Farmers’ Markets Have New Unwelcome Guests: Fascists
In public they sell organic vegetables. In private they join white supremacist groups. Now activists are pushing back.
At Bloomington, Indiana’s weekend farmers' market, shoppers can stock up on kale, fresh eggs, homemade jams—and anti-Nazi accessories.
“Don’t Buy Veggies From Nazis,” read a pile of colorful buttons at a recent Saturday farmers’ market.
The buttons were a jab at Sarah Dye and Douglas Mackey, proprietors of Schooner Creek Farm, a vegetable farm. Like other unassuming stallholders at the market, Dye and Mackey sell eggs and seasonal vegetables.
But online, Dye is “Volkmom,” an active member of the white supremacist group Identity Evropa, according to leaked chat logs. “Volk” is a nod to the Nazis’ back-to-the-land völkisch movement.
“Any Whites who have spent time living in a neighborhood or attending a school with a non-white majority know the strife that Whites endure,” Dye wrote in an Identity Evropa chat in January. “I can attest to it myself.” She also wrote of trying to win over a family member by showing videos from a white supremacist channel.
After the couple’s connections came to light, Bloomington locals campaigned to oust the couple from their weekend stall at the city’s farmers’ market.
The farmers’ market face-off isn’t not the first of its kind. From Chicago to Sweden, farmers’ markets have become a surprising battleground between the far right and its opponents. The far right’s love of the markets plays into a larger fascist talking point that idealizes pastoral life and demonizes “degenerate” urban living. The contrast attempts to cast white supremacy as a purer alternative.
“A bunch of us have been passing out flyers at the farmers’ market to say ‘don’t put your money in white supremacy,’” Abby Ang, a Bloomington community organizer, told The Daily Beast.
Across hundreds of posts in chat rooms for Identity Evropa and other far-right groups, Dye discussed her dislike for living in areas that were not majority-white, and her search for “non-PC history books” to read to her homeschooled children, including a “history of the White race” by a former leader of a neo-Nazi group. Many of the posts were in a private chat room specifically for Identity Evropa members who have passed a vetting process.
Dye and Mackey did not return a request for comment, and have not spoken to media since Dye’s posts came to light, although they put out a fundraising call on their website. “We have recently been the target of radical leftists/extremists in their attempt to destroy our livelihood and reputation,” they claimed.
The couple has made contact with a pair of alleged extremists—but not on the left.
Last summer, another Indiana couple spray-painted Nazi flags on the side of a local synagogue and lit a fire nearby. (They originally planned to use Drano bombs to burn the entire building, prosecutors allege.) The couple were Nolan Brewer and his then-underage wife, dues-paying members of Identity Evropa, Brewer told an FBI agent in an interview. Brewer was recently convicted and sentenced in the incident.
Brewer told investigators that in the weeks after vandalizing the synagogue, he and his wife had dinner with other Identity Evropa members. Brewer only identified three by name: Mackey, Dye (whom he also identified as Volkmom), and someone named Steve.
“They’re extremely nice,” Brewer said of Dye and Mackey, according to the FBI.
White supremacists don’t always dress in Klan robes or jackboots. Some, like the set that orbits Identity Evropa (now renamed the American Identity Movement, likely to distance itself from involvement in 2017’s deadly Unite the Right rally), try to break into the mainstream with more wholesome outward appearances.
At least one prominent YouTuber who made videos about farming recently announced himself as a white supremacist.
“I've been far-right ethno-nationalist since about 2014,” ChuckE2009, told his more than 500,000 followers in a recent video, where he praised the man accused of murdering 51 people in a New Zealand mosque.
The phenomenon is international. Speaking to the New York Times about neo-Nazi recruitment in Sweden last year, scholar Helene Loow said Nordic Nazis make organic eating a cornerstone of their ideology.
“I have hardly met anyone from these movements, neither the old ones nor the young ones, who are not serving me organic food, and lecturing me about the dangers of fast food, the dangers of McDonald’s,” Loow told the Times, stressing the groups’ presence at local farmers’ markets.
“When people meet them in real life, they are not their media image. People get surprised. They are nice, they are talkative, they offer you a lot of good food.”
Bloomington’s “farmers’ market does have a reputation of being a white space,” Ang said. “The idea that, at your friendly farmers’ market, there could be a white supremacist, is not really all that surprising to me, but it was shocking to a lot of people.”
Polite appearances are beside the point, these groups’ opponents say.
“They can speak and think whatever they wish, and we can't stop them,” Joseph Varga, a labor studies professor at the nearby Indiana University, Bloomington told The Daily Beast.
“We are very concerned with actions. White supremacy is not just a set of ideas, it is a series of actions. The group Sarah and Doug associate with, Identity Europa, are a white separatist organization. Their goal of racial, ethnic, and religious segregation, shared by white supremacist, fascist, and Klan groups, can only be achieved through political violence against marginalized groups.”
In other farmers’ markets across the country, those violent implications are more open. A butcher stall that recently rotated through farmers’ markets outside D.C. lists its principal agent as a metal musician who has performed in front of swastikas and has defended anti-Semitism and fascism in interviews. (The company’s website went dark this summer, shortly before or around the time anti-fascists online noted the stand’s connection to Nazism.)
Last summer, Chicago’s Logan Square farmers’ market became a hotbed for far-right recruitment, after multiple white supremacists groups were caught posting their flyers. Locals caught a man passing out Identity Evropa flyers at the market, in a bid to recruit neighbors there, Block Club Chicago reported. Patriot Front, a violent squad that spun off of the neo-Nazi group Charlottesville murderer James Fields marched with, also flyered Logan Square.
A third set of flyers with a white supremacist meme also cropped up around the market at the same time, prompting a counter-flyering campaign by local leftists who put up signs warning of white supremacists in the area.
“People who wanted to go about their daily lives certainly felt harassed,” a representative for Chicago Antifascists told The Daily Beast. “Farmers' market visitors wanted groceries, not some white nationalists throwing a temper tantrum about creating an ethnostate. It was unfortunate because attendees didn't know the names of the people ruining their farmers' market.”
Since then, the media collective Unicorn Riot has published extensive leaked white supremacist chat logs, revealing the identities of at least one person flyering the market. “Later that year, since the farmers market vendor and attendee community made it clear that Identity Evropa/American Identity Movement was not welcome, the white nationalists moved on to other areas of the city,” the Chicago Antifascists spokesperson said.
But in places like Bloomington, it’s not always clear to activists how to de-Nazify a farmer’s market. Despite a Facebook post by Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton condemning white supremacy, and a series of community meetings, “the city seems to be trying to figure out what to do,” Ang said.
Right now, the city’s farmers’ market contract does not appear to bar vendors for involvement in hate groups, as long as that activity does not occur at the market, Hamilton said.
“The City will not tolerate any vendor displays or behaviors at the market inconsistent with that fundamentally welcoming environment,” he wrote in his statement. “On the other hand, we must also comply with the US Constitution’s First Amendment, which prohibits governments from restricting individuals’ rights to believe and speak as they choose, within very wide ranges, including those who sell at (or attend) a City-run farmers market.”
Vargas said he’d rather Schooner Creek Farm close its stall as a result of a boycott, rather than government action.
“I would much prefer that the collective actions of citizens force them to give up their space,” he said. “The use of an economic boycott (Don't Buy Veggies from Nazis) and public pressure is my preference.”
While the city deliberates, locals like Ang plan to keep handing out “Don’t Buy Veggies from Nazis” buttons in the market. But those activists know there’s a risk. On multiple recent weekends, Schooner Creek Farm supporters passed out flyers of their own at the farmers’ market.
“We had a couple people counter-flyering,” Ang said, “saying we were just defaming [Dye and Mackey’s] good name.”
Since penning an open letter condemning Schooner Creek Farm this spring, Ang has received an email with racial slurs, and had her picture posted on the troll hotbed 8chan, along with suggestions of violence against her, she said.
“It’s been a little bit nerve-wracking,” she said. As with Dye and Mackey before their affiliations came to light, “you don’t know who these people are.”