A Story of Solidarity
How one farm couple's journey helped spark the creation of the Milwaukee-Waukesha Farmers Union
By Sam Odin
Milwaukee-Waukesha Farmers Union
I started farming about 13 years ago, traveling and interning on different organic and biodynamic vegetable operations. I had been in college studying the state of the world - hunger, poverty, climate change - and I was sick of just reading about it. I wanted to do something to help. Everybody’s gotta eat, and how we produce and consume our food has the potential to either continue doing a lot of hurt or it can really change the world for the better.
Sara and I started Village Farmstead about 6 years ago. We thought by demonstrating alternative farming practices - organic, no till, CSA and such - that we were doing something revolutionary. Turns out we had really started something like a high-end restaurant meets Old World Wisconsin members-only club. Nothing against historic preservation. And sure, we were helping the land, living the good life, and some people got to reap the benefits, but it wasn’t really what we had in mind when we set off to change the world.
Recently, I have been learning more and more about our place in the world, our context as U.S. citizens, as small business owners, organic farmers … folks with the privilege to chase the dream of “living off the land.” Most people don’t have access to these things, this life, and they likely never will. For me, as an overworked, underpaid, underinsured, and pretty isolated farmer, well sadly, it’s easy for me to overlook how other people live, what’s weighing them down, and what their needs are.
I believe the Farmers Union can help farmers look beyond their farms to better understand the root causes of and the solutions to their problems, and connect their struggle to other people and places. Global capital will not stop taking advantage of cheap labor and cheap resources, and as long as corporate exploitation is allowed to persist unchecked, it's gonna keep undercutting all of us, driving down our standards of living and stealing from our future.
It’s our responsibility to stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable people and places already most affected by these forces. Whether you are eating an organic tomato or a French fry, no people or place should be exploited, hurt, or neglected in its production.
That’s why I joined the Farmers Union and helped launch the Milwaukee-Waukesha chapter. This grassroots group is a source of collective power; as farmers, farmworkers, and other laborers in the food system, our strengths and voices can be multiplied and directed towards common struggle. Only together can we fight for a food and farm system that takes care of all of us - from field to fork - without destroying the planet.