We’re no strangers to trouble. Like America’s farm families and farm workers, we’ve seen more than our share of that. For decades, our staff of farm advocates has worked side by side with farmers facing tough times, from disasters to financial crises. Over the years, we’ve carried the voices of farmers to our representatives to push for policies that provide a safety net for the unique challenges of a profession that depends on the will of nature.
Ours is the kind of organization that works to connect the dots. We work on a grassroots level with farmers and rural communities, but we also work at the “grasstops” level with policymakers, organizations, and elected officials. That’s how we make sure that all of our grassroots work makes a long-term impact. Let’s put it like this: If a farmer’s voice isn’t being heard, we hand them a megaphone. We might make a documentary film about the issue. We might interview them and help get their story out to the media. We might bring them with us to Washington, DC to discuss the issue with the USDA and their representatives. We do everything we can to connect the people who produce our nation’s food and fiber to the people who have the power to affect change. On the one hand, we help increase the agricultural literacy of policymakers, and on the other, we increase the legislative literacy of farmers.
The consensus is that times have changed in recent years, but our values haven’t. We believe in a world where everyone has the opportunity to succeed. Our nation was founded on that principle, and we’ve worked hard to make it a reality as we build a society that values everyone equally. As an agricultural nonprofit organization, we work everyday to make sure those fundamental principles hold true for thousands of family farmers.
But we know first hand that our work is far from over. As you know, our staff is made up of both long-time advocates and farmers, and we stand alongside those throughout the agricultural community who face injustice, exploitation, or discrimination—whether they are farmers, workers, or consumers. For decades, we’ve stood up against discrimination in all its forms. We’ve rooted out biases and uncovered mistreatment, and farmers of every kind have come through our doors.
Today, we’re calling on you to join us as we reaffirm our commitment to standing up against policies and practices that would increase the growing inequality and injustice in our society, promote social divides, or put people in danger.
It would be wrong to neglect mentioning the deep divisions that have become apparent in our society. As we recently wrote on our website, “Over the past 18 months we have seen an election that has divided our nation and our communities. The recent media coverage, or exit polls, or a thousand other instances could bring us to despair of the current challenges facing our country. We encourage everyone to continue to reflect on these realities, but we also want to turn our attention to the future.”
While some may say that the divides in our nation are long-standing, that doesn’t stop us from stating the simple truth that these divisions have been made much, much worse in recent years. Our society now finds itself in the deep freeze of division; it’s what some commentators have described as polarization. That our social divides have existed for a long time also shouldn’t keep us from questioning who ultimately benefits from a divided society. Who is best served by divisiveness? Not us, not farmers, and certainly not the economically depressed communities that can be found across rural America.
As an organization, we’re committed to working for justice, equality, and sustainability now and for generations to come. That’s just plain in our DNA. Our roots go back more than seventy years to the 1930s, when tenant farmers came together across racial lines to fight for fairness. Their cause became the National Sharecroppers’ Fund (NSF), an effort supported by none less than Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. Frank Porter Graham, as well as many other distinguished individuals. The NSF created the Rural Advancement Fund in 1966. The effort evolved over time, and a group of our first staff members reincorporated as a new organization with a redoubled focus on sustainability (before it was cool) in 1990, 26 long years ago.
We hope we’ve proven that we’re in this for the long haul, but let’s consider why we do this work for a moment. We advocate for a just food system for farm families, farm workers, and consumers for a two simple reasons: Agriculture has always been the backbone of our society; and a just, sustainable agricultural system can transform our country into a greener, healthier, more prosperous place.
Each year, we ask you to consider making a contribution to the work we do because we know you want to live in a world where everyone who labors in agriculture is respected, protected, and valued by society. This year, we also ask you to join us in reaffirming our deep conviction that creating the world that we all want to live in will take bringing people together, often across social divides and through unlikely partnerships, to find our common ground.
Your contribution today will help us continue our work now and for the long haul.
Thank you for all your support. We wish you and your loved ones a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season.