OWS Plants Seeds, Rides Bikes, Protests Corporations


It is pretty lovely weather outside today — which times well with Occupy Wall Street’s latest action. We’ve seen how this winter, as mild as it has been, has created some problems for the Zuccotti Park activists.

But today, the sun is shining and OWS is gearing up to do sunshine-appropriate activities, like biking. And planting seeds! And visiting gardens!

Today is “Occupy Our Food Supply,” a global day of action targeting corporations and food inequities. The idea originated in San Francisco and apparently over 60 OWS groups and advocacy organizations will be joining in the fun today.

Runnin’ Scared chatted with a local OWS-er to discuss New York City’s spin on the day of action today — which includes dirt, seeds, bikes, and plants.

At noon, OWS launched a “seed exchange” at the Stock Exchange. Then at 2 pm, organizers are kicking off a “seed ball bike ride” from Liberty Square to a Lower East Side community garden. This will involve “seed-bombing.”

Confused? Fear not! We caught up with Alec Higgins, a member of the OWS Food Justice group, who explained to us the symbolism of these events and some of the more concrete changes he would like to see take place in response to this subset of the Occupy movement.

“The seed exchange itself is really symbolic of what a good food system looks like,” he said, explaining that people could exchange seeds or plants. “They exchange them in a mutually beneficial way with no money involved…This is a very beautiful representation of what should be happening in a food system.”

The seed swaps are taking place at the Stock Exchange to shed light on the kind of corporate-only-the-1%-benefits exchanges that are happening today. “Rather than mutually beneficial, it benefits only one party…and concentrates the wealth…It’s a very different kind of exchange.”

Y’know, more equity!

New York City residents in low-income neighborhoods often struggle to access affordable, healthy food, he said, adding that food corporations need to do more to provide nutritious options at reasonable prices and government needs to offer better subsidies for local, organic, sustainable agriculture.

“It’s absolutely a human rights issue,” said Higgins, a 30-year-old musician who lives in Bushwick. “There are neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens where there are no fresh vegetables available…[only] horrible foods coming in from massive conglomerates that are very destructive.”

Higgins, who has been with OWS since November, noted that there’s an opportunity at the policy-level for these kinds of reforms to take place, as Congress is set to debate the Farm Bill this year.

This afternoon, OWS-ers on bicycles will take “seed balls” — which are essentially small clumps of earth with nutrients and seeds — and put them in places where they can grow. This action is meant to highlight wasted vacant spaces that could be used to grow healthy, local food and also shed light on pollution and toxins in the city, since some of these seed bombs will have particles that can absorb contaminants such as lead.

“Every stage of the food system involves some sort of destructive or exploitative practice, and we really need to change that,” Higgins said.

Food, he added, is at the core of OWS values. “We are coming together around this one thing that is so essential to our well being. It’s what we eat.”