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Feeding A Movement: Farmers And Occupy Wall Street

The Occupy Wall Street movement has had both positive and negative relationships with small-scale farmers. Here's a sampling of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

A man stands beside a makeshift countertop.  Hanging on the side of the counter are posters.  One says

Photo: Tony (Flickr)

Occupy Wall Street in New York City receives donations from small farmers in the region, and provides facilities for composting.

The Occupy Movement remains in full swing and a number of factors have contributed to its continuing existence. In October, we reported on the connections between food co-ops and the goals of the OWS movement. Farms have had a hand in extending the life of the prostest in two cities, but the love shown has not always been requited.

New York: Protest Drives Out Zucotti Park Farmers’ Market

For the first few Tuesdays of the OWS encampment, the protesters share Zucotti Park with another tenant. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say the other tenant shares the park with the protesters.

That tenant is the Zucotti Park Farmer’s Market.

Foodies among us would expect that the OWS occupation, with its desire to support small businesses over corporate interests, would mean booming sales for the market vendors.

But that’s not the case.

Protesters were shunning the market in favor of free food given by donors, including mostly items of corporate cuisine like Polar Springs bottled water, Campbell soup.

Not only weren’t the protesters buying the food: they were deterring regular customers who didn’t want to walk through the camp to get to the vendors.

Two weeks after the protest started, vendors reported a 25 percent decrease in sales, and relocated to a new spot six blocks away from the protest.

“Feed The Movement” In New York, Boston

Not all views of the Occupy Wall Street’s eating habits are quite so cynical.

New York’s public radio station, WNYC, reports that local farmers have been donating food to the Occupy Wall Street kitchens.

Heather Squire, full-time Occupy Wall Street volunteer in Manhattan, explains that “[The donors] all had this related thing: They’re small organic farmers competing against big commercial and industrial farmers. . . . The kitchen became a place for farmers to come together. It represented that place to take their issues to.”

A similar slew of donations from small farmers have largely fed the Occupy Boston movement. A new organisation, Feed The Movement, emerged to coordinate the donations from various New England farms.

In Boston, farmers have sent weekly shipments of about 500 pounds of produce, which drivers deliver for a nominal fee.

Many of these small farms can barely afford the donations they make. “It has just been a terrible growing season,” says Vermont’s Fair Food Farm Emily Curtis-Murphy. “Our crops have suffered a lot from the flooding.

But farmers make the donations because they support the cause, and many feel personally impacted by reckless spending on Wall Street.

“It’s the fact that the economy tanked due to the reckless lending activities of these big corporations that then got bailed out by the government and are again making record profits,” says Curtis-Murphy. “Meanwhile, we’re probably facing having to shut down our new business this winter.”

Read More:

  • The Microeconomics Of Occupy Wall Street: Zucotti Park’s Farmer’s Market (New York Observer)
  • Vermont Farmers Help Feed Occupy Wall street, Boston (Burlington Free Press)
  • Dinner At Occupy Wall Street And The Farmers Who Grow it (WNYC)
Sarah Gordon

Sarah Gordon has been interested in food ethics since she was 15, learned about industrial slaughter, and launched into 10 years of vegetarianism. These days, she strives to be a conscientious omnivore. Now a PhD candidate in folklore, her research has caused her to spend a lot of time in the remote Canadian sub-arctic, where the lake trout (sustainably harvested) tastes amazing.

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