I live on a farm. I am a farmer. I also garden at home and am preparing the ground for the 3rd season of the LEAD Agency Community Garden. I know farmers and gardeners. We already have the right to farm, or someone would have come and told us we needed a license to pick up a hoe or a package of seeds.
The State Question 777 may need to be questioned before you vote for The Right to Farm. What else happens when we give the Right to Farm by saying yes? Permission to farm? What other permission does this give?
This Question changes the state constitution and gives farmers rights to do anything to the land, crops or livestock they choose to do. It takes away the right to clean air or clean water for neighbors or those downstream or downwind. It takes away the right to regulate farming practices including the humane treatment of animals by any agency or the legislators for the protection of health or welfare in the future. It also retroactively takes away all the regulations that were put in place to somewhat protect humans and the environment from the most egregious practices of the large confined animal feeding operations.
Thinking about farming and the farm workers’ greatest organizer led me to learn about Fred Ross, who taught many including Cesar Chavez. Ross said, “A good organizer is a social arsonist who goes around setting people on fire” and “who does not lead but gets behind the people and pushes.” He spent his life pushing people to lead—in migrant camps, in living rooms, on picket lines—and was so effective that he pushed himself right out of most history books. I love that. In California he got half a million Latinos registered to vote and imagine this in this day and age, as they say, he got statewide legislation to grant pensions to 50,000 non-citizen farmworkers.
In 1985, Ross told an interviewer, “All my life I’ve been looking to go to work with people who are in trouble of some kind. My goal was to help the people do away with fear— to speak up and demand their rights.” You bet he became my newest role model!
I spent a morning with Fredas Cook as he pulled and dug surely a good shady-eighty plants from his yard for mine. Earlier I read through the LEAD Garden Binder Kelda Lorax had prepared for us with composting, planting and clearing land tasks, with lists of what to do’s for the volunteer gardeners who could wander through our garden. Not a thing at Fredas’ or nowhere in Kelda’s guide were there hints I needed a Right to Farm measure passed before reading or setting the volunteers loose in the garden.
We would like to invite the public to a free screening of a documentary, Owners of the Water, Conflict and Collaboration Over Rivers which will be shown Sunday April 10 at 4 pm at the Commons Hall on the NEO campus. The film is short but will leave the viewers understanding the power people can have when motivated to protect their homelands and the water that sustains them from large corporate farming operations which must have been given the Right to Farm. The filmmakers David Hernandez Palmar (Wayuu) from Venezuela and anthropologist Laura R. Graham will be present with OU Geography Associate Professor Laurel Smith for questions and answers following this viewing.
There are between 1 and 3 million migrant farm workers with 61 percent falling below the poverty level. As Chavez reminded us, “The fight is never about the grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.” With this in mind ORO is collecting clean long sleeved shirts which can be taken to the Work Force Oklahoma in downtown Miami, OK, for our people, our local farm workers.
Each year on March 31 – we ought to light a candle to remember the efforts of Cesar Chavez who as a civil rights activist took the farm workers’ struggle and was able to turn it into a moral cause and gain nationwide support. I am just betting he and Fred Ross would want any voter to think hard about that state question on whose rights will be protected if it passed and who would benefit from those lucky sevens.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim