Lori Schreier is a farmer in Westmoreland, New Hampshire. This morning, Lori spent several hours deciding where to buy compost for her fields in the spring. It’s an important decision because the organic vegetables she and her husband, James Warren, harvest at Fertile Fields Farm will be sold to nearby restaurants and grocery stores. But when the day’s chores are done, Lori will abandon her muck boots and switch gears completely. She will drive thirty minutes down the road to Keene, NH, to a meeting of the Monadnock Progressive Alliance. She joined the group a few weeks ago in the wake of Donald Trump’s election.
“I wasn’t very active with political stuff before, other than staying up-to-date with farming related things,” said Lori. “But Trump and the Republican legislators pushed my buttons.”
She found she was in good company. Attendance at the weekly Monadnock meetings has ballooned since November, and it is now common for fifty people to turn out.
Curiously, it was through a national non-profit group, MoveOn.org, that Lori found her way to the local group that she now attends. She volunteered to coordinate several consecutive “Swamp Cabinet rallies,” supported by MoveOn, at Senator Jean Shaheen’s regional office. She held three rallies in Keene, New Hampshire that were attended by dozens of people. And it wasn’t even that difficult, despite the fact that she had not been politically active since her college days. “Anyone can do it,” Lori said. “You just need a little chutzpah and some time.” She was impressed with the help she got from MoveOn, including text for a press release, assistance recruiting local people, and advice on dealing with the media.
The Swamp Cabinet rallies happened in front of Senator Shaheen’s office on Main St in Keene. People made signs and stood prominently on the sidewalk, waving to passing cars. Because the senator’s office was “closet-sized,” and staffed by only one person, the rally-goers took turns meeting with the staff person in groups of five. They were not there to harass the senator, but rather to voice their general concerns and appreciate the positive votes that she had made.
On Valentine’s Day they got creative by writing messages on hearts for Senator Shaheen. One big heart was sent from the whole group that said “Let’s make a date for a town meeting, to be scheduled during the Congressional Recess.” The request was echoed by similar Swamp Cabinet groups around New Hampshire, and Senators Shaheen and Hassan eventually answered the call. A town hall meeting was held in Concord on February 24th. Although Lori regrets that constituents were given just two days of notice about the meeting, which likely “limited participation,” she was also impressed that 500 people attended.
Across the country, over 200 Swamp Cabinet rallies turned out an impressive 10,000 people, according to a press release from MoveOn. The events served to “stiffen Democratic spines and weaken pro-Trump Republican resolve,” organizers said.
It was clear from talking to Lori that the responsibility of organizing the Swamp Cabinet rallies was personally gratifying. “I enjoyed organizing [the events]. A lot of people that went felt like it was important to them,” she said. And what really surprised her was how many new people in her region she got to know during the process. Even after living in the area for thirteen years, there were many politically active people that she had never met. Now they were connected, and who knew what such collaborations would yield?
Lori expects to hold more MoveOn events in the future, to continue to exert pressure on the Trump administration and Republican legislators. But she is also excited to be newly involved in her state’s politics, where she has potential to make a bigger impact. New Hampshire’s state legislature is entirely controlled by Republicans, and there is a new Republican governor in the state house, so she knows her efforts are needed on the home front.
To stay motivated, Lori has been striving to keep balance in her life. She has ramped up her yoga and qigong practices and spends downtime in nature with her dogs. She has noticed that bad news can help spur her to action, but it can also “interfere with sleep and being effective.”
For inspiration, Lori also watches Robert Reich’s daily Resistance Report, and she listens to the
Indivisible program from NPR to hear opinions from both sides of the aisle. She has made a commitment to herself to do something concrete every weekday, whether it’s researching a bill, making phone calls, writing emails, or attending a meeting.
This is one woke farmer! Thanks for all your hard work, Lori.