By Laura Frerichs
NOTE: Land Stewardship Project board of directors member Laura Frerichs spoke April 24 at the National Press Club during the People’s Action Rural & Small Town Organizing Cohort Gathering. Below is the text of her talk:
My name is Laura Frerichs. I’m an organic vegetable farmer from rural Hutchinson, Minn., where I farm with my husband, Adam, and our two young boys, Eli and William. About the time we started farming, I got involved with the Land Stewardship Project, a people’s organization of approximately 4,000 households, primarily white rural Minnesotans. LSP’s work mirrors what we are trying to do at our farm: build a sustainable food and farming system and resilient rural communities.
In the last nine years, LSP has committed itself to working for racial justice as an essential element in advancing a just food and farming system and healthy, prosperous communities across our state. That is one of the main reasons why I joined the LSP board last year, and why I wanted to be here today.
It’s clear to me that within our agricultural system there are a lot of inequities. I see it in my community of Hutchinson and I saw it growing up in rural Minnesota. Not a lot of people of color are landowners—they are more involved as laborers, not as farmers and owners. For us, this is a core value; we can’t move forward if we leave so many people behind.
We need to end deeply embedded systems of racism, and instead fully open up to farmers of color as well as white farmers like me access to land, credit and markets. We need to do this in order to improve our food and farming system, and our communities. There is no sustainable agriculture, there are no healthy communities, without racial justice.
These are difficult conversations to have in the community, but there is an openness and potential when we do it in the context of relationship.
Here’s LSP’s basic approach. There are four components:
• Organize white rural Minnesotans, leading with values and making a difference on issues that matter to them, building deep relationships while being explicit that we stand for racial justice.
• Conduct ongoing racial justice training, education and action with LSP’s member/leaders and staff.
• Engage in the larger movement—forming deep relationships with organizations of color and Native American organizations. Out of those relationships jointly identifying the work that LSP can do that will be of value to the strategies chosen by communities of color to advance racial equity and dismantle structural racism, and that also advance LSP’s mission and goals.
• Show up and stand with communities of color and Native American communities that come under attack.
We are doing these things—you can talk to me later about our experience, if you like.
Thank you all for being here—we are here to learn, to share, and to move forward together.