Food Leaders Perspectives
Martha Guzman, Legislative Advocate for the Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
Martha Guzman of California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation (www.crlaf.org) has recently joined the Roots of Change Council. Ms. Guzman is legislative advocate for the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation in Sacramento. Formerly, Ms. Guzman was Legislative Specialist with the United Farm Workers of America working on resource issues, such as water and pesticide use, and their relation to public health and economic justice. Ms. Guzman also worked on United Farm Workers' Farm Worker Safe Drinking Water Program in 33 small, rural communities in the Central Valley. She has served on the steering committee for the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water and as a member of the California Water Commission.
Do you see the Vivid Picture project as important to California's future?
That is the project's goal, to make a driving vision that other people can grab onto, get united behind, and use. The project will provide information that different groups and individuals throughout the state's food system can use in different ways.
Depending upon how they fit in the food system, the various aspects of the project will inspire these different groups in a variety of ways.
Do you see the project as important to California's agricultural future?
Yes, particularly in the production aspect of agriculture. The project will also be important in the markets where agricultural products are bought, produced, and sold.
The Vivid Picture is working to create both a vision and a roadmap of sustainability. Nobody currently knows how to really get there, and this project is allowing us to put the necessary pieces together to achieve this bigger vision.
Because this work hasn't been done before, the project must contend with putting somewhat contradictory views together. For instance, can a sustainable food system be both local and export oriented at the same time? While the arguments for creating local food networks directly relate to the goal of sustainability, many of California's farmers produce only one or two crops for export. How do we speak with these farmers? This export is key to California's current agricultural economy. The project has to ask tough questions like: How do you balance the economic sustainability with the ecological sustainability?
I think that production is going to have to take on many different forms to reach the same goal of sustainability. The Vivid Picture is important because it can provide a common vision or goal for all of the diverse constituencies of the entire food system. If we all have the same picture in mind then we can exercise a variety of strategies to get there. We can use our various experiences and strategies to reach the agreed upon goal of sustainability.
Do you think that it is important that the project is happening now?
I don't necessarily see the project as something that is happening because we are at some crux point. Really, we should have done this 100 years ago, but we didn't and it's happening now and it is good that it's happening now.
Developing this big picture plan is important, and most people and groups don't have the time to develop this big picture approach on their own. The project is a unique opportunity for various knowledgeable people from throughout the food system to take on a bigger view together.
What are your biggest hopes for the project?
My biggest hope is for a real, sincere, and genuine integration of the workforce 'sustainability' into 'sustainable agriculture.' I hope that the project can ultimately lead to a higher standard of living for agricultural workers. There seems to be an agreement within the project that this is important.
My hope is that the future projects that grow out of the Vivid Picture will embrace that component wholeheartedly.
What do you think that the role of the ROC Council is in the Vivid Picture project?
I think that the role is to comment on, and provide direction for, how the various projects are moving toward sustainability. I think that recently there has been an attempt to make that leadership more diverse in order to provide more holistic guidance.
Who do you see as the change makers? Who will implement the Vivid Picture?
Everyone: consumers, producers, workers, and retailers. Yet I think that the biggest potential for creating real change lies in the consumers. Driving the change through the market would be the most helpful thing we could do.
How does the project relate to your overall life's work?
It allows me to put my work, which is very linear, into a network of creating more systemic change. I would venture to say that most people are not able to work to create change in a truly systemic way, due to lack of time or priority.
An example of what I am calling 'linear work' is in the work I did last year on a bill about pesticide exposure. The bill, while important, was a band-aid, not a solution. What the ROC offers is the potential to create system wide change, where pesticide drift wouldn't even occur.
This work cannot happen alone. In order to do systemic change you have to have everyone working inside that system to cause it to change.
My work with the ROC council and the Vivid Picture project allows me to do my linear work that attempts to deal with the current situation while simultaneously engaging in this bigger work of helping to create system wide change.
Reported by Ali Edwards, Straus Communications