When you think about your community and Minnesota as a whole, what issues stand out as most needing to be addressed? When you allow yourself to step back and dream big, what do you hope for?
At a time marked by extreme division, animosity and the feeling that nothing is getting done on the major problems we need to face together, it is not easy to think big. Our political environment is more polarized than ever. We have leaders fanning the flames of resentment and division to score political points. White supremacists and Nazis feel empowered to march in the streets, increasing the fear many Americans feel, especially people of color and immigrants.
Policy solutions seem distant. For example, instead of tackling the real problems with healthcare affordability and access, there have been repeated proposals that would throw tens of millions of Americans off insurance and make healthcare worse, instead of better.
And of course, we are up against a corporate system that has consolidated money and power at the expense of people. We can see this in agriculture: while farm prices are down, seed prices have hardly budged, and corporations like Cargill are posting record profits. Since the 1990s, 600 seed companies have been whittled down to just six corporations that control more than 60 percent of the global seed market. Now these giants — which sell not only seeds but chemicals — plan to merge into three mega-companies, with Bayer attempting to buy Monsanto, Dow and DuPont agreeing to merge, and China National Chemical Corporation purchasing Syngenta.
But at this time, maybe more than ever, we need to stand up for our values, think bigger and do something different from what we have always done. We need a bold vision and the power to achieve it.
Building the Power to Govern
With that in mind, we want to introduce “Our Minnesota Future.” It is a long-term strategy to build the power to govern in Minnesota, and the Land Stewardship Project is taking it on in partnership with some of the strongest people’s organizations in the state: faith groups, environmental groups, organizations that work in communities of color and immigrant communities, as well as labor unions and progressive organizations. For a list of participating organizations, see the sidebar on this page.
The goal is to build governing power — the ability to set the agenda of state government and achieve the kind of major changes we need for people and communities around Minnesota. To be sure, LSP and the other organizations participating in “Our Minnesota Future” have won important changes over the years. But on their own, none of these organizations is able to achieve the kind of deep and lasting progress that we know we need. Our organizations are tied together by a sense that people need a stronger voice with decision-makers. Each organization is up against extreme corporate power, and we are all set back by the political culture that divides people based on race, immigration status and where people live.
We don’t agree on everything. But we do agree that without a deeper alignment, more allies and a stronger unified voice, all of our groups are more easily drowned out by corporate interests. For LSP, “Our Minnesota Future” is also part of our commitment to racial justice, as race is too often used to divide people and hurt all of us. “Our Minnesota Future” is an effort to do politics differently — to make it more people-centered, avoid being pitted against each other and demonstrate what people can achieve if we work together.
A Bold Vision for Rural Minnesota
As a member of LSP, you have a good sense of what we stand for. We want more family farmers taking care of the land, building soil and protecting water. We fight to protect and build strong, vibrant communities across Minnesota with the resources and decision-making power to shape our own destinies. And we push for policies that put people, not corporate interests, first.
This is a values agenda, shaped from the ground up over 35 years. It is a vision driven by our members, who have poured their energy into LSP and found it useful to work through this organization toward the big changes they see are needed. As a result, LSP is grounded in a deep set of values and has a robust vision. Now, more than ever, we need to build on this vision, shape it in light of the times we’re in, and find more powerful ways to work toward it.
Share Your Vision, Get Involved
Throughout this fall and winter, LSP is building a strong statement of our vision for rural Minnesota, grounded in the shared values we have worked on for years. In coming months, we will be putting this vision in front of people serving in or seeking to serve in public leadership roles in Minnesota, and asking how they will work with us to achieve it. We will share this with our allies in the “Our Minnesota Future” initiative to help shape that work and bring a strong rural voice to that effort.
We want to hear from you about what should be in this vision. What issues are most pressing in our communities? What do we hope for? You can jot down your thoughts and e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many ways you can get involved. Building a different, more powerful relationship with people in leadership roles will take many different voices and skills working together. What is your vision, and what can you do to work toward a better future for all of Minnesota?
LSP organizer Jonathan Maurer-Jones can be contacted at email@example.com or 218-213-4008.