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Occupy Your Food Supply: Radical Farmer's March Aims to Bridge Urban-Rural Divide, Focus in on "Food Justice"

Farmers strode through the city as the food justice and Occupy Wall Street movements teamed up for healthy, ethical food for the people.

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In the past, the food movement—like many movements—has been seen as a fringe movement, especially among urban audiences. What happened on the farm stayed on the farm, and products like organic heirloom tomatoes were more of a symbol of green elitism, rather than a means of resisting the toxic corporate machine. 

Then along came Occupy Wall Street—a movement that combines its roaring collective fury at Wall Street and its radical, idealistic design to merge previously marginalized progressive movements into a vision for a new society to build over our broken, unsustainable system. One of these demands is food. Not just any food—food that is produced outside of the corporate machine, simultaneously protecting the livelihood of small farmers and ensuring the health of its eventual consumers. 

In the days of the occupation at Liberty Plaza, the cooks in the kitchen formed alliances with many local, sustainable farmers, making sure that all of the food that they prepared was free of genetically modified organisms. A group called Feed the Movement formed, collecting donations to pay small, local farms for their contributions and thereby supporting both the occupy movement and small farmers. Several additional groups, such as Occupy Big Food and the Occupy Wall Street Sustainability Food Justice committee, also emerged, using the language of greed, inequality, and resistance mobilized by the occupy movement to bring awareness to the corporate stranglehold on the food industry. 

However, until Sunday—aside from the occasional deliveries and donations—there was no organized urban-rural solidarity between farmers and occupiers. Though many farmers, such as Jim Gerritsen, were politically mobilizing against the corporate machine, these issues remained largely absent from the initial discourse on corporate greed, financial fraud, and joblessness. In rural communities—often conservative land where the most pervasive discourse on the occupy movement was negative—it was difficult for rural farmers to see themselves in the media’s images of the urban ninety-nine percent. 

The Farmer’s March—organized by urban farmers and food activists within Occupy Wall Street--began to bridge this divide. While local CSAs and greenmarkets have been forming connections between urban consumers and rural farmers for several years (and pushing to get food stamps accepted and improve access to these bounties for low-income members), this took those small connections and made them large-scale.

For the first time, rural farmers and this new crop of daring urban activists met one another in a massive way, exchanging stories of corporate greed and marching together to demand basic economic justice. The march culminated in a seed exchange in Liberty Plaza, symbolizing the ultimate peoples’ resistance to the food industry’s corporate machine.

All photos by Anna Lekas Miller.