Building a Movement: Four Years of Food Sovereignty Tours

Food First | 08.14.2014

by Katie Brimm, former Food Sovereignty Tours Program Coordinator

Food Sovereignty Tours turns four years old this summer. Our anniversary brings me back to when I first interviewed for this position. The program was only about two years old—an infant compared to the long, rich life of Food First’s almost four decades—and yet the momentum and immense vision of the young program fascinated and intrigued me.

Over my two years as Program Coordinator, I have participated in and co-led delegations exploring the Bolivian altiplano’s breathtaking beauty and complexity, Cuba’s amazing innovations in sustainable agriculture, and the Basque country’s moving cultural pride. I have also had the opportunity to host EHNE-Bizkaia, the Basque farmers’ union, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, alongside some truly incredible local activists and organizations.

It is so clear to me now. I’ve come to realize that it all boils down to people. The true power of movements, and of this program, resides in the exquisite simplicity of putting people in the same room—or on the same farm.

The true power of movements, and of this program, resides in the exquisite simplicity of putting people in the same room—or on the same farm.

In Cuba, we watched as Fernando Funes-Monzote proudly showed off the thriving organic farm he’d built on some of Cuba’s poorest land. When we reached a small, struggling grove of coffee, however, he visibly deflated, explaining he just couldn’t get his coffee plants to grow properly, no matter what he did. Later in the day, Theresa, a student in our group who’d been studying agroecological pest control on coffee farms in Chiapas, emerged from the grove and quietly pulled him aside, gently turning over a leaf to show him the tiny tracks of a moth larvae that was damaging the crop. Fernando did not greet this discovery with frustration, but rather with the jubilation of finding the missing piece to a wonderfully challenging puzzle.

In Santa Cruz, California, young farm apprentices from the University of California’s agroecology program welcomed Basque farmers, touring the state for a special US Food Justice Tour. As they sat in the California sun chatting and munching apples together, they realized that the struggles of young farmers in California are similar in many ways to those of young farmers in the Basque Country. In that moment, their sense of isolation—that enemy of movements—melted away.

My ears still ring from our Basque partners chanting on a starlit night in California: Globalize struggle! Globalize hope! Standing at the edge of the next chapter in Food Sovereignty Tours’ history, I am certain that this is exactly what we aim to do.

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Also in this issue of News & Views:

  • “Life on the Bolivian Altiplano” by Dolores Schaefer
  • “Building Food Sovereignty in Euskal Herría” by Zoe Brent

Feature image: Katie Brimm with host family in Bolivia, March 2013.