Family farmers Joan Brady (National Farmers Union of Canada), Ben Burkett (National Family Farm Coalition) and Maxime Laplante (Union paysanne) represented the voices of women, minority, and smaller scale farmers in the U.S. and Canada on April 7th and 8th at the North American Dialogue on Family Farming in Quebec City. All three organizations are members of the world’s largest small and medium-scale farmer and agricultural worker movement, La Via Campesina, which has members in over 70 countries, including seven in North America.
“We are concerned that many voices are pushing corporate interests within this consultation process in the name of family farming,” said Union Paysanne’s Maxime Laplante. “But the majority of the world’s peasants, including those right here in Quebec, know that truly sustainable agriculture lies in small-scale production, one that is having a massive impact on mitigating climate change and preserving biodiversity while feeding communities.”
Amidst the Food and Agriculture Organization’s proclaimed “International Year of Family Farming”, La Via Campesina stresses that small-scale family farming is a fundamental element of food sovereignty, an alternative model of food production which is free of both human and natural resource exploitation.
Industrial farming under any name, they say, has led us into the sustainability crisis. Even in the face of adverse policy frameworks, the ingenuity and resilience of family farmers coupled with public demand has lead to the strengthening of local food systems based on family farming and agroecological practices.
“Farm families made up of women, men and their children that care about their farms and communities are the best stewards of the land and biodiversity. They have a stake in a sustainable future, one that preserves the land and its inherent social and environmental values. Seeds and productive lands should remain under the care of those who are producing the world’s food.” Said Joan Brady, Women’s President of the NFU.
Land concentration in North America has caused internal displacement and migration forcing many farmers into the agricultural wage-labour sector in the U.S. and Canada, sustaining the industrial food chain under highly exploitative conditions. La Via Campesina North America members emphasize that their vision of family farming is also free of farmworker labor exploitation. Via Campesina reinforced that in spite of competing visions of the “family farm”, corporate controlled, industrial agriculture is not working for farmers, farmworkers nor the planet.
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Joan Brady, NFU Women President, 519-237-3108
Maxime Laplante, Union paysanne Vice-President, 418-926-2473