Family Farm Defenders (FFD) is a mostly volunteer-run, grassroots organizing group that fights to create a farmer-controlled and consumer-oriented food system, and empowers farmers to speak up and demand social and economic justice. One important aspect of their work has been to organize farmers to help other farmers in a mission of solidarity, and not charity.
This mission was carried out when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast on August 29th, 2005. On September 15th, FFD dispatched a vegetable oil powered bus with eight FFD volunteers and 15,000 pounds worth of food, medicine and other relief supplies. Many of the devastated communities the bus reached had seen no other help since the disaster two weeks earlier. Six months later, FFD followed up on this successful “solidarity not charity” operation with a delivery of nine tractors and other farm equipment donated by Wisconsin farmers to their colleagues in the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives.
Family Farm Defenders has continued to facilitate farmer-to-farmer solidarity missions in the wake of devastating disaster ever since. Another shipment of
donated tractors went to a farmers’ cooperative in Louisiana after Hurricane Gustav in 2008; the group distributed over $25,000 in small recovery grants to 40 family farmers and farmworkers hurt by severe Midwest flooding in 2007 and 2008; and in 2011 FFD delivered seventeen semi-loads of Wisconsin-grown hay to ranchers struggling to feed their animals during historic droughts in Texas and Oklahoma.
According to FFD: “This mutual aid model of grassroots disaster recovery assistance would not have been possible without the assistance provided by Farm Aid and certainly captures the spirit of what inspired Farm Aid’s creation thirty years ago.”