This Thursday is a day set aside in Texas for community service to honor agricultural activist Cesar Chavez. (Don’t hesitate to make a contribution to your favorite farm or FARFA.  If nothing else, take some time think about Mr. Chavez.  His battles against pesticides on lettuce and grapes and on behalf of farm workers still resonate today.

If you are as old as me – 50 this year – you may remember boycotting grapes. As an eight-year-old, giving up one of my favorite sweet treats seemed like quite a sacrifice.

But, in 1970, supporting a fair wage for farm workers was just one of the many things my parents marched and rallied for. Who knew that one day their daughter would grow up to be an organic farmer (I sure didn’t). Remember marching for an issue? Women’s rights, Civil Rights, Farm Workers, VietNam. I do.

In fact, when Skip and I moved back to Austin five years ago, one of the first things we did as a family was to march down Congress Ave to the Capital to rally against NAIS, a nutty proposal to insert tracking devices into every animal on the farm. FARFA organized farmers from around the state and they came. Carol Ann of Boggy Creek Farm took center stage on her tractor, and little Avery, 5, and Ethan, 4, were there, too, pulling their red wagon sporting their red rooster, who crowed up the boulevard. I was proud.

I felt similar pride this week as I became a member of Austin’s Sustainable Food Policy Council. (Thank you Travis County Commissioner Ron Davis for nominating me to this board.) This advisory board is tasked with making local food more accessible to more citizens.  My responsibilities include finding models that work and making recommendations to the City Council to incorporate food matters into strategies, budgeting, decision making.

Skip and I helped start Atlanta’s Local Food Policy Initiative years ago so I feel as if we’ve come full circle.  Doesn’t hesitate to send me suggestions and attend these meetings.  This is a community effort.

More about Mr. Chavez, courtesy of Wikipedia…
“In the early 1970s, the UFW organized strikes and boycotts to protest for, and later win, higher wages for those farm workers who were working for grape and lettuce growers. The union also won collective bargaining rights to farm workers. During the 1980s, Chávez led a boycott to protest the use of toxic pesticides on grapes. Bumper stickers reading “NO GRAPES” and “UVAS NO” were widespread. He again fasted to draw public attention. UFW organizers believed that a reduction in produce sales by 15% was sufficient to wipe out the profit margin of the boycotted product. These strikes and boycotts generally ended with the signing of bargaining agreements.

Chávez undertook a number of spiritual fasts, regarding the act as “a personal spiritual transformation.” In 1968, he fasted for 25 days, promoting the principle of nonviolence. In 1970, Chávez began a fast of ‘thanksgiving and hope’ to prepare for pre-arranged civil disobedience by farm workers. Also in 1972, he fasted in response to Arizona’s passage of legislation that prohibited boycotts and strikes by farm workers during the harvest seasons. These fasts were influenced by the Catholic tradition of doing penance and by Gandhi’s fasts and emphasis of nonviolence.