Food Activism: Make a Political Statement and Vote with Your Garden

Posted on May 4 2011 - 2:42am by Mike Lieberman

There was a post on Nourished Kitchen titled The Fight to Label GMOs & 7 Ways You Can Avoid GMOs.

The post was about fighting to have GMO (genetically modified organism) foods labeled as such. They currently aren’t. The author of the post, Jenny, writes how the food choices you make are becoming political statements and, “No longer do you choose whether you’ll serve oranges or apples with that peanut butter sandwich, but also, too, you must choose whether those apples and oranges are grown locally, grown sustainably.”

She concludes the post with seven ways that you can avoid them. One of those ways is to grow your own food, which I’m all about.

This got me thinking about some of the posts that I’ve received some heat on lately about politics and gardening. Especially about Michelle Obama and the White House Garden.

Some of the comments were saying that anything to do with gardening is great, politics and gardening don’t go together and that I am being too negative.

I received a comment a few weeks ago from a new reader that said, “I really hope, as a newcomer to this site, that it stays with gardening and does not become political. Politics, to me, are like weeds – they will take over if you’re not careful. :)”

Gardening and politics are related and growing your own food is a political act of sorts. With the current state of our food system, to stick my head in the sand and not speak on this would be a shame.

Yes it’s about gardening and growing food, but that’s just at the soil line. There is much more going on under the soil with the roots (had to use the bad pun).

One of the goals of this site is to empower people to grow some of their own food for that reason. To stand up against the big corporations because we don’t have to tolerate what’s being pushed on us.

Growing your own food helps to keep you off of GMOs and products produced by industrial agriculture. By not supporting those industries and growing my own, I am voting. I’m voting for my garden and not for their corporate greed and you can too.

What are your thoughts? Is growing your own food a political statement?

  • http://wannabelocavore.wordpress.com Jecka

    I’m definitely not a political person at all. I leave all of the political talk, worry, etc. to those who really care because I’m definitely not one of them.

    The purpose of my garden definitely has nothing to do with politics, nor has such a thing ever crossed my mind until reading this blog post! I’m selfish like that – I just want my garden to be mine: to learn from and, if all goes well, to eat from!

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    I hear ya. I’ve never been much into politics either and think it’s all BS. Over the years with everything that’s going on with our food system and health, this is my way of being political. I don’t vote in a booth. This is one way that I vote and make my voice heard.

  • RSava in Fla

    Just found your site, bookmarked for future reference and info.
    I am not sure if growing your own food is a political statement but it is definitely a wise thing to do in today’s political climate. I am probably 180 degrees opposite politically from most people who are posting on this site but anyone who cannot see what is going on in the world politically and not be fearful of the food supply of the future is blind.

    I started this year growing some of my family’s food supply. I did it because of where I see the world headed and believe that the ones who can sustain themselves by growing food will have a valuable asset in the future. I may not be able to repair the roof on my house but I can grow food that I can barter with someone who can’t grow food.

    I also did it to show my sons that while we can hop in the car and drive to get groceries, we can also be somewhat self sufficient and grow our own. Yes, it may be harder; yes, it may be more time consuming; yes, it may mean being looked down upon as being a “whacko” but in the end it is worth it. The food will taste better, not just because it is fresher or it is grown more naturally but also because we did it ourselves and the food will taste sweeter because of our efforts.

    You’ve got a good site here, and your article on “People’s Gardens” is quite an eye-opener. Keep up the good work. I’ll be back often.

  • Cherise

    Over the last couple years I have definitely been more aware of voting with my dollar. That takes many forms, not all clearly political, such as movies I see, cars I buy, and food I eat. However, I have made a concerted effort in several ways to vote against commercial agriculture and CAFOs by growing a garden, starting a 5 share CSA from that garden for my friends, raising pastured poultry with my sister for our families and purchasing pastured beef from a neighbor friend of mine. Every dollar I keep in the local economy makes a political statement whether it’s intended or not. I intend it.

    Great blog. I enjoy your posts.

  • http://woodstreetsgardens.blogspot.com/ Julie

    I’ve been growing quite a bit of our own food for several years. At first it was a matter of economics. Raising a family is expensive, gardening was a way to eat fresh and stay within our budget. Economics are a huge part of politics. How we choose to spend – or not spend – our money does make a statement. In that respect, yes, gardening is a political act. I would much rather be as self-reliant as possible than depend on what large corporations and the politicians they have in their pockets are pushing on us.

  • http://twitter.com/VeronicaInLA Veronica Flores

    Politics and the concept of labeling GMO food are not separate at all, nor should they be thought of that way. The FDA, a government regulated entity, controls the labels on our food. They control what gets sprayed on our food. They control how it is grown. They recommend funding and subsidizing for farms and they decide who gets it. They have the power to approve or deny pesticides, herbicides, soil amendments, and genetically modified seeds that have been created in a laboratory, not a greenhouse, often products that aren’t approved for public consumption anywhere else ON EARTH (because other governments have rejected them as untested/unsafe, and other communities have educated themselves and spoken up and said “we will not eat that we will not buy that”.)

    Growing your own food can be a political statement, sure- I guess I could say “I stick it to the man” every summer with organic tomatoes, peppers, squash, onions, cucumbers, strawberries, greens, and mountains of herbs… but most people will never grow enough of their own food to supply 100% of their families meals, and unless you’re vegetarian, you’re either spending 5x as much on organic products, you’re eating a cow or chicken or pig that has been fed GMO feed, or you’re heating up a TV dinner that has 20 more ingredients than its Swanson counterpart in the UK, none of which are recognizable.

    The FDA is also comprised of ex-Monsanto employees. When the bad guys start mixing food and politics, you have to wonder if you shouldn’t as well. Democracy doesn’t exist in our current food system- the local and organic farmers don’t get a vote, they get lawsuits, cease and desist letters, etc. from the big boys; it’s the top 10% of the “farmers”, or mostly BigAg companies (the ones doing the suing) that get the majority of farm subsidies set aside from our tax dollars each year. It’s also those top 10% that are killing us.

    Sure we can vote with our gardens, but we also need to speak up to the world, and start banding together against these big corporations. Because if we sit back and ignore them and do our own thing, you know what? They’ll just get more powerful, and more aggressive, and more deadly.

    So people can stick their heads in the sand, they can garden for fun or for relaxation or for the sake of organic food or to stick it to the man… but if people have the information and choose to ignore it, or not share it, or not do anything about it? That’s ignorant. That’s lazy. That’s letting the bad guys win. And that’s sentencing generations of future American children to obesity, diabetes, food allergies, more preservatives due to stronger food borne pathogens, birth and growth defects, mental illnesses, hormonal and chemical imbalances, cancer, and worse.

    And I’d bet there are people reading that may not know any of these things, and you could help change that, and educate and inform and share and empower, for the greater good.

    So a little politics here and there? I say preach on Mike. Some people may not love it, but there’s nothing keeping them from skipping those articles if they don’t want to read them.

  • Muthermcree

    Everything is politics, though, because we live in a country that is defined by its political system (as are most of the countries in the world). You can take gardening as a human right to grow food for granted, but what happens when the CAFO lobbyists, and other big businesses that are anti-local food movements, decide to force the laws to change? What if growing your own food wasn’t allowed? And don’t scoff, it’s been done before. I think you can deal with this in two ways: FIRST, keep your garden to yourself, make it spiritual and all the wonderful things is it to you now, and SECOND, know that you are also making a statement for change, and are potentially setting the groundwork for a healthier food system. I think both of these can give you pretty amazing feelings of accomplishment.

  • http://profiles.google.com/trinityvision3 Melissa Willis

    Voting with your dollar is political, whether you intend it or not. The food we purchase from big corporations just continues to fill the pockets of the rich whose intent is to get richer. This usually means that the quality of our food just gets poorer. I did not start my garden in order to make a statement to anyone, I started it because I wanted to provide healthier food for my family while staying within our monthly food budget. I joined my local CSA for the same reasons. The information our there about our current food system in this country is very disturbing and though I’m not sure I will ever be able to escape it 100%, I’ll do what I can with what I have, just like you are, Mike.

  • http://yardfarm.realmountainvalues.com Brianna

    I really wish more people included politics in their daily lives. Even if they have a political belief different from mine.

    I think that if more people were involved then more decisions would be made by the will of the people instead of major corporations or small activist groups.

    So in answer to your question I think most of your life should reflect your political values. So certainly growing your own food would be an important statement.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    True. There are two ways to get change to come about – through people or through policy.

    I’m into the people aspect and let others handle the politics.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    I’m with you. It’s become an political act. The dollar is what drives decisions, so every choice is a political act of sorts.

    It’s hard to escape. 100% isn’t the goal, but to do the best as possible and get others to do the same. Slowly create that shift, then true change will come about.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Wow. Thanks for the well though out comment. Much appreciated.

    The goal isn’t to be 100%. The thought of that goal makes starting impossible. If I were to want to be 100% from my balcony…I’d be well…dead.

    The goal is to raise awareness, get people thinking differently and empowering them to make better informed decisions.

    Haters gon hate and I’m cool with that.

    Thanks again for your comment.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Money talks and George Washington is a very powerful man.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks Cherise. Keep doin what you do and inspiring others in your world. All of us individuals will create the change that we want to see.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks for stopping by and glad we’ve connected.

    I look around and see what’s “normal” and have no problems with being “whacko” Glad you don’t either.

    Look forward to our interactions.

  • Anonymous

    hehehehe, that comment really must have been from a newbie to your blog! Anyone who’s followed you for more than 3 posts will realize that you are growing your food for fun, health AND as your political statement. And it’s your blog and your garden, so kudos for doing what you like.

    I don’t personally intend my gardening as any statement. I like doing it. I feel proud finally being able to grow food like my ancestors did. I enjoy the freshest produce. I like learning while I go. I feel like a responsible grown-up when I do everything as organically as I can. I will feel super rich when I get to the point I’m growing most of what I eat. On the side of that I’ve become more and more aware of the problems with pesticides, herbicides and GMO, so that awareness is helping to motivate me to keep growing my food and get better at it.

    It’s ok to garden just to garden. It’s ok to garden to make a change in the world. And it’s ok to write about it too ;)

  • http://red-icculus.com Red Icculus

    Barry Obama couldn’t pass a rudimentary economics course. I grow my own food for when he trashes the dollar with inflation and gas is too expensive to drive to work because he refuses to drill.

  • Chris

    without a doubt gardening and politics go hand in hand! from making it illegal for farmers to seed save and for people to choose naturopathic alternatives and vitamins, the government in the US (and where I am in Canada) with the help of their buddies like the FDA are trying to control what food we eat. The recent SWAT raids of Amish farms and health foods stores in California and Portland speak to that perfectly! Google Codex Alimentarius to see what has been planned for our food supplies and natural health remedies.

  • http://www.thecrimsonpirate.com The Crimson Pirate

    I would like gardening (and a great many other things) to not be political. I would like to be left alone to do my thing. But government forces it to be political. I read a lot of comments about ‘the rich, and ‘corporations’, but it is important to understand that without goverment, private and corporate wealth, size and power are self limiting.

    Government implements the laws, regulations, and rules that facilitate the development of the situation that we now find ourselves in. Through laws and regulations they control who can enter the market and what they must do to operate as a business in the market. And government arranges those rules and regulations to protect their supporters, harm those who oppose them, create dependence on government, and increase their power. Government inflates the currency, robs us through taxation, stops us from providing for ourelves, and amplifies the corruption of individuals to unimaginable levels. Government is the root of all evil, and it seems that no matter where my interests lead me I find government mucking it up in some way.

    So I wish it wasn’t political, but since I will not just shut up and do as I am told, it has to be political.

    My initial interest in gardening was two fold. Better food for better health and a longer life on one hand, and as a survivalist knowing that the canned food is going to run out eventually on the other hand. Now it has become another form of resistance against the government machine and another place I can do for myself and not participate in the system.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    I’m with you. Started out for the same reasons and they’ve evolved.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    It’s scary ain’t it. Hard to to ignore.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Self-sufficiency is where I’m slowly headed.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Thanks. I hear ya. It started out as one thing and the more I learn it’s slowly started to evolve into others.

  • Chris

    Yeah it is scary but even beyond all the fear mongering from the government, I agree with your statement down below about self sufficiency, thats what its really all about. If we are apart of this big scary machine then we have to interact with it but we can disconnect and I think its important that people know that. The feds kicking in your door is a scary thought but what is more real is people losing jobs or homes and having nothing. If we learn how to can, grow food, fix and build things, get ourselves out of debt, unplug the tv, turn off the cell phone, life can and will be so much simpler. Community building is important, skill sharing, thats where its at. Get to know your neighbors. Thats the key, thats the goal and I work toward it every day. Much Peace!

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Slowly, but surely. I’m with you.

  • Juanta

    A bit late with my comments, but I’m with you, Mike. I have been gardening, small though my garden may be, for decades. My family farmed for generations and when I grew up I continued the tradition small scale because there is just simply nothing like the taste of fresh grown produce. A few tomatoes at first, adding a couple more veggies each year until I now grow as much as I can manage to get into the ground or containers. But, yes, it is now a political statement as well as a health benefit for us. I am telling the “big” guys that I WILL grow what I want and I WILL eat what I grow and I WILL NOT eat the tasteless, genetically modified, vitamin deficient stuff they try to push on us! I will fight to my death to be able to grow my food on my land. We are teaching our youngest grandsons, 4 and 7 yrs of age, to garden. At the same time they are learning a work ethic, which is something a lot of folks these days have no concept of. Who knows what it’s going to be like when they grow up? I am too scared to even think about that! I freeze, can, dehydrate as much as I possibly can, also. What started out as an enjoyable pastime for me, has become a health benefit and a political statement as well. I rarely think about the politics of it, though, preferring to enjoy the fun and health benefits of gardening. You keep gardening and keep making your political statements, young man. This is still a free country, with freedom of speech!

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    You certainly ain’t late. You keep doin what you do and showing the way to your grandkids. That’s what’s up and truly makes a difference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1199105981 Rose Keppler Moradian

    “Victory Gardens” during WW 2  were once so popular they out grew commercial farmers.
    Those same people now relate home growing a shameful thing, reminder of a hard time in the past and prefer the AC hell of ginat supermarkets where its “cheap”. So yes, it is political for those folks. For me? Its sensible.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Sensible to me as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jenny.f.mansell Jenny Faith Mansell

    I agree with The Crimson Pirate—government forces gardening to be political. A case in point is the story of Denise Morrison whose garden of edible and medicinal plants was decimated by the city of Tulsa. Soon we may all find ourselves fighting for the right to grow our own food and medicine without having our plants destroyed by vindictive officials.