Showing posts with label Solidarity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Solidarity. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Walmart Supports Coalition of Immokalee Workers

There's big news in the [agricultural] justice world, as Walmart signed on to the Fair Food Program, which protects laborers and human rights in the US produce industry. 

Walmart representatives John Amaya and Tom Leech, and CIW’s Lucas Benitez and Gerardo Reyes Chavez [plus Nely Rodriguez, not pictured] sign historic agreement at a Lipman Produce farm outside of Immokalee, FL.

The Fair Food Program was initiated by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. According to its website, CIW is a "worker-based human rights organization internationally recognized for its achievements in the fields of corporate social responsibility, community organizing, and sustainable food. The CIW is also a leader in the growing movement to end human trafficking due to its groundbreaking work to combat modern-day slavery and other labor abuses common in agriculture."

Several other retailers have reached agreements with the CIW in the past, but Walmart's participation is huge, given the retailer's enormous market power. There is significant hope that this move will help expand the Fair Food Program beyond Florida and beyond the tomatoes that have been the primary focus of the CIW so far.

I'm very happy to hear this news.

Read more of the responses to this move from Michael Pollan and others, here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fasting and Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, took place over the weekend. In keeping with the tradition, Justin and I decided to fast for the day--from sunset of the night before Yom Kippur to sunset on the day itself. 

The experience was interesting, both intellectually and physically, and I thought it would be worth it to write a little more about fasting and about why a secular Jew and her non-Jewish husband would choose to fast on this Jewish holy day.

I fasted on this particular day mostly because Justin wanted to do so, and I wanted to join in solidarity.  His reasons seemed largely based on his interest in having the physical experience of a day without food; Yom Kippur (and the attending break-the-fast dinner we'd been invited to) seemed like a better day than most to have this experience.

As for me, although I'm not religious, I still find [or try to find] a place in my life for Jewish traditions, especially for those that have to do with food and community. I like that I'm taking part in this tradition that people all around the world are experiencing, and that has taken place for thousands of years. Fasting is a humbling experience, one that reminds you of the physical limitations of your body, and of how fundamental nourishment is to all the other things we think and do during a typical day. And in being able to make it through the fast, you are reminded of your own strength and sense of determination. 

Yom Kippur, in being called the "day of atonement" encourages Jews to think about the sins they've committed over the previous year, and to atone for them through reflection and asking God's forgiveness. Although I'm not much for the latter part--of asking for God's forgiveness--I am a big fan of reflection. I think setting aside time to consider how you've lived your life, what you're happy about, and what you could do better, is crucial to self-awareness and happiness. I participated in this cool online program, 10Q, in the days leading up to Yom Kippur, which gave me an organized place to do this sort of reflection. (Check it out!)

Another big, important reason that I fast is that going hungry can give me at least some indication of the kind of suffering that many people--in our country and around the world--experience much more frequently than once a year. In an article about a Yom Kippur service at the Occupy Wall Street protests, there was a reference to Isaiah 58:5, a passage that is often read on Yom Kippur. A selection: 

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: 
   to loose the chains of injustice 
   and untie the cords of the yoke, 
   to set the oppressed free 
   and break every yoke? 
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry 
   and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— 
   when you see the naked, to clothe them, 
   and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. 
   “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, 
   with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry 
   and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, 
   then your light will rise in the darkness, 
   and your night will become like the noonday...

Fasting, according to this passage, is not enough. We must couple our fasting with attention to injustice all around us.

And, of course, at the end of the day, that first bite of food after a day of fasting is pretty darn delicious.

the beautiful challah with which we broke our fast

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Makeshift Seder

It's Passover this week, and even as we should be taking time to think about existing forms of human (and animal!) bondage and to break [unleavened] bread with friends and family, we here in the twenty-first century of Madison-grad-student lives somehow only managed to squeeze in a little makeshift seder at a local pub before seeing our favorite "baroque, anti-war, liberal, Portlandian, eastern-European, Shakespearian, English romantic"-influenced American band.

In addition to enjoying some Great Dane IPA, we also had a seder plate made up of a combination of items that Justin and I smuggled in separately and some of the things that we ordered. Clockwise from the top of the plate:

  • Cracker-like unleavened bread, from our dinner order, which we decided to use in place of the matzah that Justin had smuggled in. Jews eat Matzah on Passover to remember the story of exodus, when the Israelites had to flee Egypt so quickly that they couldn't wait for their dough to rise, resulting in matzah. Matzah is also a simple food of flour and water, eaten by the poor, and so it is supposed to remind us to be humble and to think of what life is like without luxury.
  • Beet-root hummus, from our dinner order. This one's a bit of a stretch (even more of a stretch than the others!), but since beets are sometimes used as the vegetarian alternative to the Zeroa, or lamb shank bone, we thought the beet-filled hummus could stand in.
  • Parsley, smuggled in by Justin, which we falsely thought could stand in for maror, or bitter herbs, which symbolize the bitterness of Jewish slavery in Egypt (turns out, only horseradish, romaine lettuce, or endive will do).
  • Charoset, smuggled in by me.  It's a delicious combination of apples, walnuts, cinnamon, honey, sugar, and sweet red wine (though I had to substitute white wine and extra sugar, given the limitations of our pantry), which recall the mortar with which the Israelites bonded bricks when they were enslaved in Ancient Egypt.  
  • A lone Belgian frite, from our dinner order, to stand in for Karpas , a vegetable to symbolize spring, which is dipped into salt water (representing tears) to mirror the pain felt by the Jewish slaves in Egypt. (Wikipedia tells me that the parsley that's usually on the seder plate is actually the karpas, and not the maror. Bad Jew.)

I like thinking about the symbolic and ritual elements of food--the way that particular tang of salty parsley can conjure memories of seders past, the way that all food reminds us of larger ideas, of comfort, and community.  Even if this particular seder plate was cobbled together in a decidedly non-traditional manner, there was still something gratifying in its preparation, in what it did to help us take notice of this Jewish holiday that has such deep roots and that is being celebrated by Jews across the world (even if it, as with most Jewish holidays, is somewhat invisible to the larger community of which we are a part).

And then after this Passover ritual, we transitioned to another ritualistic activity: the indie-folk concert, complete with flannel shirts and green hoodies and applause-induced encores and even some talk of Solidarity!

Colin Meloy, the Decemberists' witty and charming front man, evoked crazy cheers from the crowd when he came out with a guitar that had a sticker of the now famous Wisconsin solidarity fist prominently displayed.

The sticker--in addition to an awesome pre-recorded greeting from Portland mayor Sam Adams that encouraged everyone to meet and compliment the people sitting beside them; a heart-breaking rendition of Eli the Barrow Boy; and a typically-awesome interactive take on The Mariner's Revenge Song complete with a gripping story and whale jaws and audience screams--made the show a hit, even with this being the fourth time we've seen these guys in concert.

Happy Passover and Happy Decemberists!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Like An Old-Fashioned Barn Raising

This weekend, we raised and moved a house.

And though it left me with sore armpits , it also lifted my spirits and left me with this overwhelming sense of hope in the power of community and what can happen when people band together.

This was the scene for all that hope-making, a small organic farm in Brodhead, WI called Scotch Hill Farm:

And this was the house that we raised and moved:

It was a greenhouse, or hoophouse, used by many farmers to extend the growing season by providing a warmer place for plants to grow. What you see above is just the frame of the hoophouse, withe the plastic covering removed.  The whole thing is 96 feet long, 30 feet wide and 12 feet high, and initially took two months to construct with help from 30 people.

Tony and Dela Ends, the Scotch Hill farmers, had erected this hoophouse less than a year ago, and all was well. Or so it seemed until recently, when they were contacted by a local building inspector who said the greenhouse was too close to the nearby road and that it had to be moved by April 1 or the Ends would be charged $50/day. 

There is good reason to think that this call for moving the greenhouse comes in response to Tony's activism against a nearby CAFO (or confined animal feeding operation), Larson Acres, a huge dairy which is polluting the water in the municipality (in addition to perpetuating all the other horrors of the factory farm). Here's a photo of Larson Acres on our way out of town, looking less scary than if we were able to see inside:

So, in order to keep Scotch Hill from having to pay these fines, a group that I've recently become part of, Farm Mobbing Wisconsin, had to round up 50 people to head to the farm all at once to lift this greenhouse and move it farther away from the road. Until the last few hours before the event, we were scrambling to gather enough people to make the move possible. But then, people swarmed in from all sides, bringing their enthusiasm and strength and modes of transportation. It was awesome, and I was so grateful to our friends who showed up to make this happen.

While we were at the farm helping out, we got to see some chickens and some dogs (and there were also sheep and baby goats and ducks!):

Got to do some smiling for the camera:

And then got to wrestle with the poles and stakes in the ground to fit the structure onto its foundation once we had moved it to its new location:

The sense of teamwork and good will that pervaded the day could be felt on all sides, reminding us why it's important to support people who embody our values (by buying our food from small organic farms like this one) and how much can be learned about community-building by simply jumping in to lend a hand where one is needed. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thinking of Japan...

Despite how much Wisconsin is absorbed by local politics these days (the academic freedom of one of my mentors on the chopping block, childish GOP taunts of a local judge are on all sides, and there are upcoming State Supreme Court elections to worry about, and all the rest), our weekly Monday Night Dinner crew decided to take a culinary trip to Japan, in order to reflect on those who continue to struggle with the effects of March's earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis. (Donate through the Red Cross here).

Ingredients for miso soup:

Sushi rolls, with quinoa (so delicious!), roasted sweet potato, scallions, avocado, cucumber, and a toasted sesame oil-soy sauce combo.

And DU's homemade botamochi, or sweet rice balls, made somewhat in accordance with this recipe:

But since I didn't manage to capture a photo of my favorite dish of all, I thought I'd share the recipe in its place. This dish is warm and soothing, almost velvety in its consistency. It somehow managed to be mild and flavorful all at once, and to hit all the right spots on a chilly March night in Madison. Enjoy!

Soft Japanese Omelet and Bean Curd over Rice: Tofu Donburi 
from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian
8 ounces firm bean curd
Peanut or canola oil
2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sake
3 tablespoons sugar
6 eggs, lightly beaten
2 scallions, thinly sliced (both white and green sections)
1/2 cup peas (defrosted if frozen, parboiled if fresh)
2 cups Japanese short-grain rice, cooked

  1. Put the bean curd on a double layer of paper towels. Cover with another double layer of paper towels. Put a board or a large plate on top and put a 5-pound weight on top of that. Set aside for 30 minutes. Remove the weight and paper towels. Pat dry and cut into 3/4-inch squares. (I often skip this step, just squeezing the tofu with my hands and doing my best to extract as much moisture as possible. But if you have the time and inclination, definitely do the longer drying--but you can also use clean kitchen towels instead of paper!)
  2. Put 1/8 inch of oil in a 7- to 8-inch frying pan and set over medium heat. When hot, put in the bean curd pieces. Stir and fry until the pieces are golden red. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain thoroughly. (I've also had success sauteing or baking the tofu (even a toaster oven sometimes!), to reduce the amount of oil needed--the key is just to get a nice firm crust on all sides, whatever method you use).
  3. Empty the frying pan (save the oil for another use) and wipe it out well. Combine the stock, soy sauce, sake, and sugar in the pan and bring to boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for a minute. Now put in the bean curd, bring to a simmer,and cook gently for 5 minutes. Now put in the bean curd, bring to a simmer, and cook gently for 5 minutes. Add the beaten eggs all at once, as well as the scallions and peas. Continue heating until the mixture begins to bubble around the edges. Cover, turn the heat down to low, and cook about 3 minutes, or until the eggs are just set. Uncover and remove from heat.
  4. Divide the cooked rice among the serving bowls. Use a large spoon to divide and lift up the solids--and some of the liquid--from the pan and lay on top of the rice. Moisten the rice with as much more of the liquid as you like and serve immediately.  Serves 3 to 4.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rooted in Solidarity!

This Saturday, in what was the largest rally of this protest yet (and the largest in Wisconsin history!), some of the state's farmers took to the streets, bringing their tractors to the Capitol Square in the Wisconsin Tractorcade, planned by Family Farm Defenders.

Our own Community GroundWorks (keep voting for youth gardens!) made an appearance: 

Even though farmers themselves aren't unionized, these farmers from across the dairyland brought tractors and solidarity to the Capitol to fight for labor rights and a just state budget. Rural communities will be disproportionately hurt by the cuts to education and badgercare, and farmers in Wisconsin stand with state workers, and all working and middle class families in the state. As their facebook event page said, "All farmers and eaters welcome and encouraged to come!"

And here's a video of the Family Farm Defenders vice president, Joel Greeno, on why he organized the tractorcade: 

Hooray for Wisconsin Family Farmers!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Support those who support us!

The list below is re-posted from the awesome site, run by the TAA.  Because there has been such an outpouring of support for the protests and rallies by local businesses, it's important for us to thank them with our patronage. The following Madison businesses, among others, have provided food or other supplies for the sit-in and sleep-in at the capitol:
One theme that this post brings up and that I'd like to pursue more on this blog in the future is how to vote with our dollars, how to press for change with the power of the penny, and how to (insert other monetary metaphor here).  I'd like to advocate for the idea that it's important not only to know where our food comes from, but also where our money is going to.

A big debate that crops up time and time again in the food movement and in environmentalism more broadly is the role of conscious consumption and of individual action. And I know that many people more learned than I have argued against the value of individual action, and I totally agree that collective action is crucial (this week in Wisconsin more than ever!), but the small choices we make daily (like where to buy our food and which businesses to give our money to [and of course in areas that aren't consumptive!]) are just as crucial. They are, in the words of Wendell Berry, what preserve "qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence."

I know that's somewhat vague and muddled and not immediately connected to the issue of supporting local businesses that have supported the Wisconsin protests, but it's all tied together in one mass of inextricable ideas that I hope to explore more in the future. What do you all of you think about this tangled mess I've introduced here?

And here, the Berry quotation in its fuller context:
      Much protest is naive; it expects quick, visible improvement and despairs and gives up when such improvement does not come. Protesters who hold out longer have perhaps understood that success is not the proper goal. If protest depended on success, there would be little protest of any durability or significance. History simply affords too little evidence that anyone's individual protest is of any use. Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence.      
     - Wendell Berry "A Poem of Difficult Hope"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Worker Appreciation Free Cookout

Day 4 of my "Solidarity through Food" series:

In addition to the protest-fueling food that's been coming from us, Ian's Pizza, and my department, some of it has also been coming from the unions themselves.  The Northeast Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades Council put on a free cookout for anyone who happened to be walking by the capitol at the end of last week. 

You could just stop on by and pick up a hot dog, fresh off the grill. A union worker would even squeeze the mustard and ketchup on for you!

And, perhaps the cutest part of all, there were bags of homemade Chex mix out as well!

Now, I usually am not one to encourage people to eat processed foods that were (probably) made from factory-farmed animals, but the joy of this show of solidarity was enough to win over even the "food snob"* in me.  Although I did think about how funny (read: awful) it would be to go up and ask if they had a vegetarian option, by chance. Or maybe some organic, free-range turkey hot dogs? Perhaps some Grey Poupon to go with them?

Remember that amazingly pretentious ad?

Yeah, I'm not sure The Northeast Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades Council would've taken so kindly to any corresponding Rolls-Roycery on my part.

Instead, we just celebrated them for their support and generosity!

* In quotation marks because I disagree with the use of this term in reference to myself, something I'd like to discuss in a future blog post.