer | March 2001

by Jody Aliesan, PCC Farmland Fund President and Operating Officer

The Great Irish Famine of the 1840s wasn't caused by monocropping and blight. The villain was colonialism. A million people died and two million fled — over a third of the population — because they had no control over their food supply.

The British conquerors claimed the land; indigenous people grew export crops for those in power. In exchange for labor, these native people were allowed to grow food for themselves on marginal land — with no security of tenure.

The most productive crop per square foot was a variety of potato used otherwise to feed livestock; it became the staple, and often the only food, of six million souls. When the new blight hit, the colonizers concluded it was in their commercial interest to clear the land of "surplus population" so they could graze more profitable livestock. In other words, to let the people die. So they did.

The point of this story is not that the Great Irish Famine was the greatest catastrophe in 19th century Europe, but that the conditions for it existed before that time and continue today.

Colonialism — political and economic — destabilizes for the purpose of control. Do we want our own farmers and producers in thrall to corporate planning and global trade treaties? Where people live to grow food for us and not for themselves, what are their working conditions? What share of the wealth they create do they get to keep? Local farmers are undercut by lower prices of food raised on the other side of the world. Who benefits from this? Who gains from GATT and NAFTA?

My relatives used to live on a self-sufficient farm with an orchard, chicken house, pig pen, cattle pasture, grain fields and garden. Now that land is fence-to-fence sorghum, my cousins live in the nearby town, and it's simplified to a depot. Observe St. Patrick's Day by taking control of your food supply. Buy what's raised close to home.

Stealth sports
Warning: A movement is afoot to overturn the state's Growth Management Act and King County's Farmland Preservation Program. Proponents advance behind the screen of permitting sports fields on protected agricultural land near urban areas. Big money is going to public relations firms to cast farmland protection as a waste of land relative to playgrounds for kids.

Don't be fooled by the misinformation. The goal is dismantling growth management and farm protection. The purpose is rezoning. Even if that means breaking the law, defying court decisions, and ignoring due process. Listen to Errol Nelson of the Lake Washington Youth Soccer Association: "Just the thought of finding ways to make the Farmland Preservation groups spend resources and funds attempting to enforce the [state Supreme Court] decision is incentive enough for recreation activists to continue the fight."

More soccer fields per capita already exist around Lake Washington than anywhere else in the whole state. These "recreation activists" will not be satisfied as long as farmland is set aside and protected from development. Remember: This isn't about soccer. This isn't about kids. For more information, contact Michael Tanksley, soccer parent, President of Hollywood Hill Association, at cmtanksley@earthlink.net.

Farmland Fund honored
City Music presents some of the Northwest's finest musicians in public performances of great chamber music at Seattle's Town Hall. Each program honors a different Seattle-area non-profit organization; the organization receives 100 percent of ticket sales.

Rachel Matthews, Artistic Director of City Music, writes, "It is my pleasure to let you know that the City Music Board of Directors unanimously voted to select the PCC Farmland Fund as one of three honorees for the 2001-02 season. We hope to have dates for next season's concerts set very soon."

The mission of City Music is to draw connections between the arts and other issues affecting our quality of life by offering exceptional classical music experiences that honor and support the work of social, environmental and educational non-profit organizations. For more information on the Farmland Fund, click here.

Bring music to the land!
Spring Serenade at the Delta Farm: Sunday, March 25, from 12 to 3 p.m. (New Moon after the Spring Equinox). Bring your instruments and voices — we'll make music for the land as the spirit moves us: solo or together, walking or sitting. No stage, no program — just find the right place and let it all out! If it rains, we've got the barn. Pre-register at (206) 547-1222, x140 or by Wednesday, March 21 for insurance coverage, directions to the Farm, and carpooling. Pack a lunch and some raingear, dress warmly and wear sturdy shoes. Nash Huber says new moon time is good for root crops — maybe he'll see a difference in his carrot rows after this day!

New board member
Joe Hardiman, PCC's Produce Merchandiser, was advocate and adviser for what became the Farmland Fund long before it was born. He now honors the Fund by serving on the board of directors. Joe's relationships with producers and his knowledge of the organic certification process add strength and depth to the board; his hard-working commitment and integrity keep it grounded in the best values. Joe is also on the board of Washington FarmLink, whose mission is keeping farms in production by helping to transfer them from one generation to the next. Many thanks are due to outgoing board member David E. Leshner, who will continue to provide legal counsel to the Fund.

Joe Hardiman

Farmland Fund honored
City Music presents some of the Northwest's finest musicians in public performances of great chamber music at Seattle's Town Hall. Each program honors a different Seattle-area non-profit organization; the organization receives 100 percent of ticket sales.

Rachel Matthews, Artistic Director of City Music, writes, "It is my pleasure to let you know that the City Music Board of Directors unanimously voted to select the PCC Farmland Fund as one of three honorees for the 2001-02 season. We hope to have dates for next season's concerts set very soon."

The mission of City Music is to draw connections between the arts and other issues affecting our quality of life by offering exceptional classical music experiences that honor and support the work of social, environmental and educational non-profit organizations. For more information on the Farmland Fund, click here.


Donor Roster (January 1 - 31)

Anonymous: 8
Jo Anderson
William and Petra Barclay
Carolyn Berg
Sara Cate
Barbara Chin
James and Therese Cushing
Ola Edwards
Michelle Ein
Robin Galvin
Kathryn Gardow and David Bradlee
Allison Green and Arline Garcia
Ray Gwinn
Louise Hafen
Gretchen Hegeman and Dennis Franks
Mel Jackson
Brian, Monica, Peter and Luke Johnson
Diane McAlister
Luella McLane
Beth Reiter
Rollie and Susan Roberts
Meg A. Ryan
Laurel Sercombe and Darwin Alonso
Gloria P. Sting
Caryn and Matt Woodward
Henri and No'l Newlin Yates

PCC Staff
Taylor Barker
Alicia Guy
Deanne Johnson
Camille Palmer

Businesses
Blue Willow Tea
Matthew G. Norton Co. (Matching)
Seeds of Change

In honor
Gloria Frisbie
James W. and Carol C. Green
Matthew Green

In memory
Jimmy and Violet Robertson

Designate the PCC Farmland Fund in your United Way workplace giving!

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