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Raising Awareness, Church by Church

On March 12, 2020, right before the coronavirus shut everything down, RAFI-USA held a screening of our documentary film Under Contract: Farmers and the Fine Print at the Congregational Church of Pinehurst, United Church of Christ. Under Contract takes audiences on a road trip across the American South to understand what’s happening to farmers living under corporate poultry contracts.

The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing the failings of the corporate livestock system. Consumers are feeling the effects at the grocery store and rural communities with meat processing plants are experiencing increasing COVID infections. Under Contract exposes how that same system is devastating family farmers.

If you are interested in learning about how your faith community can gain awareness and take action on agricultural issues, as Congregational Church of Pinehurst did, please contact Michelle Osborne, RAFI’s Program Manager for Faith-based and Community Partnerships, at [email protected].

We recently spoke with Kathy Nekton, chair of the church’s Mission, Peace, and Justice team to learn about her experience viewing the film.

RAFI-USA: Tell us a little bit about the Mission, Peace, and Justice team.

Kathy: The purpose of the Mission, Peace, and Justice team is to try to keep us as a community engaged in these important issues. We focus on environmental justice, racial issues, and many other issues. This film screening was going to be part of a series of events leading up to Earth Day, but unfortunately those were canceled due to the coronavirus.

What did you learn from the film? What stuck out to you?

Most of the people who attended the screening had no idea of the history of contract agriculture and how it has evolved. It was an eye-opener. Part of our task is to educate ourselves. We’re in an insulated, privileged area so it’s a good idea to find out what the real world is dealing with.

I’ve always felt a kinship toward farmers. I had superficial knowledge that large companies play a role, but through this film screening, I learned that the people on the family farm doing the hard work are the ones losing out. Hearing the personal experiences humanizes the concepts, and brings home that these are people who are being impacted on a very basic economic level. The people who work so hard end up being driven out of their passion. 

From the perspective of a person of faith, why is it important to care about the issues that the film brought up?

We are taught to “Love thy neighbor” and that “From those whom much is given, much is to be expected.” We want to work toward a more inclusive society that is fair to all. That’s not the case now, so there’s a lot of work to be done.

What role can churches play in regard to these issues?

We can bring awareness so that people can understand the issues and do what they can to make a difference. That’s the value of your presentation. It brings information to people who are far removed from the working of the land.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m grateful that there are organizations such as yours that are doing this work around assisting farmers and educating the public.

RAFI-USA staff are currently working remotely. As we plan for how COVID-19 will change both how we do our work, and what work needs to be done, please know that we are still here. Our Farmer Hotline (866-586-6746) will operate from Monday-Saturday from 9am to 6pm. Stay tuned for more updates and information.
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