The Prying Mantis

No Justice, No Peace – reflections on organic farming, CSA and domestic fair trade.


January 2017

Local, Organic, And Fair: We Want the Whole Loaf!


By Elizabeth Henderson

With the financial recovery looking more like the Great Recession, people are turning to the real goods and services of the earth economy.  As stock prices rise and the top 1% bloats with wealth, for many in the 99% incomes are eroding and job security is a quaint concept from the past. A stream of books by Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Bill McKibben, Barbara Kingsolver, and others have put local food at the top of the best-seller list. And deeper, systemic analyses (Wayne Roberts’ No Nonsense Guide to World Food, Wenonah Hauter’s  Foodopoly) are helping us understand why the hard times are failing to evaporate and how small local actions can add up to transformative change. Stressed families are eating out less and planting gardens.  Small seed companies are experiencing double digit growth. The number of CSAs all over the country has tripled over the past ten years. Downsized bankers and PhDs are signing up with the spreading network of new farmer programs. And more people are turning to local farms for the ingredients essential to their newly recognized priorities of health and self-reliance.

The pundits tell us that local trumps organic and for many people a certified organic label from a farm 3,000 miles away does not provide the reassurance they seek.  But will they be satisfied when they realize that the farms within 100 miles of home use toxic chemicals, underpay their workers, and can barely manage to stay in business? Maybe there is more that people need from farms than comforting proximity.

Becoming a locavore follows from a deeper change in consciousness. Going local provides many benefits at the same time.

* Your money is circulating in your own community: family-scale farms are independent businesses that tend to support other local businesses.  Some corporation is not siphoning your dollars off to line its coffers or pay its stockholders.

* If ever there were “green” jobs, employment in local sustainable agriculture meets the definition.

* Economically viable farms preserve open space and beautiful working landscapes.

* And finally, eating local food saves energy. David Pimentel, Professor of Insect Ecology at Cornell University, has calculated that modern industrial agriculture expends 10 calories for each food-calorie produced. Many of those excess calories are burned up in transportation, packaging, and marketing. Continue reading “Local, Organic, And Fair: We Want the Whole Loaf!”

Justice for Family-Scale Farmers and All Food Workers

Keynote speech by Elizabeth Henderson at the Future Harvest CASA’s “Cultivate the Chesapeake Foodshed” conference, January 14, 2017 

All the people of the land – farmers as well as farmworkers – have the human right to live in dignity and respect with a secure supply of the foods of their choice produced in harmony with the natural environment, and to live in a healthy, rich natural environment in a world in peace.

Greetings! It is an honor to be asked to share my thoughts on justice for farmers and how this relates to justice for farmworkers and workers in other kinds of food enterprises as well as people with low-incomes. I just attended the new farmer session. It is so exciting that there are 65 people in this program!

The promise of industrialized agriculture has been that it would feed the world with plentiful, inexpensive and safe food.  That promise has not been kept. Food insecurity and food access are still heavy burdens– in your region, the Maryland Food Bank alone supplies 120,000 meals a day. In the Future Harvest states, over 19% of the children live in food insecure households and the figure reaches a shameful 30% in DC.   Continue reading “Justice for Family-Scale Farmers and All Food Workers”

Blog at

Up ↑