Farmer Activists

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One thing that all Real Organic certified farmers have in common is the understanding that we don’t farm in a vacuum.

Like it or not, we are part of a greater system that affects our farms, our markets, our ability to continue to do what we do.

Paul Muller stands outside in a grove of green trees. He wears a short sleeved blue, pink and white plaid button up collared shirt and a baseball cap.

– Paul Muller, Full Belly Farm Real Organic certified farmer and symposium speaker

“It’s important for us older farmers to be able to relate to younger farmers that the idea of an activist farmer goes back to Jefferson and Washington and people who understood that you simply can’t expect the movement to go in the right direction all the time. You can’t stop paying attention because you think your certifier is taking care of things and they’re the ones doing the political work. Certifiers can get it wrong and maybe not direct the ship in the right way because they’re enamored with growing bigger and they make compromises.

“We’re at a point in time where farmers have to right the ship and educate and create a critical mass of consumers and young farmers and old farmers that understand that this movement, if it’s going to have legs in the future, and if it’s going to support the kind of agriculture we want, we really have to have a body of activists.

“And consumers can’t just be consumers, they actually have to be active in creating the food system that they want to see, which means more than just purchasing the product.

“It’s not just a farming question. It’s really a question of association with the planet. It’s understanding our relationship to the whole in whatever part of society you live in and being active in the creation of something that is not a fearful future, not a future beset with doubt and anxiety, but a positive future that is healthy and vibrant. It’s here, we just have to figure out how we modify our behavior and our understanding and appreciation of it. We can make it happen.” – Paul Muller

That’s why we joined the Real Organic Project. We can’t “just farm” and expect organic to remain a true alternative. When farmers and eaters look away, money changes things.

The consolidation of organic has brought us cheaper organic, but it has come at the expense of the best farming practices in America. When you make the rules so that the big boys can play, then only the big boys play. Many of us have come to realize that we won’t see the decertification of Aurora dairy, or Driscoll’s, or Wholesum Harvest. They have too much power in our current system.

But we aren’t helpless in protecting the movement we created because we know what the real alternative looks like and so many of us want it! We just need to get organized and nurture it.

That is what our symposium is intended to do. Today, we are highlighting the voices of a few Real Organic activist farmers that have inspired us. They will inspire you too at our upcoming symposium. See you there!


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Lindsey Lusher Shute speaks to the camera from inside a hoop house on Hearty Roots Farm

Lindsey Lusher Shute, Hearty Roots Farm Real Organic certified farmer and symposium speake

We have a lot of work to do. There are issues, but we know them and we know there are solutions to addressing them. The question is how do we engage the farm community at large. How do we engage the American consumer community to partner with us to solve those issues and help them understand why they need to be part of this movement to preserve and to accelerate and expand the agriculture that supports our planet, our country, our families in so many important ways.” – Lindsey Lusher Shute (Founder, Young Farmers Coalition)

Dru Rivers smiles at the camera during an interview outside. She wears a blue collared shirt and speaks in front of a tree with lots of green leaves in the background.

– Dru Rivers, Full Belly Farm Real Organic certified farmer and Symposium speaker

“[The failures of the USDA] sort of strengthens our belief in grassroots organizing, grassroots activism, and the need for all of us to remain really vigilant in how organic moves forward. Supporting the Real Organic Project is one of those facets that feels really important.” – Dru Rivers

Severine Von Tscharner Fleming gestures with her hands while talking inside a room with a frame in the background. She wears a brimmed hat, patterned shirt, and a blue sweater.

– Severine Von Tscharner Fleming, Smithereen Farm Real Organic certified farmer and symposium speaker

“I live down the road from Robin Seeley who is a marine biologist and an avid protector of the seaweed. She is a watch dog of this huge scale mining of our intertidal ecosystem removing millions of pounds of living carbon from the sea for agriculture.

And so as a student of hers, I asked her ‘how much seaweed can I take for my farm?’ And she said, ‘Well go down to the beach and study who eats it, and study what’s going on, and when you feel like you know how much you can take, then you should take how much you can carry but not really much more.’

There is an annihilatory culture that happens in these low value high volume resource economies. We’ve been taking too much. Let’s just say it that way. We can see the impact that that removal has on an ecosystem that supports hundreds of other species.

Believing as I do that our mission as organic farmers is to be healers on this earth, we need to be very precautionary about the way that we take from ecosystems and that there are limits.” – Severine Von Tscharner Flemming

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A poster for the 2022 Symposium with ten speaker headshots and text about the symposium.

We’re proud to showcase interviews with:

Michael Pollan, Leah Penniman, Dan Barber, Lindsey Lusher Shute, Paul Hawken, John Tester, Chellie Pingree, Eliot Coleman, Severine Von Tscharner, David Bronner, Dan Barber, Jack Algiere, Doug and Anna Jones Crabtree, Earl Ransom, Helen Kees, Bob Quinn, Dr. Melinda Hemmelgarn, Dr. Francis Thicke, Dru Rivers, Joan Gussow, Paul Muller, Bob Klein, Rosie Burroughs, Scott Park, Kevin Engelbert, Jim Durst, Amanda Starbuck, Ed Maltby, Alan Lewis, Mark Kastel, Amy Klippenstein, Paul Lacinski, Mark McAfee, and much more!

Visit our podcast series for the most interesting stories you can find. Together, these speakers dive deeply into the problems and solutions of our time, searching for the next steps.

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