During what Jim Hightower referred to as “TOFGA-palooza” organic farmers, conscientious consumers, and those seeking information gathered together to learn about a wide breadth of topics designed to appeal to all levels of interest and engagement in organic production. From Sue Beckwith’s “What’s This Label Mean?” to “Collaborative Urban Farming” taught by Urban Patchwork’s Paige Hill, the intensive, education-based conference reaffirmed TOFGA’s mission to support organic agriculture throughout Texas.
In a t-shirt emblazoned with the words, “The revolution will not be pasteurized,” attorney turned activist Judith McGeary of Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance walked attendees through “Food Laws: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” McGeary, a sustainable farmer, knowledgeable policy wonk, and formidable opponent of agribusiness clarified the Texas Cottage Food Law passed in 2011, legalizing and regulating home bakery operations, as well as the newly filed HB 254 aimed at protecting urban farmers and community gardens from paying unnecessary wastewater fees. McGeary urged participation in the March 19th Citizen’s Lobbying Day at the Capitol and stressed the importance of being involved and applying pressure to state and local representatives.
Saturday ended with a beautiful, organic meal prepared by Shahnaz Baday, chef and cofounder of EnnerWay Foods International. Following the meal, attendees were led through Orwellian visions by keynote Jim Hightower. Holding a book entitled CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories, the renowned writer, radio host, and public speaker challenged farmers and advocates to defy corporate powers, “the bullshitters,” and battle it out for essential unity, economic equity, and social justice. Hightower’s critique, infused with a cynicism that was both pointed and humorous, advocated turning the progressive into aggressive and reunifying producers with eaters. In addressing the war between agribusiness and agriculture, the champion of grassroots efforts urged the audience to jump on Rep. Eddie Rodriguez’s promising Farm-to-Table Food Caucus like “gators on a poodle” while opening up the dialogue between representatives and farmers.
Fueled by dedication and a little wine, conversations carried on into the wee hours of the morning reaffirming the unity between food, community and ultimately, democracy. As Hightower so delightfully proposed in refraining Patti Smith, “people have the power.”