May 10, 2005
Contact: Heather Gray  (404) 765-0991
The Arts and Agriculture: Making a Statement about Food Safety
ATLANTA.....Educating the public about the challenges in agriculture can take many forms. Art is one way to evoke images of what we face in terms of food safety and the overall precarious status of the diversity of our food chain. Sculptor George Beasley in Atlanta GA has asked the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund to join him in making this statement, along with other food safety groups in the city. In the Fall we plan a cookout from what is harvested from our raised beds. The model in Atlanta could be emulated throughout the country. Read Steve Cooke's article below for an inspiration on what you could do in your area.  For photos of the planting go to"The Farm" on Freedom Parkway in Atlanta.

Who’s Watching Over Our Food Supply?
By Steve Cooke, General Manager
Sevananda Natural Foods Co-op

 A new art installation on Freedom Parkway, across from the Carter Center (former President Jimmy Carter's Library) and adjacent to the fabulous Vegetarian restaurant, Lush, asks this question and answers in two distinctly different ways.  The installation is part of this Summer’s Art in Freedom Park project, and was created by George Beasley, a professor at Georgia State University.

 Imprinted on the steps of a huge, empty lifeguard stand (complete with closed umbrella) are the names of agri-business, bio-tech, and chemical corporations like Monsanto, Archer Daniels, and Dow-Cargill.  These corporations have such influence over the regulatory agencies "monitoring" their output that, in effect, they are self-regulating.  Understanding that profits and increased productivity are more important to these corporations than the safety of our food, or the risks to our environment should make us all very nervous.  It becomes clear that independent regulatory agencies without the political and monetary influence of these corporations they monitor are crucial.

 Sprouting underneath what would be the lifeguard’s watchful eye, if there were one up there, are six raised garden beds, planted organically with vegetables, fruits and grains. Sevananda was contacted by the artist through a mutual friend, Heather Gray (WRFG and the Federation of Southern Co-ops) to sponsor, plant and care for some of these beds, and we have agreed. If you visit the site and stand at the base of the lifeguard stand, our beds are the front two on your left. The front bed is planted with Summer Wheat, and the bed behind that is planted with Corn (left) and Soybeans (right,) tow of the top three genetically modified crops in production in the U.S.A.. The third is rice, but as rice is tricky to grow in this part of Georgia, we chose wheat to stand in contrast to the other two because, so far, genetically modified wheat has not reached the market, or the fields.  Due primarily to wheat being such a staple of the American diet, and the storm of controversy swirling around other GMO crops, America’s wheat farmers have declared to the bio-tech corporations that they not plant GMO wheat, and thus far, they have been able to keep it out of their fields.

 Two of the other beds are planted with Organic tomatoes, basil and Japanese eggplant, along with marigolds, a wonderful companion plant that acts as a natural pesticide.

Note: The Federation/LAF, now in its 37th year,  assists Black family farmers across the South with farm management, debt restructuring, alternative crop suggestions, marketing expertise and a whole range of services to ensure family farm survivability.