Mai Nguyen (they/them) is a grain farmer, the California Organizer with the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC), and a founding member of the California Farmer Justice Collaborative (CFJC). PAN’s Farmer Justice Fellow Moretta Browne recently talked with Mai about co-organizing the California Farmer Justice Collaborative.
I’m feeling unexpectedly hopeful as 2018 winds down. Though the national political landscape remains tumultuous, we’re seeing some powerful, energizing trends in the world of food and farming.
When it comes to cannabis, California is often perceived by many as “chill” and “radical” with the state’s recent legalization policies. But Jordan, a transplant to the state, sheds light on what it’s really like being a cannabis farmer in rural Northern California. Like many farmers, Jordan faces challenges of isolation while farming, but the inconsistencies of state and federal cannabis laws add another layer of difficulty to this work.
After months of negotiations, the 2018 Farm Bill was just passed by the U.S. House and Senate. Next up? The bill is expected to be signed into law by the end of the week.
Christina Perez is a Latinx woman urban farmer working with in the Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI) in Inglewood, Los Angeles. In addition to digging, planting and harvesting across seven different community and school garden project sites, Christina also puts together community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes for weekly and biweekly subscribers. The contents of each box are influenced by community member input, in an effort to ensure cultural relevance of the food. Christina uses a survey system to “see what [participants] need and try to match what we have to their needs.”
In 2016, California used almost a million pounds of the highly toxic, brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos. In November 2018, under pressure from communities around the state who have suffered health consequences of exposure to this pesticide, the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulations (DPR) announced guidelines to protect communities from it.
It’s hard to imagine how terrifying it must have been. Thirty-four years ago, families in Bhopal, India woke to toxic gas pouring over their city from a catastrophic leak at a Union Carbide pesticide plant. Somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 people died, and community activists have been fighting for justice ever since.
Without doubt, these are challenging times. Stepping back from the political turmoil that we see here and in the world around us, we are simultaneously confronted with evidence that climate change is fast unravelling the systems of the natural world that have evolved over millennia to create a habitable planet.
For the second year in a row, California is experiencing unprecedented devastation and loss brought about by fires, ripping through communities in both the northern and southern regions of the state.
However, in the midst of destruction and hardship, people have been stepping up for each other in inspiring ways. Numerous online donation platforms have been set up, businesses and organizations are collecting food, clothing and other material donations, and helping hands are coming from many directions.