Farm Aid History! 

Fishermen on the Farm Aid stage - finally! I’ve been dreaming of this moment for 28 years and it happened and I wasn’t even there to witness it in person. But that’s okay because it’s not about me it’s about this movement.

This past weekend marked 28 years since I moved to Gloucester, MA and started working on fisheries and ocean issues first as a Greenpeace ocean campaigner. Right out of the gate I could tell that this wasn’t a black and white issue - it wasn’t about fishing or not fishing. It was about who gets to fish and all the social, ecological, economic, cultural, and food access implications that come with that decision.

From the start, I saw the parallels between family farmers’ struggles and that of community based fishing people. Not surprisingly, some of the players entering fishing in the early 90s were the same as the ones pushing family farmers to the brink. 

Tyson had just bought five factory trawlers to fish for pollock in the Bering Sea. I bought a couple of shares of Tyson then to keep track of them. They were proudly declaring “we’re not just chicken anymore” in their annual report.

Caterpillar had just bought a big chunk of fishing rights after walking into a bankruptcy court with a briefcase full of cash to grab some halibut and sablefish quotas that were privatized through Individual Transferable Quotas - now called Catch Shares.

I recall sitting around this living room with a few of my fellow Greenpeace colleagues thinking about organizing strategies to shed light on all this while elevating the voice of fishing communities wanting to fight the latest corporate capture of something that belongs to no one. 

Our big idea was to pull together something like Farm Aid had done for family farmers. We called it FishStock! 

Years later after I had already left Greenpeace and started working at NAMA, we joined the National Family Farm Coalition as its first non-fishing member organization. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the NFFC collaboration opened up a relationship with Farm Aid. I went to my first Farm Aid as an advocate in 2008 sheepishly sitting behind a table with the late Kathy Ozer and not getting too far because here I was talking about fish to an audience who’d come to hear about farms.
Today, I’m humbled by the relationship that has grown from those first few events. Grateful to my friends in the Farm Aid family for recognizing the same connection I saw so many years ago and slowly but surely embracing fisheries with open arms. 
Fast forward to 2022… Captain Charlie Abner joins Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson, John Melloncamp, Margo Price and more on the Farm Aid stage. A video of Captain Charlie and Captain Mark Marhefka talking about the impact of climate change on the ocean is played. Farm advocates were treated to a fellowship supper featuring seafood procured by our friend Sharon Peele Kennedy from the Outer Banks fishing communities.
Thanks to Farm Aid’s HOMEGROWN Concessions, concertgoers were able to buy local seafood at concession stands. The VIPs got a taste of North Carolina shrimp served by Sharon and the Sticky Bottom Oyster crew of Todd Balance and Ricky Jones. And Basnight’s Lone Cedar seafood truck was once again serving shrimp and grits fortified with Patchwork Family Farm’s sausages.
The best part about it all, the NAMA staff couldn’t make it this year. That may sound odd, but to me it’s a sign that we have done our job planting the right seeds in the right places where we don’t have to be there for the seeds to be nurtured. I’m grateful to our board president Jason Jarvis who was there carrying our torch, the NFFC staff who represented NAMA as a member organization, the students and faculty led by Evan Ferguson of Cape Hatteras Secondary School of Coastal Studies who organized a beautiful exhibit for the HOMEGROWN Village depicting the impact of climate change on the ocean and coastal communities, the fishing folk we were able to send there including our friend Casey Streeter who has since lost his business and home to Hurricane Ian, and of course the Farm Aid family for realizing the importance of all this!

My deep gratitude to all of you. Onward! 

Niaz Dorry
Coordinating Director, NAMA

Support Western Alaska Fishing Communities
The Alaska Community Foundation has put together a fund to address the immediate needs and support the recovery and restoration of the communities in Western Alaska affected by Typhoon Merbok. Please join us in restoring the people, cultures, and communities devastated by this disaster. Your donation provides immediate relief to those in need and will support ongoing efforts to rebuild and restore.
Sea Change: Stories from Southeastern Farmers & Fishermen
Check out this video of Captains Charlie Abner and Mark Marhefka addressing how climate change shows up on the water for Farm Aid 2022. Both shared how they’ve seen climate change cause challenges and changes for small-to-mid-scale fishing folks. The video was shared live at Farm Aid and Captain Charlie Abner was there live on stage!
Op-ed: Catch Shares Enable Wealthy Landlords to Gobble Up Local Fisheries
The investigative report from the New Bedford Light and ProPublica has brought forth the conversation around the catch share system. Recently, Captain Ryan Bradley penned an op-ed for Civil Eats, clearly laying out the many issues with the catch share system across the US, and how he’s seen that play out firsthand as a 5th generation commercial fisherman. Since the 2007 enactment of the catch share system for red snapper in the Gulf, Ryan has witnessed fishermen go from earning $5/lb to just $2/lb, which needs to pay for fuel, crew, and other supplies. Check out the full article to learn more about the devastating impacts of the catch share system on small-to-mid-scale fishing folks around the country.
Scale Your Local Catch Applications Now Open!
The Local Catch Network is accepting applications for the second Scale Your Local Catch (SYLC) cohort. SYLC is a nation-wide, producer-centered business accelerator developed to strengthen local and regional seafood systems by addressing challenges associated with direct marketing and by building the knowledge, skills, and networks needed for direct marketing seafood businesses to scale up their operations and increase their capacity and viability for long-term resilience. 
Direct marketing seafood businesses interested in further developing their business practices and connecting with like-minded harvesters are encouraged to apply by October 14th, 2022. Learn more about the program by visiting the SYLC webpage.

Deadline: October 14

Equity and Environmental Justice Sign On Letter
Over the summer, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) released their Draft Strategy on Equity and Environmental Justice (EEJ) and offered a public comment period. Since both equity and environmental justice are central to NAMA’s mission, we found this to be an important opportunity to offer feedback. We’re grateful and humbled to share that a total of 49 organizations signed the letter we drafted! Click here to read the full comment letter. 
NAMA is a fishermen-led organization building a broad movement toward healthy fisheries, and fishing communities.

We build deep, and trusting relationships with community based fisherman, crew, fishworkers, and allies to create effective policy, and market strategies.