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[Nettime-bold] agrarian reform article
daniel bowers on 21 Feb 2001 19:58:23 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] agrarian reform article

dear all,
I hope you are well and fine. enclosed is a copy of an
article i wrote about agrarian reform and how it
affects our society. would you please read it, think
about it, and if it means something to someone you
know, pass it along. thank you. happy gardening!
peace, love, and harmony

Agrarian reform in the new millenium
by Kozan Dani Ransford Bowers

   The peaceful nonviolent revolution is in full
swing.  We have won major victories in Seattle,
Washington D.C., San Francisco, Watts, Philadelphia,
New Brunswick, New York, Havana, Imbarbura, Berlin,
and all around the world. At a rebel rousing protest
in December 1999, Tom Hayden (professor, and member of
the "Chicago 8") declared it's time to "speed up 
the rate of creation and slow down the rate of
destruction". The way people use time and resources is
an indication of where their soul can be found.  We
have the largest militia in the world, and military
spending exceeds that for all other social programs
combined(based on statistics compiled by the War
Resisters League). While the right is arguing for an 
increased weapons supply, in these cities and others,
the left is gathering seeds, building greenhouses and
teaching children how to garden. The revolution is
getting a head up as herb gardens, greenspaces, and
the like become more popular to everyone.  The
American Community Gardens Association has brought
together people from different ages and ethnicies.  On
a community gardens listserve
(comunity_gardens {AT} mallorn.com) there is lively
discussion about a variety of topics everyday,  and
many people ask about starting new gardens.
Generations of leftists have been adapting
agricultural models such as community gardens and
organic techniques as a method to preserve and improve
culture through cooperation and sharing (elements
rarely seen in most political planning).  By
establishing community gardens people are able to feed
themselves, strengthen neighborhood bonds, educate
each other, and lead by example. Urban gardening is
becoming very popular, it is an unusual place to find
the revolution's next battleground, and an extension
of the "think globally, act locally" politics so many
of us are now familiar with.
    One of the scariest statistics affecting us all is
that there are more people in prison than there are
farmers. The prison industry is this countries largest
growing business, and once one is built there are
harmful measures taken to ensure it is filled.
Moreover, Kate Rhee, director of the Prison Moritorium
Project, states that an overwhelming majority of the 
prisoners are young people of color serving time for
non-violent drug offenses. In New York a child of 16
can be tried as an adult, in California that age drops
to 14.  With the addition of mandatory minimums and no
higher education available in the prison system,
individuals are hard pressed for social stability upon
release. In California 21 new prisons have been built
in the last few years, as opposed to 1 public school.
Society needs to provide better alternatives to
poverty and a lack of education. 
     When the Federal government lacks the ability to
care for its citizens, individual communities are
taking the power into their own hands.  Dr. Michael
Hamm of Rutgers University's Department of Nutritional
Science, director of New Jersey's Urban Ecology 
Program (NJUEP) discussed the extreme importance of
continued educational support for our youth recently
at the Northeast Organic Farming association
conference. He stressed the importance of integrating
environmental stewardship into the process of
educating our communities.  NJUEP's mission is "to
facilitate the growth of sustainable food systems 
focused on the issues of food, nutrition, and the
environment." Similar programs are 
starting around the world. NJUEP Youth farmstands
employ over 100 young adults in New Jersey 
and now receives funding from the jobs training
partnership act, the state attorney gerneral's office,
department of criminal justice, the New Jersey
departments of agriculture and health(WIC and famers
market nutrition program), the Educational Foundation
of America, the Union City housing authority, Summit
bank, and private foundations.  Youth farmstand 
projects provide at-risk youth with real job training
through the entrepreneurial experience of owning and
operating a retail farmstand business. They also
assist farmers by offering new markets, and create
access to affordable, nutritious foods for inner-city
and low income communities. In the future, these
farmstands have the potential to include produce grown
on local land in the communities they serve. Food
produced locally reduces the environmental 
impact greatly, and is a source of great pride.
      It is painfully obvious there are few farmer
owners in America today. There are often 
more governmental advisors than farmers (as high as a
6:1 ratio in some areas). Dr. Hamm commented on the
remarkably low numbers of second and third generation
farmers attending Rutger's Cook College(farm school).
Factory farming techniques, low wages, migrant
workers, low subsidies, and untested genetically
modified foods, are just some of reasons farming has 
difficulty attracting new business owners.  In
addition, there are still laws that make it 
illegal for farm workers to unionize. In order to
increase the interest for farming, 
policies must change. Youth farmstands are one way to
revitalize interest in farming. 
Another method is to raise awareness and provide
environmental education. Community gardens 
offer a variety of interesting resources. They enable
people to share ideas, land and 
plants, and there are thousands of community gardens
in the United States. Community gardens 
in Phhiladelphia and South Central have been able to
provide useful educational programs where
governmentally funded opportunities are lacking. They
also give community members pride in their
neighborhoods. Participants also learn about different
culturalal practices and share stories.  Children's
gardening and school yard ecology programs develop an 
understanding of ecology and foster the growth of
positive relationships with the natural world. These
programs provide children with the opportunity to
develop a sense of place and belonging, enhance
self-esteem and increase appreciation of their natural
and cultural heritage through an interdisciplinary
educational curriculum that encompasses horticulture, 
ecology, nutrition, language arts, crafts, and
heritage storytelling. Educational activities 
are integrated to promote literacy, creativity, health
and social skills. Community members have received
national recognition for their efforts with community
gardening to help educate children away from a life of
violence and crime. 
     It is time to start placing a higher importance
on gardenning and farming.  Without farmers we would
be in the midst of a national emergency.  For the many
reasons stated and more we need agrarian reform in
this country, perhaps one of the best places to start
is in our cities. Most of the laws that govern rural
landscapes come from urban metropolis areas like
Washington D.C. It's time for these legislators to
enact appropriate laws, with an understanding of the
principles of how farming has been done for thousands
of years. Businesses will benefit by contributing to
the benefit of the environment by promoting "green"
industries. Through community gardens, youth
farmstands, and children's ecology programs the entire
population can have a better understanding of the
environment and each other. We need to have
legislators who understand the delicate balance of
nature.  The western hemisphere was founded on
agriculture practices.  In our shift to
industrialization we have become a nation that
consumes two-thirds of the worlds resources, while
maintaining only one-fifth of the population. By
recognizing our need to focus attention on agriculture

and produce food locally we also realize that we have
a problem and a can work towards its solution. In the
war against militarization and capitalism, community
gardening is an effective method for exposing the
idiocy of dehumanizing policies.
Web Sites of interest
New Jersey's Urban Ecolgy
Prison Moritorium Project...
American Community Garden
Baltimore Grows...http://www.povertysolutions.org/
Food First, Institute for Food and Development
Policy... http://www.foodfirst.org/
San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners
War Resisters League..... www.warresisters.org

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