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Yes! Impact

Issue 89

Our spring 2019 magazine — The Dirt Issue — explored what communities are doing to reconnect to soil. By returning to a culture that loves its soil, we can grow healthy food and make it available to everyone. In turn, healthy soil can heal our bodies and the planet. We’ve received wonderful feedback from across the country about how this issue has resonated with so many YES! readers.

Soil in a low-water area needs vitamins

I loved your spring 2019 issue on dirt! As a vegetable gardener with limited space, I appreciated the articles on the quality of dirt and on using the alleys for planting. As a resident of Phoenix, I live in the Salt River Project irrigation district, which means that the soil in our yard is pretty good — irrigation water floods in and leaves some good deposits in the soil. Still, in a low-rain area that gets HOT in the summer, we must use filtered city water to keep our plants going and shades during the hot months.

Our neighborhood has back alleys where the city picks up trash and the utility and cable companies run their lines. I use my side of the alley for a fall planting (November) and a spring planting (January), two rows of vegetables deep. I run a regular hose out to the alley, attached to a soaker hose along the garden beds.

Building the soil was difficult at first, but now we just turn a lot of the citrus rinds (Vitamin C) and veggie tops back into the dirt, plus leftovers from meals. Since the rains are scarce and do not break down the soil as they do elsewhere, we need to add mulch and vitamins for each planting season. You’d think someone would steal from the alley, but no, the truck drivers love that it is cared for and avoid trampling on the garden.

Yes to YES! for covering dirt.

Nancy Marshall, Phoenix

Thank you for your support, Lisa. Our magazine sales support only the cost of printing and delivery. We simply couldn’t do our work without the help of donors like you.

The power of the soil’s memory was the perfect counterpoint

The soil issue was one to celebrate. It’s easy to get excited about the ground beneath our feet, especially for YES! readers, and it was a joy to read the many ways that good earth is part of the good Earth. But I was wondering what story might be able to tie together the bloody history of American soil with the power of memory and the promise of fertile loam, something that would challenge as well as honor the fact that this land still isn’t made for you and me. Leanna First-Arai’s piece on the Legacy Museum’s library of dirt was unbearably moving, and the perfect counterpoint. Thank you for curating such powerful stories that, together, can give the practice of hope a proper grounding.

Raj Patel, Author, activist, and academic, Austin, Texas

Spread from the Dirt Issue

Access to healthy food should be a human right? Absolutely. Food should be free? Nope

As an organic farmer and Dedicated Friend, I’d been looking forward to the upcoming “Dirt” issue, but to my dismay, right there on the cover I saw those words that every time I hear them bring up the same, now-familiar barbs: “Food should be free.” So I buckled myself in for the routine of having to justify my profession once again both to myself and someone else, which usually ends, as it will today, with an immense amount of emotional labor spent trying to articulate why I wish this phrase would never again show itself in thoughtful publications, at least not without a much larger contextual framework.

“Food should be free” is dangerously close to “food should be cheap,” and both completely undervalue the work of food production and the humans doing it. Sure, food should be free in a society where there’s no such thing as land ownership, money, or financial costs associated with growing food, not to mention utility bills for the systems that bring clean water or electricity to your door. But that’s like saying money shouldn’t exist, which does nothing to address the practical, on-the-ground realities of capitalism, of who has money and who doesn’t.

Wealth redistribution? I’m totally on board with the conversation. Access to healthy food should be a human right? Absolutely. Food should be free? Nope. It smacks of the kind of romanticism of farming only possessed by those who have never tried to make a living doing it, and it undermines our efforts to advocate for a living wage for farmers and farmworkers.

For 15 years, I’ve run a small farm, not a big agribusiness. It’s the kind of operation magazine writers, city council members, and local economies advocates swoon over. In addition to vegetables, I also grow seeds like the ones in those anonymous packets Kevin Holtham talks about, and we’ve worked really hard to put the faces, craftsmanship, and dedication of the people who grow them onto those packets, to tell the stories of those seeds and those seed stewards in our community.

Do I think the earth is miraculously abundant and that seeds are the absolute best, most mind-blowing accelerator of abundance I can think of? Yes, alongside their soil microbe counterparts. I admire the work Holtham is doing to divert waste and turn it into compost to share with neighborhood gardeners. But whenever someone says food should be free, I want the person interviewing them to immediately posit the question, “How do you pay your bills?” That rototiller and the gas to run it cost money. To drive around to places and pick up food waste takes a vehicle of some type; even a bike trailer has costs. Where do you live and who pays the rent? How does the heat come on in the winter? How do you buy the food you are eating, because you’re not growing all of it yourself. For someone to choose to volunteer their time to grow food (or compost) and give it away is a wonderful choice for a life. But to say that food should be free is to suggest something altogether different.

It’s no secret that the food system is very broken. The fact that food is as cheap as it is owes itself to the exploitation of human labor, plain and simple, alongside the destruction of the Earth. Whether it’s the legacy of slavery in building the country’s agriculture, the continued exploitation of migrant workers on industrial farms, or even the youthful idealism of the local food movement, elitist as it may be by comparison, a good portion of the public expects people employed in agriculture to happily sacrifice for the greater goal of “feeding the world,” which is to say cheap (or free) food for everyone.

We need people to succeed in building successful models of food production and land stewardship. It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done, to navigate the challenges of land access, skills building, developing business models that reflect my values, and so much more. Inside each of us who does this work is a deep desire to create a world of abundance for everyone, but it does none of us any good to not include this basic accounting — “How do you pay your bills?” — in any conversation about food production. Too often we farmers leave those conversations full of self-doubt, when what we need is an honest, practical look at the economic realities of food production so we can build models that achieve that holy grail of the triple-bottom-line advocated in sustainability circles — at least for now, it has to be good for planet, people, and pocket.

Thank you for your time and consideration in reading this. I would love an issue devoted to the topic of financing a healthy and just food system with access to healthy food as a human right, if you’re taking suggestions.

Casey O’Leary, Earthly Delights Farm & Snake River Seed Cooperative, Boise, Idaho

We have often discussed doing an issue on the true cost of food — for all the reasons you relate here. I understand the wish that everyone should have enough healthy food regardless of ability to pay. But you’re right that knowing the fair costs of producing healthy food is fundamental to food justice. Thank you for this reminder. — Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz, YES! editorial and creative director

Favorite issue of all time

Just wanted to convey my congratulations on The Dirt Issue. I think it is my favorite YES! issue of all time. The graphics and photos are spectacular and complement well the excellent reporting. And, of course, the glossier paper really makes both stand out.

What struck me is that while the issue is about dirt, it is also about healing — our land, our atmosphere, our history, and our bodies. There is a profound hopefulness in that. For all the terrible damage we have done and are doing to the Earth and each other, we can heal. From the Appalachian coal mines to the Seattle urban core, we can see life taking hold. With the right corrective assistance from us humans, thriving ecosystems can once again flourish. I think the issue will inspire many people to see the possibilities for health — mental, physical, ecological — and be part of the great healing process, so needed at this time.

And I loved the graphic story of borrowing sugar. So true.

Thank you for putting together this beautiful issue.

Fran Korten, Former YES! executive director, Bainbridge Island, Washington

Send updates and responses to our articles to Bailey Williams, audience relations coordinator: [email protected]
Yes! for Teachers Winning Essay

Xenophobia and the Constitution-Free Zone

WRITING PROMPT: Border (In)Security: Respond to the YES! Magazine article “Two-Thirds of Americans Live in the ‘Constitution-Free Zone’ ” by Lornet Turnbull.

Cain Trevino

In August of 2017, U.S. Border Patrol agents boarded a Greyhound bus at the White River Junction Station in Vermont. According to bus passenger and U.S. citizen Danielle Bonadona, “They boarded the bus and told us they needed to see our IDs or papers,” and “only checked the IDs of people who had accents or were not White.”

In the YES! article “Two-Thirds of Americans Live in the ‘Constitution-Free Zone’” by Lornet Turnbull, the ACLU argues that “the 100-mile zone violates Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.” However, the Supreme Court upholds the use of immigration checkpoints. I think the ACLU makes a reasonable argument. The laws of the 100-mile zone are blurred, and too often officials give arbitrary reasons to conduct a search. Xenophobia and fear of immigrants burgeons within this zone. People of color, those with accents, and non-English speakers are profiled by law enforcement agencies. This anti-immigrant zone does not make our country safer. In fact, it does the opposite.

As a former student from the Houston area, I know that the “Constitution-free zone” makes immigrants and citizens alike feel on edge. The Department of Homeland Security’s white SUVs patrol our streets. Even students feel the weight of anti-immigrant laws. Dennis Rivera Sarmiento, an undocumented student who attended Austin High School in Houston, was held by school police in February 2018 for a minor altercation and was handed over to county police. He was later picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, and held in a detention center. It is unfair that kids like Dennis face much harsher consequences for minor incidents than other students with citizenship.

These instances are a direct result of anti-immigrant laws. For example, the 287(g) program gives local and state police the authority to share individuals’ information with ICE after an arrest. This means that immigrants can be deported for committing misdemeanors as minor as running a red light. Other laws like Texas Senate Bill 4 allow police to ask people about their immigration status after they are placed in custody. These policies make immigrants and people of color feel like they’re always under surveillance and constantly in danger of being questioned and detained. During Hurricane Harvey, immigrants were hesitant to go to the shelters because of immigration patrol. They felt like their own city was against them at a time when they needed it most. For many immigrants, the danger of being questioned about immigration status prevents them from reporting crimes, even when they are the victim. Unreported crime only places more groups of people at risk and makes communities less safe.

In order to create a humane immigration process, citizens and non-citizens must hold policymakers accountable, get rid of discriminatory laws like 287(g) and Senate Bill 4, and abolish the Constitution-free zone. The League of United Latin American Citizens suggests background checks for incoming immigrants along with a small fine to apply in a new, less prolonged legal process as well as permanent resident status for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and Temporary Protection Status recipients. Other organizations propose expanding the green card lottery and asylum for immigrants escaping the dangers of their home countries.

Immigrants who come to the U.S. are only looking for an opportunity to provide for their families and themselves. Deciding who gets to cross the border is the same as trying to decide who is worth more than others. The narratives created by anti-immigrant media plant the false idea that immigrants bring nothing but crime and terrorism. Increased funding for the border and enforcing laws like 287(g) empower anti-immigrant groups to vilify immigrants and promotes a witch hunt that targets innocent people. Getting rid of the 100-mile zone means standing up for justice and freedom because nobody, regardless of citizenship, should have to live under laws created from fear and hatred.

The YES! for Teachers program brings solutions for a better world into classrooms nationwide by providing free teaching resources and magazine subscriptions to educators. To sign up or learn more, visit yesmagazine.org/for-teachers.
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Why I Give

Dan Marion

Yes! literally made me who I am today. In 2013, I applied for a YES! internship on a whim. I was interested in education policy and thought the YES! for Teachers program might be helpful.

At YES! I got to live the life I’d always wanted. I biked to work, ate vegetables from the office garden, composted, and marveled at Mt. Rainier on the ferry to Seattle. I also learned about Jesse Hagopian, a high school history teacher who challenged the amount of standardized testing required of students.

After my internship I applied to grad school in education, and inspired by Jesse I used the writing section of the GRE to criticize testing, knowing it would negatively affect my score. I was accepted to Harvard. I like to think they appreciated my passion for something more important than a test score.

Since then, I’ve been a high school teacher. I started a giving circle that has donated nearly $15,000. And now I work in development and partnerships for a Boston public high school. I trace all of this back to YES!

What I believe — what YES! instilled in me — is that, in a capitalist society, how we spend our time, money, and energy determines what — and who — survives and thrives. We have a choice about what our future will look like. But we can’t just hope for it — we need to act.

I give to YES! monthly because YES! inspires millions of people to act. By donating to YES! I’m helping build the world I want to see. I hope you’ll join me.

Become a Yes! monthly supporter: yesmagazine.org/donate

From the Executive Director

Christine Hanna

Dear Readers,

If you are holding this magazine, you may be one of our thousands of devoted print readers who simply love the feel of YES! in real life. You like settling in with it when it comes in the mail. Maybe you consume it all at once, or maybe you savor it over a few weeks. Or maybe you simply like having it around the house because you know it holds hopeful possibilities for a better world. Maybe you saved every single back issue (you know who you are!). Well, dear reader, we love you right back.

And, for every one of you loyal print readers, there are hundreds of online readers who have never seen YES! in print. We publish every print story on our website, and some are tremendously popular. Sarah Lazarovic’s “Borrow the Sugar” comic essay from our spring Dirt Issue has already been viewed 114,000 times and shared on Facebook more than 21,000 times.

What you may not realize is that we can only fit 25 percent of our stories into a print magazine. Three times more are published on our website. Because so many people read them and share them, they have tremendous impact across the country.

A great example is “For Women, by Women: A Sisterhood of Carpenters Builds Tiny Houses for the Homeless” by Lornet Turnbull. We published it on our website in August 2018, and it’s been read nearly 200,000 times so far. It is about a crew of volunteer tradeswomen who came together to build a tiny-house community for homeless women in Seattle. The women carpenters, electricians, and plumbers knew the project would help their homeless sisters. What they didn’t realize was how much solidarity the project would bring, as well.

Unlike their regular, male-dominated worksites — where the tradeswomen often deal with a culture of harassment and disrespect — the Whittier Heights Village site quickly became a warm, collaborative space where the women shared skills and support and created friendships.

As soon as the story was published, Turnbull and Alice Lockridge, the organizer for the tiny-house project, began getting requests for more information. Groups across the country wanted to know how they could do something similar — for homeless people, veterans, LGBTQ communities, Native Americans, and others.

It turns out the healing power of a small group of volunteers helping others cannot be underestimated. Our story has now inspired similar construction projects in development across the country. And that’s all thanks to the generous donors who make all YES! stories possible.

The power of YES! is in the alchemy between the stories themselves and the people who read them. So growing our community of readers is critical to our mission. You can help! Give a gift subscription, become a monthly donor, share stories online, or simply pass along this issue once you’ve read it.

Thank you for helping YES! inspire a more just and sustainable world.

With gratitude,

Christine's signature
Issue Contributors

The Radical Travel Issue

Bani Amor

Bani Amor Radical Travel: Are We Doing Vacations Wrong?

Bani Amor is a queer travel writer who explores the relationships between race, place, and power. Their work on issues of migration, climate, gender, food, and travel has appeared in CNN Travel, Fodor’s, Teen Vogue, Eater, and Bitch, among other outlets. They have been published in the anthologies Outside the XY: Queer Black and Brown Masculinity and the upcoming Where We Stand: Brown and Black Voices Speak the Earth. You can follow them on Instagram @baniamor and on Twitter @bani_amor.

Anu Taranath

Anu Taranath Traveling While Brown: Privilege, Guilt, and Connection

Anu Taranath brings both passion and expertise to her work as a speaker, facilitator, and educator. A professor at the University of Washington, she’s the author of Beyond Guilt Trips: Mindful Travel in an Unequal World (May 2019). She has received Seattle Weekly’s “Best of Seattle” recognition, the UW’s Distinguished Teaching Award, and multiple U.S. Fulbright Fellowships to collaborate abroad. As a racial equity consultant, Taranath deepens people’s comfort with uncomfortable topics and works toward equity and social justice. Her website is anutaranath.com.

Richard Schiffman

Richard Schiffman How to Find New Routes Through Our Lives

Richard Schiffman grew up in Queens, New York, during the middle of the last century, but he always felt like more of a nature boy than a city kid. An environmental journalist, he writes to celebrate the miracle of the natural world and report on the threats the Earth currently faces. He also attempts to write poetry in order to humbly remind himself that the most valuable things in life are inexpressible. His first book of poetry, What the Dust Doesn’t Know, was published in 2017.

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