At the Land Stewardship Project, among member-leaders and staff, we’ve been thinking more about our work in the context of economic, racial, and gender equity in this country, and how that relates to core values of LSP, like stewardship, justice, community, democracy, and health. Land Stewardship Project’s board is meeting this week to give a final review and approval to a Long Range Plan for 2019-2024 that points to the future with strategic initiatives based on those values.
The Land Stewardship Project believes that the wellbeing of the land and people are interconnected. Caring for the land is not only about farming practices, conservation, and soil health, but also respect, justice, and equity for all people.
LSP is deeply concerned by and opposed to President Donald Trump’s recent criticisms of four Congresswomen of color, including Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar, as well as President Trump’s inaction to stop the “send her back” chant about Representative Omar that emerged from his supporters at a North Carolina rally on July 17.
The last line of Land Stewardship Project’s mission statement reads, “at the core of our work are the values of stewardship, justice, and democracy.” Representative Omar is an American citizen who was democratically elected by the people in her Minnesota district. The government to which Representative Omar was elected belongs to the people of the United States, not a select few of particular privilege, race, and sex.
The Land Stewardship Project has long supported strong local control and democracy so that people directly affected by policies are able to influence decisions. Whether it’s working with members to implement farming practices and develop public policies that safeguard and enhance the health of our soil, or fighting factory farms, or helping beginning farmers access land, LSP sees democratic representation as key to bringing about the food and farming system that people want and need. Representative Omar, a black Muslim woman from East Africa, brings her constituents’ concerns to the table as well as perspectives and solutions from groups that have long been marginalized and shut out of the democratic process by discrimination. Her voice, and others like hers, must be lifted up after having been silenced so long.
On a deeper level, the Land Stewardship Project believes not only that the land is of intrinsic worth and that we rely on it for our survival, but also that all people have inherent value and dignity, and that we rely on each other for our survival. President Trump’s attack on Representative Omar and her fellow congresswomen is white supremacist, racist, and sexist because it implies that the lawmakers are not as capable or deserving as other elected officials because of their racial and gender identities. When the leader of the United States treats people as less than others and incapable of loving our country because they do not agree with his policies or fit into his mold of privileged power, it is an attack on the inherent value and dignity of people.
What does this have to do with the stewardship of the land? Trump’s statements not only weaken us as a nation by advocating a devaluing of democracy and justice, but also weaken the organizational work that we are doing for agriculture that is better for people and better for the land. Our food and farming system needs solutions for change. Whether people have ancestral roots on this land, came to this land 20 years ago, have family who came to this land 200 years ago, or have just arrived, they have skills and perspectives that add to the set of tools we need to create a regenerative agricultural system. As we have learned through farmers’ work in soil health, diversity creates resilience, and we need a diversity of voices in the face of challenges like climate change, economic crises, and political turmoil.
We must acknowledge that for hundreds of years in this country and still today, the solutions and skills and rights and bodies of black, indigenous, and other people of color have been marginalized, targeted, and scapegoated. This is particularly true for women of color. President Trump’s comments and actions perpetuate that abuse.
As an organization with a largely white membership, the Land Stewardship Project has decided that a key strategy in our work for racial justice is to stand with our allies of color when they are targeted. We know that our work for a food system that works for everyone relies on diverse ways of knowing and acting. Stewarding the land also means stewarding our human relationships with respect and dignity, because the earth and people are intrinsically interconnected.
The Land Stewardship Project chooses to work toward a society in which diversity strengthens our nation and brings resilience. The Land Stewardship Project chooses to work toward a world in which all people have inherent value and dignity, independent of economic measures, country of origin, race, or gender. The Land Stewardship Project chooses to name and denounce statements and actions that counteract the transformative solutions we seek for our food and farming system.
The strength of a nation is in its people, the strength of a people is rooted in relationships, the strength of relationships comes from respect, and racism has no place there.
LSP executive director Mark Schultz can be reached at 612-722-6377 or via e-mail. LSP staff member Clara Sanders-Marcus helped develop this statement.