So the newest addition to the Occupy movement is farm advocate Willie Nelson.
This week Nelson wrote a piece for the Huffington Post comparing the Occupy Wall Street ideals as similar to those he’s championed since he founded Farm Aid in 1985. The Occupy movement has created a “deeper understanding about the power that corporations wield over the great majority of us,” Nelson wrote, adding that “corporate control of our food system has since exploded.”
From seed to plate, our food system is now even more concentrated than our banking system. Most economic sectors have concentration ratios hovering around 40 percent, meaning that the top four firms in the industry control 40 percent of the market. Anything beyond this level is considered "highly concentrated," where experts believe competition is severely threatened and market abuses are likely to occur.
But the Farmers March appeared to be much smaller than the other Occupy protests across the country and we wondered if its message would catch on.
(As a counter, we watched the #occupycombine, um, mini-movement on Twitter this fall, when farmers were a little chagrined at how the protesters were just hanging out while they were working their hats off on harvest.)
In talking about this with fellow Harvest reporter Jeremy Bernfeld, we also wondered if perhaps the Occupy movement was exclusively an urban issue and one that won’t take hold in small towns, farm country, or the Midwest in general.
Darold Martin, 64, a farmer from Central City, Neb., told the Harvest Network he was a Republican and that he was paying attention to the coverage.
“We are rewarded for our work,” he wrote. “Never are we to be considered a success if we live on hand outs.”
Susan Fowler, a sixth-generation farmer who lives near Emporia, Kan., told us she’s the chair of her county’s Democratic Party. She’s following the press coverage, she said, but she hasn’t been able to attend any of the protests because they are 50 miles away.
Still, people in her area are watching the Occupyers, she said.
This morning a long-time conservative Republican told me he was fed up with Republicans in Congress for refusing to raise taxes on millionaires, especially after hearing the story on NPR about true job creators not being deterred by taxes from hiring people. I know it's resonating when the Republicans of my acquaintance - and there are many - are angry at Republican politicians on the state and federal level for refusing to do what is right for the middle class.
We also put the question to our Facebook friends, and Erica Herold told us: “Rural America is even more aware of how worthless Wall St is.”
“Rural Americans work hard for their livings, are used to being frugal and relying on neighbors, not politicians and lawyers,” she wrote.