Almost fifteen years ago, at our annual gathering of ecological farmers, I received a bulging handful of Rainbow Inca flint corn from my gardening sister, Dru Rivers of Full Belly

Image: © Getty/Photodisc
Image: © Getty/Photodisc

Farm. “Plant this corn,” she urged me, “and save some seed to share with new farmers next year.”

The beauty of this heritage corn captured me from the first with its dense rows of russet gold, steel blue, and burnt orange kernels wrapped under dark burgundy and pale dun husks. When we ground the corn at harvest time, it yielded a soft mound of lavender-hued meal that we added to our Thanksgiving bread. Best of all, Rainbow Inca corn was generous; even after the first growing season we returned to the Eco-Farm gathering with plenty of seed to share.

But over this last decade, while we have been culturing heritage crops like Rainbow Inca corn and Rose Fir Apple fingerling potatoes in our Zen fields, multinational conglomerates have been genetically engineering patented crops that are spreading out of their corporate laboratories like poison fire over dry summer grass. In response, a group of organic gardeners from Green Gulch Farm traveled to the state capital in Sacramento, California, to protest a USDA- and taxpayer-sponsored international agriculture and technology conference. The conference was organized for the purpose of introducing farming ministers from the developing world to the lucrative business of global farming.

In Sacramento we walked peacefully with a throng of about 1,500 other demonstrators, including organic growers, sustainable-cuisine chefs bearing trays of savory food, environmental activists and students, and other opponents of globalized agriculture. We were met by many hundreds of armed police officers, who intimidated our ranks with helicopters and armored vehicles; on foot and on horseback, they herded us away from the conference.

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