Volume 47 Number 4 
Fall 2014

Rural Issues

Edited by Susana Helm

The Rural IG column highlights rural resources as well as the work of community psychologist and colleagues in their rural environments.  Please send submissions to me ( This is a great opportunity for students to share their preliminary thesis/dissertation work, or insights gained in rural community internships.  For this issue we have a brief report authored by Teresa Padgett, a student at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. 


The National Association for Rural Mental Health announced that its 41st Annual Conference will be held in Honolulu next summer (Hyatt Regency Waikiki, July 30-August 2, 2015).  Proposals are accepted online at the conference website:  Please contact me if you are interested in submitting a coordinated SCRA Rural Interest Group activity – paper session, workshop, or roundtable. 

Focus areas include:  child/adolescent, compact migrant issues, culture based deliveries, forensic/correctional, geriatric, research, substance abuse, systemic infrastructure, trauma informed care, veterans, and other topics.

The proposal submission deadline is December 1, 2014 or until the agenda is filled.  According to the website:  Proposals should draw upon current research, promising practices and/or model programs or systems solutions that offer application for rural communities.  Proposals should indicate how consumer input, diversity and cross-cultural issues are represented and appreciated.  Program presentations should contain explicit details regarding the target population(s) served, the context in which services are delivered, and demonstrate effective outcomes.  In addition, successful proposals also will demonstrate content and presentation clarity.

BRIEF REPORT:  Food Sovereignty

Teresa D. Padgett


As a senior in the Rural Studies Program at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (, I would like to share some of my academic experiences that are shaping my professional development.

I founded Students for Ethical and Eco-friendly Developments in Sustainability (SEEDS) in the spring 2014 and spent my summer working at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture for the internship requirement of my concentration (see photos)[1].  During my internship, I learned about rural communities during the late Victorian era 1870-1910. This opportunity gave me a hands-on experience in subsistence farming and the changes that occurred with the rise of progressive farming, or growing crops to sell, instead of survival of the family. The Historical Village at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture ( provided me with a microcosm of how the effects of the separation of people and the environment and their place in the ecosystem create food insecurity.  I plan to research the details and effects of this disconnect in regard to food sovereignty versus food security with the goal of the research becoming a book.

The concept of food sovereignty is not a common topic in the discussions within the rural studies program on poverty.  But I believe food sovereignty is key to understanding the root of the issue of poor health among rural populations and the cornerstone of any sustainable solution. The term “food sovereignty” was created by Via Campesina, an international movement formed in 1993 by small and mid-size producers, farm workers, rural women and indigenous communities in the Americas, Africa, India, Asia and Europe. The organization has 148 groups that advocate family-farm-based sustainable agriculture (Via Campesina, no date; no author, 2005). Food sovereignty was defined further at the Forum for Food Sovereignty in Selinque, Mali in February 2007. It is the right to food that is produced by sustainable and eco-friendly means that is healthy and culturally appropriate. It gives people the right to define their food and agricultural systems (Maryam Rahmanian, 2014). Food Sovereignty has been and continues to be greatly affected by colonization and global trade. On the other hand, food insecurity has created a disconnection between people and their food sources.

Peter Rosset, a foods rights activist, agro-ecologist, and rural development specialist, believes food sovereignty goes beyond the concept of food security. Food security is the process of ensuring everyone has something to eat daily, but it does nothing to show the importance of understanding where food comes from or how it’s produced. Rosset (2000) has stated, “The concept of food security and the Green Revolution produced more food but world hunger continues because it did not address the problems of access. It failed to alter the highly concentrated distribution of economic power” (see also USDA, n.d.). The Green Revolution started when agronomist S. Cecil Salmon helped assess issues with wheat plants while studying Japan’s post war agricultural problems. The research continued in the 1960s and 1970s under the leadership of Norman Borlaug, who was called the “Father of the Green Revolution.” Borlaug is credited with initiating the development of high-yield grains, expanding irrigation, improving management and distributing hybrid seed, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides (Dowsell, 2009).   

In researching food sovereignty, it seems the current food production model is feeding the problem, not providing a solution. The current model shifts the economy away from local markets which change the sovereignty of food as defined by Via Campesina.  Local markets create a network of sustainability within a community. The shift from buying local to global on such a mass scale causes small farms and rural areas to be unable to compete with cheap, subsidized food products. When producers become dependent, the local culture is disrupted, the local eco-system is changed, and a cycle of dependency is perpetuated (Agriculture at the Crossroads Global Report, 2009). Food sovereignty creates a sustainable foundation for changing the livelihoods of those who live in poverty.  Pimbert (2009), from the International Institute for Environment and Development, says the foundation for sound incomes and economies ensure proper nutrition, protection of the eco-systems, and respect of culture through food systems. Local food systems create stability within an area, a country, and the world.

16_Rural_Cucumber.jpgI took HIS 3280 Farms, Factories and Food in the spring of 2014, taught by Dr. Russell Pryor. In studying the banana trade and food production during World War II, we became aware that most people never think about the connection within food systems or the people that support their families growing bananas, or that most of those farmers live in poverty. Many people who live in poverty are food producers. We also examined the various food models of the United States, England, Germany, Russia and Japan. For example, in The Taste of War, Lizzie Collingham (2011) argued that food insecurity was at the heart of the war. Accordingly, Germany and Japan feared they couldn’t produce enough food to feed their cities so they sought to obtain more land in order to feed their citizens. On the other hand, Ally countries had achieved success in terms of food security. Great Britain had implemented free trade and the importation of large quantities of food to feed their urban areas, while the United States had the advantage of enough land to produce plenty of food to feed its citizens, as well as for export. Germany and Japan did not wish to be dependent on Britain or the United States as their food source, but rather pursued self-sufficiency and independence in the world market.  

15_Rural_Okra.jpgA similar fear of food insecurity in rural areas exists at a local community level, and not only at the macro-international level. Many rural areas are associated with farming, but the modern food production model has changed the practices of how people are fed. Global trade is a very important component contributing to the disconnection between people and their food sources. Increasingly, food is imported instead of locally grown. As agricultural economies move from local subsistence farming to farming for cash crops - whether voluntarily, like the citizens of the Historical Village at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture, through past colonization, or market changes due to global trade, there are changes in the important connections between people and food. We lose touch with where food comes from. We don’t think past the aisles in the grocery store.

My future research is designed to find a viable solution to address issues concerning poverty in the rural areas, and will include a brief history of colonization and global markets of the past and their effects on the local people. I will address the question of the current food production model and how it contributes to poverty. Although rural areas differ greatly in their characteristics, universally they all have the same problem, just as urban areas have the same problem. Poverty is a common link between these areas of study, and I believe developing an understanding of food sovereignty and putting in to practice the concepts it involves is the solution for changing the lives for those who live in poverty.


Via Campesina (n.d.)  5 Years of Agroecology in La Via Campesina.Retrieved from International Commission on Sustainable Peasant Agriculture:

Agriculture at the Crossroads Global Report. (2009). Retrieved 2014, from International Institute for Environment and Development:

Collingham, L. (2011). The Taste of War. New York: Penguin Books.

Dowsell, C.  (2009).  Retrospective:  Norman Ernest Borlaug (1914-2009).  Science 326(5951), page 381. DOI: 10.1126/science.1182211, retrieved from

No Author Identified.  (2005).  Global Small-Scale Farmer's Movement Developing New Trade Regimes. (Spring/Summer 2005). Food First, News and Views, 28(97), 2.

Maryam Rahmanian, M. P. (2014, June). Creating Knowledge for Food Sovereignty. Retrieved from

Pimbert, M. P. (2009). Toward Food Sovereignty. International Institute for Environment and Development.

Rosset, P. (2000, March/April ). Lessons from the Green Revolution. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Agriculture.  (n.d.).  The Green Revolution. Retrieved from United States Department Agricultural Research

[1] photo 1: Author, Teresa Padgett; photo 2: SEED member Michael Bartelfield; photo 3: okra; photo 4: cucumber

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