Highlights from the 2023 National Farmers Union Convention

The Future of Farming: In Our Hands
Michelle Tsutsumi

I’m still synthesizing all that happened at the 54th NFU Convention in Ottawa and it was a lot! The National Farmers Union is Canada’s national farm organization committed to family farms. Promoting agroecology and food sovereignty, NFU’s work that centres farmers, eaters, and the earth, is embedded in social and economic justice in Canada and internationally (NFU is one of the founding members of La Via Campesina!).

Having followed NFU’s work on farmland access and seed sovereignty for a while, I was not prepared for the range of issues that NFU is open to tackling, nor the intensity of the resolution process. Huge shout out to the resolutions committee that vetted 11 resolutions before the conference and another 9 that came in over the span of the 3-day convention. As full as the days were, NFU took good care of its members and provided a thorough orientation to the resolution process at the top of Day 1. I registered too late to be able to vote, however I learned a lot from witnessing the discussions and navigating how voices were heard from the floor and from online delegates.

Out of the many resolutions that were passed, I was impressed with how bold some of them were. For example, members voted unanimously for the NFU to support Palestine and call for a permanent ceasefire, there was unanimous support for an Indigenous Solidarity Strategy, and unanimous support for advocating that all migrant workers have access to health care upon arrival in Canada.

The keynote was given by Fatima Syed, an award-winning climate journalist with The Narwal, and she provided a detailed overview of what happened in Ontario over the past few years in relation to the greenbelt. All I can say is thank goodness for dedicated investigative journalism! Ontario is losing 319 acres of farmland….every….day. Without the investigative journalism, Ontario would be losing a significant portion of the greenbelt in addition to that. Before the local food feast, members of the Indigenous Solidarity Working Group facilitated a learning circle. This was a powerful exploration of our relationship with the land and water close to where we live, how colonialism has benefited my people, how I have been impacted by colonialism, and imagining what a food system 50 years from now looks like when we are in good relationship with land and water. The connections and conversations with the people at my table continue beyond the convention.

NFU has several active committees and working groups. As a farm member, I am joining the Farmland Access and Action Committee, as well as the International Programs Committee that stewards the Indigenous Solidarity Working Group and Migrant Worker Solidarity Working Group. As an organization, Foodlands is interested in joining the Farmland Access and Action Committee and will be meeting with National Farmers Foundation to discuss points of alignment around alternative farmland tenure and access agreements.