Part of this conscious effort in giving thanks is to remind all of us of the fight for a better world. Folks like Betty Puckett and Benny Bunting, two all-star farm advocates, give us hope—-a hope rooted in justice, fairness, integrity and respect for all family farmers.
Betty Puckett has been advocating on behalf of farmers for more than 20 years. Most people know her as the face of Farm Aid at the Louisiana Interchurch Ministries. In that region, she has helped hundreds of family farmers afflicted by various hurricanes and other natural disasters.
Betty doesn’t do her work behind a desk. She speaks one-on-one with every farmer referred to her. She truly listens to their plight, their stories, their concerns. She also works with Farm Aid to distribute emergency funds. Her selfless dedication to farm families helps them through a range of crises that they face, from access to credit and bank foreclosures to suicide attempts and weather disasters.
On Farm Aid’s blog, she has said the following: “As a farmer myself who had been through rough times, I knew what Louisiana farmers were dealing with. In times like these, farmers need to know there’s someone out there who understands their situation and can offer concrete help. There was a desperate need to get cash out to these farmers – it was matter of survival. Farming is a special way of life. Helping farmers stay on their land and continue farming is a matter of social justice for me. It’s in my blood.”
Another long-time farm advocate very dear to us is Benny Bunting, RAFI’s Lead Farm Advocate. Benny is a national leader in saving family-owned farms that would otherwise be lost to foreclosure, and has been dedicated to this work for more than two decades.
Between 2010 and 2013, Benny helped to preserve an estimated $50 million in assets for farm families. His exceptional track record in farm advocacy includes providing farmers with financial planning, technical assistance and advocacy services. Averaging 100 cases a year and devoting on average 60 hours per case, Benny patiently works with farmers through all the stages of their financial situation. In 90% of the cases he works on, he succeeds in helping the farmers reach their goals.
He also regularly represents farmers in proceedings at the National Appeals Division of USDA, an entity established in 1994 to manage claims and disputes concerning the decisions made by various USDA agencies. His efforts have resulted in several precedent-setting judgements. About a third of Benny’s clients are minorities and he has worked closely with the Land Loss Prevention Project in Durham, NC. Benny works closely with Farm Aid and serves on the Board of Directors of the Farmers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG) based in Minneapolis, MN.
The passion and unselfish loyalty that Betty and Benny have dedicated to farm advocacy and family farmers is incomparable. The same goes for veteran farm advocates Ben Burkett, Linda Hessler, Lou Ann Kling, Shirley Sherrod and others. Through their work, organizations like ours, Farm Aid and FLAG have learned so much. All continue to advise and teach a new generation of farm advocates to sustain family farms and work toward fairness for all. We cannot thank them enough.
Follow along every day at rafiusa.org/30daysofthanks