In case you haven’t noticed yet, NOFA chapters are not rolling in the kind of cash that corporate lobbyists use to influence state and federal policy. NOFA chapter policy budgets range from small to non-existent. What we do have is us, all of us who are active members. We represent numbers – many passionate voices who are willing to speak out. And authenticity. NOFA members can testify with eloquence from our own lived experiences as land workers of all kinds – farmers, farm workers, gardeners, apprentices, landscapers – and aware eaters of organic locally grown food. By ourselves, however, there are not enough of us to make a big impact and this year, we are having to direct a lot of our energies to saving what we have spent many decades working for. That is why we do most of our advocacy and policy work through coalitions, building alliances with groups and organizations with whom we share values, programs and goals, pooling our resources with others so that together we can have a stronger impact.
We have a lot to offer partners: our strong positive vision – the NOFAs not only envision an ecological future, our members are living examples of what needs to be done to get there. We have solutions. We are inspiring. We have a long track record of critiquing the methods and materials of industrialized monoculture agriculture and the overblown corporations that profit thereby, as well as Washington’s food and agriculture policies. We work hard to be good partners, reliable and long-term, and to express publicly our solidarity with the struggles, losses and victories of our allies. We still have a lot to learn about how to make progress towards racial justice and equity.
The NOFA-Interstate Council in itself embodies collaborative efforts. Over 30 years ago, across the region, seeds were planted to create a network of organizations that focus the organic farming community. Throughout the years, the NOFAs continue to work together, support each other’s efforts and stand with a united voice in the protection and advancement of organic food and farming. Even with our limited resources, we have accomplished so much to elevate the voice of organic farmers and the need of organic food systems for eaters and the earth. So much so, that big organo business is vying to take over. To combat this monster, our NOFA Network, collaborations and alliances are even more important. As the saying goes, when you control the food, you control the people. NOFA will not allow that to happen. And the only way to do that is by banding together.
NOFA folks were among the founding members of IFOAM in the early 1970’s and the newly established IFOAM North America. We have been involved in the whole history of development of the movement for sustainable agriculture, starting with the Dialogue for Sustainable Agriculture, through the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, the formation of the regional Sustainable Agriculture Working Groups, like the Northeast SAWG, to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. To work more effectively to influence the National Organic Program of USDA, NOFA became a founding member of the National Organic Coalition, our very own brain trust for organic integrity. We helped found the Agricultural Justice Project and the Domestic Fair Trade Association, and built on the connections across the food chain that these provided to start breaking down the distrust between farmers and farm workers and their advocates. More recently we have extended our affiliations to the US Food Sovereignty Alliance and the National Family Farm Coalition, and endorsed the program of the HEAL Food Alliance (HEAL stands for Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor). We contributed to the careful process that assembled the Organic Farmers Alliance (OFA).
This issue of TNF introduces you to our growing list of alliances and affiliations. We include only the organizations with which we have formal agreements and formal delegates. Happily, our networks extend to many more groups – the Organic Consumers Association, Vermont Migrant Justice and other farm worker organizing efforts in our region, the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Association, Cornucopia, the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, American Farmland Trust, and so forth. The NOFAs often sign onto letters and petitions circulated by these friendly groups and even sometimes by organizations where our overlap of shared values or goals is limited. We seek common ground, mutual understanding and effective action.
It is not always easy to work in alliances. Sometimes, you have to agree to disagree in order to focus on the commonalities. The larger mission and vision need to go above and beyond individual organizations’ individual needs. It also can be challenging when there is a disparity in budgets. Many organizations vie for the same money pots and some are more successful than others. Another challenge is that individuals create the relationships that allow alliances to grow and prosper. When an individual leaves the network, a vacuum can be created that may stall the ability to continue to collaborate. As you will read in these pages, NOFA collaborates quite extensively, but we need to convey this to you – our members – and provide opportunities for your engagement. That is a challenge that this edition of The Natural Farmer aims to address, but it will take more work to further engage you.
Despite any obstacles, NOFA is committed to what IFOAM calls Organic 3.0 – building a worldwide movement for the transformation of farming systems towards higher levels of resilience, sustainability and systemic health. We seek to unite disparate efforts that currently compete for scarce resources and speak at cross-purposes. Agroecology, urban agriculture, food sovereignty, certified organic, biodynamic, regenerative organic, domestic fair trade, soil health, farmer justice, environmental justice… We will never achieve the future we long for of health, stability, racial and ethnic equity and peace, unless we collaborate and cooperate with one another. To transform the current world food system, we need to pool our resources and raise our voices to inform and empower many, many more.
What follows is a description of 8 NOFA Interstate Council formal alliances.