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Groundswell 2020: Building rural strength and resiliency by advancing racial justice

by Tommy Enright | WFU Communications & Special Projects Associate



Wisconsin Farmers Union’s mission is a commitment to “enhancing the quality of life for family farmers, rural communities, and all people through educational opportunities, cooperative endeavors, and civic engagement.” As a member-driven, grassroots organization, our members come together each year to debate, discuss, and adopt policy resolutions to guide our actions for the year.  Though interconnected, these policy resolutions aren’t always Ag Policy-specific, yet nonetheless a vital part of who we are as an organization.

For the past several years, WFU has hosted a pre-convention event titled “Groundswell,” focused on the community-building and civic engagement aspects of our advocacy and organizing. Groundswell can be defined as (1) a broad, deep swell or rolling of the sea due to storm or gale or (2) a surge in support or enthusiasm. 

"That surge is precisely what we need to see today across our rural landscape," stated former WFU Executive Director Tom Quinn when the idea was conceived. "Our agricultural community is at a pivotal point where the future hangs in balance — it's going to take a groundswell movement from the grassroots to ensure a vibrant future that continues our family farm heritage." 

This still holds true.

We’ve covered a variety of topics since Groundswell’s inception, such as rural voices in Wisconsin politics, building a cooperative economy, engaging in local government, DIY economic development, and community rights.  

Wisconsin’s food system is culturally rich and diverse. One needs to look no further than our farmers markets, our farm workers, our urban farms, and farms themselves to find people of all colors and cultural backgrounds. One might also notice that many of these people are incredibly underrepresented in popular narratives around agriculture. 

At Farm Aid this year, some WFU staff and members attended "Forward From Here" a pre-concert rural advocate workshop designed to promote better understanding and collaboration between food and agriculture organizations. This powerful gathering included representatives from urban, rural and tribal groups and set the stage for moving forward to fix our broken food system as allies. We were able to learn directly from other agriculture organizations about their efforts in creating organizational cultures that reflect racial equity and shared prosperity.

This year’s Groundswell event, led by Nick Olson of Land Stewardship Project and Rachel Henderson of Dunn Co Farmers Union, is called Building Rural Strength and Resiliency by Advancing Racial Justice. 

This interactive workshop will take a look at agricultural migration and examine how race and cultural narratives affect our rural landscape, as well as what we can do as an organization to move racial justice forward.

If we want to achieve our mission of enhancing the quality of life for family farmers, rural communities, and all people, we need to engage and involve a much broader cross-section of people than we have historically. We cannot have social justice without racial justice and equity, and the first step toward this goal is to educate ourselves.

The workshop cost is $35 for members or $65 for nonmembers (includes a one-year family Farmers Union membership). Cost includes lunch. Two free registrations are being offered to the county and local Farmers Union units throughout the state — check with your county leadership for availability. Sign up today at www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com/convention.

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