All of us at Grassroots International were deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Kathy Ozer, Executive Director the National Family Farm Coalition (see NFFC’s press release here). NFFC is a member and anchor organization for La Via Campesina in the US, and our one consistent US grantee, so we have had the honor and privilege of knowing Kathy well and learning so much from her over the years. Kathy was a incredibly dedicated to the struggle of small scale farmers, as part of broader struggles for food sovereignty in the US and around the world. She understood the importance of linking rural farmers’ struggles with those of fisherpeople, farmworkers, Indigenous Peoples, and urban food justice groups. After working with allies to expose corporate concentration in the food system, Kathy and the NFFC went on to be one of the founders of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance in 2010, and she continued playing an instrumental role in the alliance’s work through 2016.
Kathy was an incredibly humble and effective leader who lived her values. She undertook the arduous work of pushing for just farm policy in Congress, while staying true to her belief in the power of people at the grassroots level – those most impacted by injustices in the food system – to create fundamental social transformation. When we would call her for insights about the Farm Bill or trade negotiations, she patiently explained the details in ways that were understandable, while also illuminating strategies to push for what was needed. When other interests tried to separate the plight of farmers in the US from the rest of the world, Kathy was clear about maintaining a position of solidarity and internationalism. On conference calls or meetings that brought together groups with vastly differing points of entry to food sovereignty work, Kathy was someone who was able to understand each group’s priorities and needs, and communicate them to one another in a way that opened doors for collaboration and connection. Throughout all of her challenging work, Kathy’s kindness and love for people were at the center of all she did and who she was.
We are feeling the weight of this tremendous loss. At the same time, we know that Kathy’s spirit lives on in the hearts of all of who are struggling for a just food system. Grassroots International is committed to keeping up this struggle, and continuing to partner with the National Family Farm Coalition, the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, and La Via Campesina as they advance the causes to which Kathy devoted her life.
We are grateful to the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance for taking the initiative to organize an event in celebration of Kathy’s life here in Boston, and are honored to cosponsor the event! As part of the Grassroots International family, we would like to invite you to join us on Friday, February 17th, from 6-9pm at the KITCHEN at the Boston Public Market – more information and tickets (as a fundraiser for NFFC) are available at this link.