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14 Pages

Broadening the Land Question in Food Sovereignty to Northern Settings: A Case Study of Occupy the Farm

ByAntonio Roman-Alcalá

Land access is an accepted corollary to food sovereignty, long promoted by the transnational agrarian movement La Via Campesina (LVC). LVC’s land access politics have evolved with increased incorporation of diverse perspectives, but remain largely focused on achieving ‘integral agrarian reform’ in the global South. Here, I take a case where food sovereignty activists (‘Occupy the Farm’ (OTF)) occupied land owned by a public university in California, the USA, in order to broaden food sovereignty’s land access considerations beyond the South, and to analyze conditions where political actions (including occupations) can help achieve changes in land access regimes. The OTF action was successful in challenging cultural norms about property and achieving access, partly due to the occupation having foregrounded multiple appealing narratives that invited participation and wider support. These narratives included agroecology versus biotechnologies; community/public access versus privatization; participatory versus bureaucratic governance structure; and green space/food production versus urban development. The article tests the use of the ‘land sovereignty’ frame in expanding food sovereignty’s land politics, to encompass land contestation contexts globally and deal with the particular conditions surrounding lands. The case indicates that land occupations in the North are potentially useful—but uncertain, and very context-dependent—tactics to promote land and food sovereignty.