This week I’m turning this space over to Ken Davis, a long-time writer in the Co-op Outreach Department. Ken is something of a Co-op storyteller. This week I’ve asked him to share the story of some important work being done here to benefit small family farms, both locally and nationally. —ed
I like to say that if I’m doing my job right, no one knows I exist. This is partly because I’m such an introvert, happy to hide from public view like a ghost, but also because I like to tell other people’s stories. It’s a very rewarding job, which is why I’ve been doing it here for so long. Many have learned the hard way to be careful with what they tell me, because I’ll end up writing something about it. (Ask forgiveness rather than permission, that’s my motto.)
One story that impressed me lately was a conversation I had with my old friend and colleague, Allan Reetz. Allan is our Co-op’s tenacious Director of Public Relations. Allan is soft-spoken and affable, with an articulate speaking style that draws you in to whatever he’s saying. The great thing about Allan is that he works on so many big things, but much of that work is behind the scenes, performed without great fanfare. In particular, Allan is a long-time advocate for small family farms.
One of my favorite quotes of all time here comes from Allan: “We don’t support local agriculture. Local agriculture supports all of us.”
Late last month, Allan attended the National Organic Coalition “Fly-in” in Washington, D.C. He joined with farmers, cooperators, organic agricultural professionals, activists, and advocates from across the country for two days of intense work. In the process, the team visited a variety of congressional legislators and members of the Senate Agricultural Committee.
Each visit was focused on farm bill topics that have an impact on organic farms of all sizes. The topics included: origin of livestock, pasture grazing, funding shortfall for organic cost-share programs, full funding to support inspections to fight import fraud, and other appropriations. I sat down with Allan for about an hour recently to talk about it, and in that time, we barely scratched the surface. I was going to write a summary of it, but there’s just too much to tell. How do you summarize something so far-reaching, impactful, and important? Anyone who wants to know more specifics should do what I did: talk to Allan in person. His passion for agriculture is infectious.
The point I want to address is the why. Why do we do this? We’re so accustomed to someone here doing this sort of work we tend to forget how unusual it is. Walk into your average grocery store and you won’t find an Allan Reetz–a person dedicating his life to advocating for small family farms. This sort of work is one of the important things that separates our co-op from other businesses. Many family farms around here exist because of our co-op, our co-op in turn exists because of them, and the whole wheel of the system turns because of people like Allan and you and me who stand by each other and with each other as we all go about our work. D.C. can seem like a mess these days, but in the bedlam of it all, a month ago an employee here stood in front of our congressional representatives and advocated for our friends in the Upper Valley farming community. It’s a special thing, because this is a special place.
“It’s our job to speak up for consumers,” Allan told me, “and to speak up for the farmers who are doing things the right way. If we fail to do either, we fail to be a co-op.”
I’m glad someone is speaking up. It’s a story that needs to be told.