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Author: Lindsey Shapiro

Find your voice. Join Lindsey and local organizers from the National Young Farmers Coalition at our upcoming Farmer Storytelling for Policy Change workshop at the RE Farm Cafe at Windswept Farm in State College.

Farming can be an isolating profession.

Even though we share many of the same challenges—like extreme weather events damaging our fields, making it harder for us to feed our communities—it can often feel like we’re facing them on our own.

So when I learned through my work with National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) about plans to organize a national “farmer climate action,” I knew that I had to be involved.

I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to stand alongside my fellow farmers and say with a united voice:

“Climate change is real, it’s impacting our farms, and we need help.”

Participants at Farmers for Climate Action: Rally for Resillience march to the Capitol building in D.C. Photo credit: Lise Metzger

Since late last summer, organizers from across the country have been applying for permits, raising money, coordinating transportation, and recruiting farmers to bring the Farmers for Climate Action: Rally for Resilience to life in Washington D.C. this spring.

The policy asks of this movement are anchored by three foundational principles:

  • Farmer-Led Climate Solutions: Value and support the expertise of farmers whose long-developed, holistic, sustainable systems address climate concerns and many related environmental challenges
  • Racial Justice: Prioritize the expertise and needs of Black farmers, Indigenous farmers, and farmers of color in the Farm Bill reauthorization process and the resultant policies
  • Communities, Not Corporations: Ensure that land, products, and benefits of agriculture will remain under or return to the control of those with knowledge and skill in managing and developing sustainable systems, to benefit them and their communities

The rally on March 7 set out to make Congress listen to the voices of those who are most acutely impacted by climate change. 

Helga Garcia-Garza leading the rally in prayer. Photo credit: Lise Metzger
Photo credit: Lise Metzger

It featured a truly inspirational lineup of speakers who shared their stories of resilience in the face of hardship, displacement, and oppression. They painted a picture of a future in which farmers are celebrated not just for our output, but for our ecologically sound practices and for the communities we nurture along the way. They detailed a path forward that elevates the solutions of small-scale, diversified, and regenerative farms—solutions that have millennia of evidence to support their efficacy.

Pasa’s staff and community of farmers and food system changemakers showed up in force.

A portion of the Pasa delegation at the Rally for Resilience in Freedom Plaza
The march to the Capitol. Photo credit: Lise Metzger

Fortified by a generous donation of Painterland Sisters yogurt, we cheered at Freedom Plaza, sang along to John Mellencamp, and marched to the Capitol building, passing by USDA and Congressional office buildings en route. Our chants of “What do we want? Climate Action! When do we want it? Now!” rang through the streets.

After the excitement of the march and rally, we spent the next day on Capitol Hill sharing our Farm Bill goals with our elected officials.

I was deeply appreciative of the time Pasa’s delegation of farmers spent in these meetings and the candor with which they shared their stories.

San Sankofa of Herbal Affirmations with his representative, Congresswoman Susan Wild
From left: Holly Rippon-Butler (National Young Farmers Coalition), Lindsey Shapiro (Pasa), Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson of PA-15, Russ Wilson (Wilson Land and Cattle), Sabine Carey (Full Circle Farms and Centre Market), and Adrienne Nelson (National Young Farmers Coalition)

I had the privilege of attending meetings with San Sankofa of Herbal Affirmations, whose work through Pasa’s Diversified Vegetable Apprenticeship at Katydid Hill and through The Seed Farm incubator has helped him launch his own farm business. I got to sit beside Russ Wilson of Wilson Land & Cattle and Gary Bloss of Josie Porter Farm as they educated their representatives on the power of healthy soils. I listened to Sabine Carey describe how her Centre Markets initiative is building a resilient local supply chain in Centre County and supporting the bottom line of over two dozen farm businesses in the process. And I witnessed Emma Jagoz of Moon Valley Farm share the hurdles she faced in working with the USDA, while also acknowledging the relative ease of her journey compared to her BIPOC peers.

What I witnessed in D.C. this spring filled me with hope. 

When farmers take the time to share our personal challenges, they can no longer be dismissed as isolated incidents or anomalies. They must be acknowledged as products of systems in need of significant reform. 

When we share our stories, we’re no longer in it alone. Our individual struggles and aspirations become a collective movement for change.

What can you do to keep this movement going?

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