Today’s food systems work for nearly no one. Here at Farm Sanctuary, we are working across movements to fight the worst harms of animal agriculture and to “build the good” – just and sustainable food systems that support animals, people, and the planet.
To do this equitably and effectively means listening to and supporting the community-based organizations that have been fighting for just and sustainable food system transformation, often for decades. As we enter Black History Month, the following staff reflection serves as an opportunity to celebrate progress, but also recognize how far we have to go.
Driving into Henderson, North Carolina to attend the Eva Clayton Rural Food Institute’s kick-off forum, we couldn’t help but think about the history of the county. The State of North Carolina created Vance County in 1881 to limit formerly enslaved persons’ political power. Just 13 years later, in 1894, a multiracial coalition elected George Henry White to Congress, the only member of the 56th Congress who identified as Black. White would go on to propose the nation’s first anti-lynching legislation in 1900, 122 years before lynching became a federal crime.
Henderson, North Carolina pushed progress forward, even if progress did not come at the pace justice demands. That continues today. What we saw in Henderson is building the future of more just U.S. food systems. At the Green Rural Redevelopment Organization, the parent partner of the Institute, micro-farmers come together to nourish their community through food hub-style aggregation and medically tailored meal distribution. The food is produced, processed, and distributed by and for the community, advancing health, wealth, and racial justice.
At the Institute’s forum, held January 12th this year, more than 200 people of all walks of life, from policymakers to farmers, funders to workers, came together. We worked and learned across movements. We saw, in each other, community members working together to build more just and sustainable food systems. We learned through honest conversation, through listening and valuing lived experiences and the expertise of farmers who identify as something other than white, male, industrial producers.