Monday, March 17, 2014

Know Your Board: Julietta Singh

From Food Co-op Initiative January 2014; # Member/Owners now nearly 400! 

I remember keenly the first time I thought critically about the vital link between food and community. I was backpacking through India and decided to visit the  New Delhi headquarters of Vandana Shiva, the Indian environmental activist whose work has been invaluable to an international understanding of corporate globalization and its profound human and environmental consequences. In the tiny environmental bookstore in the front room of Shiva’s headquarters, I picked off the shelf a book titled Seeds of Suicide. Therein I learned about the devastating effects that Western corporate power has on local communities in rural Punjab, the upper northwestern region of India where my father was born. Like so many other regions of the world, farmers there have been forced into turning away from traditional land management practices to adopt the western form of monocultural production. This form of production cultivates only one crop for mass global output rather than a diversity of crops to sustain local communities. The result is that when these “miracle” seeds, manufactured in laboratories to be theoretically immune to any forces of nature that could destroy crops, are found to be fallible, farmers literally lose everything. I thought then about how this process, which Shiva argues has led directly to countless farmer suicides, implicated my own family history in a highly political, corporate world of food production that I had never before considered. 

Today, situated in Richmond, Virginia with a toddler whose appetite often appears insatiable, I find myself thinking constantly about the food we eat: how it will effect us in the moment and in the future; how what and how we eat together—as collectivities—has consequences for those we know, but also and critically for others we don’t and may never know, but to whom we nevertheless have a responsibility. I realize that those farmers in India who are linked to me by virtue of history and heritage are no less linked to me than are the other farmers globally who similarly suffer from the intensely destructive systems we often inadvertently support in our everyday lives. So too are they no less “my people” than those who in our own city are not properly nourished or cared for by our current social system. Community is not to my mind a closed circuit: To be a community, in the deepest sense of the word, means to act in ways that are perpetually open to new lines of alliance and affiliation, and to take responsibility for our immediate choices with an aim toward the infinite possibilities that such bonds can produce. 

If each of us encourages one friend or family member to join the co-op, we’ll very soon be able meet face to face in our own co-operative storefront. With this spirit of community as a governing force, I hope we can all work together to foster the widest and most representative reach of community members. As we gather, let’s push one another to always engage with the benefits and consequences of our everyday practices.

-Julietta Singh, Co-op Board Member

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