Sheep join in to occupy the pasture. (Photo: Steph Larsen)
While thousands of people protest in front of Wall Street, the London Stock Exchange, and other big cities around the world, a few are holding signs among sheep and prairie grass. Host Bruce Gellerman talks with rural activist Steph Larsen about her Occupy protest in the Nebraska pasture.
GELLERMAN: It’s Living on Earth, I'm Bruce Gellerman. Occupy Wall Street has gone global. There’s Occupy Brussels, Occupy Taipei, Occupy Milan, and Occupy Rio de Janeiro and now the protest movement has spread to the prairie - specifically, a pasture in Lyons, Nebraska where Steph Larsen lives, works and recently took her anti-corporate food message to a field. Hi Steph, welcome to Living on Earth.
LARSEN: Thank you so much, Bruce, for having me.
GELLERMAN: So, why occupy the pasture?
LARSEN: We occupied our pasture because most of the occupy protests are happening in cities, but I live in a rural area, and I wanted to feel connected to this larger political movement that I agree with very strongly.
Prairie populists. (Photo: Steph Larsen)
I staged the protests to remind people that there are populists in rural areas too. And historically, rural places have been monumentally a political force for good. So I really wanted to help rural people remember those roots, and encourage them to stage their own protests, even if they can’t go to a city and be a part of a larger protest.
GELLERMAN: What's the pasture like? What kind of a pasture is it?
LARSEN: I raise sheep. And so, my pasture is five acres of alfalfa, red clover, timothy, orchard grass, rye grass, and fescue.
GELLERMAN: So, this is a real grassroots movement!
LARSEN: (Laughs). Yes.
GELLERMAN: You had a bunch of signs - what do they read?
LARSEN: There were three. One says: Prairie Populist, 99%. One said: Be Just, Grow Your Own Food, and one said: Occupy the Pasture, Rural Nebraska.
GELLERMAN: So, Steph, what’s the message from your pasture?
LARSEN: Well, Bruce, when I was in college, I came to the conclusion that if I believed that the current economic system was unjust, then the most rebellious thing that I could do was grow my own food. That way, the primary means of my own sustenance would be out of the control of corporations. So I think the message of Occupy the Pasture is do what can to grow your own food, and what you can’t grow yourself, support the locally owned businesses that can do it for you.
GELLERMAN: Well, of course there is not a lot of pastureland or farmland in cities!
LARSEN: There’s still lots of ways that people in cities can grow things from a front yard patch of tomatoes and peppers, to a community garden plot, even a pot of herbs in a windowsill it taking some of your food out of the corporate economy.
If you can’t or chose not to do any of those things, it’s important to show demand for locally produced products from small, local farmers. Dollars spent at locally owned businesses bounce around a community and strengthen that community’s economy much more than dollars spent at multi-national businesses.
GELLERMAN: So, it’s by means of social networking that you’re actually able to stand in this prairie, in this small town of 900 people and actually form a movement.
LARSEN: Well, be a part of the movement that is already existing, yeah. I just did this a couple of days ago, and it has been really exciting to watch it circulate around Facebook. So far, hundreds of people - many of whom I don’t know and have never met - are also getting excited about Occupy the Pasture.
Diane McEachern in Bethel, Alaska has a similar rural protest: Occupy the Tundra. (Photo: Diane McEachern)
What’s interesting about the Occupy Movement so to speak is that I can do that from wherever I am. I’ve seen an Occupy the Tundra. I’ve seen Occupy Antarctica. So, people are embracing the idea that we can share our passion for these issues and our desire to be a part of this larger movement from wherever we are.
GELLERMAN: Speaking to us from the prairie of Lyons, Nebraska is Steph Larsen. Well, Steph thanks so very much.
LARSEN: It’s been my pleasure Bruce. Thank you.
GELLERMAN: When Steph Larsen isn’t protesting in the Prairie, she’s a grass roots organizer and farmer. You can see photos of Occupy the Pasture and more at our website -- LOE dot ORG.
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