Food Justice: Bringing Seafood into the Local Food Movement

By Andrianna Natsoulas
NAMA's Markets and Food Justice Coordinator

For NAMA Newsletter: November 20, 2009

Over the past several years, the food justice and local food movements in the United States have been growing. But, often when people think about local foods, they only think farmers and agricultural products. NAMA is working to bring SEAfood into this growing movement.

Lately, every month there is another conference or meeting to strengthen the local food movement. In September, the New Bedford Working Waterfront Festival was themed Surf and Turf: Fishermen and Farmers Finding Common Ground.  In coordination with the Working Waterfront organizers, NAMA hosted a roundtable discussion for area farmers and fishermen to brainstorm new ways to work together in creating alternative markets across New England. Following that, NAMA held a public panel, entitled, Community Support Agriculture & Community Supported Fisheries and participated on a Wild, Organic and Local: The Politics of Food panel.

In October, the Community Food Security Coalition held their annual meeting in Des Moines, Iowa. NAMA teamed up with the National Family Farm Coalition to host a workshop on alternative markets for seafood and cheese. John Kinsman of the Family Farm Defenders discussed their Fair Trade Cheese and how it helps the family farmer get a higher price, the cows live healthier lives and the consumers enjoy local BGH free cheese. Kim Libby from Port Clyde, Maine explained how the very first Community Supported Fishery in New England, Port Clyde Fresh Catch, is helping fishermen receive a better price for their catch, thus allowing them to stay on the water, while consumers receive a weekly cooler full of fresh local shrimp and groundfish as they connect with their local fisherman. The workshop was topped off with samples of Fair Trade Cheese and fresh Port Clyde shrimp. Through their stomachs, participants could appreciate food produced and caught by small-scale family farmers and fishermen.

In November, the New England Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) held its annual meeting in Albany, NY. For the first time, representatives from the fishing communities attended this meeting and for the first time, many of the NESAWG members were exposed to the common problems and solutions fishermen and farmers face when keeping food local – either chicken or cod.  NAMA had the opportunity to speak during a plenary session about how the small-scale family fishing and farming communities are similar, how they are currently working together in New England and what potential future collaborative efforts exist.

For fishing communities, Food Justice is not only about the living wage fishermen are able to receive, or the fresh local seafood people have access to eat, but it is also about the necessary infrastructures from working waterfronts to affordable health care to local processing facilities. That is what keeps community fishermen on the water and local seafood available to the shoreside communities. Local food providers – both fishermen and farmers - are often more vested in the communities, so they aim to do what is right for their families, their neighbors and their environment.

NAMA’s Loaves and Fishes campaign connects community-based fishermen with family farmers. The policy decisions that have turned farms into food production machines with grave ecological, health and economic consequences are being mirrored on the marine side. Not only that, but as food providers, both small-scale family fishermen and farmers are often left on the quayside when important matters, such as health reform, are debated. Through partnerships, fishermen and farmers will once again be revered as essential members of our society.

Please visit the full list of upcoming events, as well as our past events.