Food Security & Occupy movement

Craft Ontario organic farmer, seed saver, local musician and personal activist


I took a stroll towards the Kingston Farmer’s Market today and decided I would stop by the “occupy” tent that had been established in Confederation Park as of Oct. 15th. I had been meaning to check it out, but had not found an opportune moment.

At first glance this obnoxious green shanty tent, held together by bungee cord and duct tape and flying the IWW (International Workers of the World) flag high, seemed a bit of an eyesore to an otherwise postcard-esque park across from City Hall. I entered through a designated flap and caught the tail end of a general assembly meeting that was taking place. After the proceedings were adjourned I got a brief tour from one of the residents (yes, at least 4 people have taken residence here).

I commented on the haphazard beauty of the structure and its conspicuous ability to draw attention to a reluctant local media (ideal in a situation of protest). He showed me around the “kitchen” and living quarters, which consisted of about four tents within this larger tent scenario.

As I walked through the crudely fashioned ‘fortress of occupy’, I noticed an abundance of packaged foods, Tim Hortons cups, bottled water, etc. I first questioned in my mind the paradox of protesting the corporate power elite whilst consuming the very products which ensure their finance. Now of course, given the unique circumstances I wasn’t about to critique the movement or any tent-dweller’s need for a hot cup of coffee. I also learned that the majority of the products had been graciously donated in support of feeding the protesters/occupants and any hungry visitors that cared to stop in for a personal perspective. This thought did however spark up a conversation about food choice, personal activism, and the goals which the movement intended to confront (food security rightfully being towards the top of the list).

Now when approaching the seemingly Goliath and ubiquitous problem of wealth distribution in our culture (i.e. that whole 99% to 1% thing), one might lean toward a powerless or even victimized stance. I would like to put forth a perspective, from within the realm of a poverty stricken, organic farmer-in-training with a propensity toward lawful rebellion and peaceful revolution: that there is an intrinsic connection between political activism and your daily food choices. I strongly believe that every dollar we spend, and perhaps more importantly every dollar we choose not to spend, is vastly more important than any trip to the local ballot box. Given the substantial amount of money we all spend on groceries and other social interactions surrounding food, I think this is a perfect medium to initiate positive change through personal activism. Keeping in mind that change most often comes from simple grass roots solutions

Active non-participation

• Don’t eat at fast food restaurants: Boycotting is one of the easiest and most effective forms of activism.
• Read the Label: Education is the best tool in making better food choices. Read any and all labels, find out where it comes from, what’s in it, and choose accordingly.
• Consider a vegetarian/vegan or Localtarian’ diet: The meat and dairy industries are generally factory farms and have an extremely negative impact on our planet. This includes animal cruelty, pollution, global warming, and depletion of water and other resources. If you do choose to consume meat, I would encourage looking into more local, smaller-scale suppliers. Free range/organic for eggs and poultry, and grass fed, antibiotic/hormone free for beef and pork.

Seeking alternatives

• Buy local & organic: By choosing organic products you are choosing to be an environmental activist. It is an extremely important stance to help rebuild the earth and soil, and is the only way to truly have a sustainable food system. By choosing local you support the local economy, local farmers, and keep money circulating within the working class community. Seek out and demand organic products at your local grocer and shop more often at smaller, independent grocers (Tara Foods, Johns Deli).
• Shop at farmers Markets: This encourages and supports farmers directly, by cutting out potential profit-based “middle-men”. It cuts down on travel and and therefore petroleum dependency (not having been shipped thousands of miles and sitting on shelves for weeks). Meeting your local farmers builds strong community ties and networks, not to mention the superior taste, variety and nutritional quality of fresh local produce.
• Join a CSA program: Community Supported Agriculture is a direct link between the farmer and eater, usually in the form of a weekly seasonal food basket. In this model the consumer buys in a share of the harvest, generally a lump sum at the start of the season (which is often lower than market prices). This provides the farmer with security as well as some overhead for seeds, equipment, etc. There are several good organic CSA programs around the Kingston area, such as Patchwork Gardens, Roots down, Living Cities, Root Radical, and even a highly bicycle-powered urban CSA from the Main St. Market. Get involved in anyway you can. If you are poor, ask about a volunteer ‘work-share’ for your food basket.

Creating alternatives

• Grow your own food!
• Start a buying club
• Preserve your own food

The roots go deep; educate yourself and actively take responsibility for your food choices.