2014 National Days of Action in Defense of Land and the Commons

From September 17th, the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, until October 16th, World Food Day, communities across the US took action for food sovereignty and their rights to land and resources for food production for their communities. Community organizations of urban and rural farmers and gardeners, landless farmworkers, and fishing families coordinated and organized actions with the US Food Sovereignty Alliance to highlight the creative and strategic ways communities are struggling for food sovereignty and food justice.

Vast expanses of farmland and the rights to fisheries are increasingly bought by corporations and investors while small-scale fishermen and farmers go out of business. Control and access to land and the sea is increasingly being governed by the market, by who can pay the most, while community food production is ignored.

Industrial agriculture continues to expand, profit, and pollute, while farmworkers, low-income urban communities, and communities of color are still faced with hunger, economic inequality, and a continued legacy of land dispossession.

Food producers need to access and control the land and resources in their communities, yet they don’t.

Days of Action flyer page 1

Bristol Bay, Alaska – September 15-19

Bristol Bay mobilized tens of thousands of comments to the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the area from a proposed “Pebble Mine.” The United Tribes of Bristol Bay and Commercial Fisherman for Bristol Bay continue their struggle to protect the remote fishery that supports tribal traditional ways of life and supplies 40 percent of the wild-caught seafood consumed in the US. The mine would cover 150 square miles of salmon ground, physically scarring the landscape and producing over 10 billion tons of toxic waste. It would be one of the largest mines in the world. In December, advocates won a victory when Obama indefinitely extended the temporary protection of Bristol Bay from oil and gas development.

New York, NY – September 21

A strong USFSA contingent joined the estimated 400,000 people at the Peoples Climate March in the largest action protesting climate change to date. Organizers articulated the importance of food sovereignty in the fight against the climate crisis and distributed hundreds of fliers for the National Days of Action, USFSA members spoke out to “Debunk Climate-Smart Agriculture” at the New School and participated the Peoples Tribunal for System Change, not Climate Change.

Portland, Oregon – September 26-27

At the Pacific Northwest Regional Social Forum, Community to Community Development (C2C), a farmworker-led food justice organization focused on movement building and solidarity economies, coordinated the Food Sovereignty People’s Movement Assembly (PMA). Communities discussed labor and food, the farm bill, and how to build food sovereignty in the region. Familias Unidas por la Justicia, a farmworker union, stepped forward to plan a farmworkers’ PMA  to build power and strategize across farmworker communities. Familias Unidas por la Justicia has been fighting a campaign against unjust labor conditions for farmworkers at Sakuma Brother Farms.

Berkeley, California – October 1

Occupy the Farm and the Cal Progressive Coalition occupied the office of University of California’s Capital Projects, the real estate development arm of the UC. UC Berkeley has threatened to build commercial developments on one of the last remaining 14 acres of agricultural land in the densely populated East Bay. Since 1997 students, community members, and researchers have been resisting this development and urging the UC to start an urban agriculture research and education center. On the 1st, students and community members held a sit-in demanding important documents about the Gill Tract development. Advocates are rolling out a statewide campaign to protect the farm and fight privatization of public education and resources.

Philadelphia, PA – October 1-15

As a part of the National Days of Action, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP) and Healthy Foods Green Spaces garden coalition, reached out to urban farms and gardens threatened with eviction or land loss, offering resource guides and strategizing. In 2011, PILCOP launched the Garden Justice Legal Initiative, to provide pro bono legal support, policy research and advocacy to community gardeners and market farmers. The Healthy Foods Green Spaces coalition formed a year later to support urban ag policy and offer education and resources to gardens and farms around the city. They continue their work with growers to develop new land tenure strategies, such as the Philadelphia Land Back, which was recently approved through City Council to encourage the city to manage 40,000+ vacant properties for community benefit.

Des Moines, Iowa – October 15

The US Food Sovereignty Alliance awarded the Union of Agricultural Work Committees of Palestine and Community to Community Development (C2C) with the annual Food Sovereignty Prize, recognizing their ground-breaking work building movements for land, seed and food sovereignty.