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new jersey farmer

New Directions

Top Story, June 15, 2017


‘Localist’ farmer runs for governor

 

By RICHARD SKELLY
AFP Correspondent

NEW BRUNSWICK —
Raised in suburban Freehold Borough, Karlos Basak didn’t grow up on a farm.
Once he got his own house with some acreage attached to it, he quickly got interested in growing his own vegetables and permaculture.
While that interest would ultimately upset his neighbors in the northern New Jersey community of Verona, Basak considers himself an advocate for permaculture, the environment and the rights of farmers across the state. He’s also an advocate for raw milk sales.
Late last year, Basak, 33, who is taking courses at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and is actively involved in NOFA-NJ, declared his candidacy for Governor of New Jersey. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Rutgers in 2006.
He said he seeks to draw attention to a number of issues that he sees as problematic here in the Garden State.
“I didn’t get into organic farming practices until after I got married and had a house and a big yard and had land of my own in Verona,” Basak said, adding he’s now divorced and raising his son with his ex-wife.
“I discovered permaculture on our one-quarter acre plot, but I had a significant chunk of the side that I turned into a natural area, and this became political after about a year and a half of me doing this. The neighbors were quite upset with the alternative lawn that I was growing around them and I got letters from the building inspector and I got one fine and during all of this I discovered permaculture and I wanted to learn by doing,” he said.
“I didn’t realize how much I was actually enriching the land at that point, I didn’t really irrigate my garden and things just took off and grew on their own,” he said.
Part of his campaign for Governor, he said, will be to raise awareness about how people in other countries use their land for more practical agendas then just a green grass lawn.
“What really makes the most sense is for people to start transforming their land to grow their own food, as opposed to the suburban green lawn which I think is kind of a failure of the imagination,” Basak said.
Since 2016, Basak has been back in New Brunswick and he’s been making the rounds door to door to get the required signatures to be included on the ballot for November’s election.
Basak met Dr. Joe Heckman, a supporter of raw milk sales in the state, on a farm tour at Vernon Valley Farms.
Then he befriended Lucia and Charlie Heubner, organic farmers in Hopewell, and got more involved with the New Jersey chapter of Northeast Organic Farmers Association.
“I’m a localist, and I’m running for Governor as a localist,” Basak said. “I’d like to see New Jersey become more of a haven for local control. New local groups that could declare their own autonomous collective control and I would just like to see people become more empowered on the local level. It seems to me to be a way for communities to thrive again, if people feel that they have power; right now, a lot of that local power is taken away by larger institutions at the state level.”
Basak noted his property taxes went up $4,000 his four years in Verona, “and that was a big part of us moving out of Verona.”
Bringing power back to people at the local level “could mean consolidating government in some places, but that should be decided by the smaller municipalities themselves,” he said.
Basak was a teacher for several years in neighboring Bloomfield and said he saw how new federal and state guidelines and mandatory testing of students at the junior high and high school level affected teachers.
“What about if you live in a rural town?” he said, “people should be able to say, ‘We’re in a rural town, we want our kids to learn more about farming, the land and the environment.’ Or, ‘we’re in an urban town, we should be learning different things, I want to see things like this decided at a community level.”
Basak said he will continue with his door-to-door campaigning about his run for the Governor’s office.
“If I’m not chased away right away when I go door to door, I tell people who answer the door I’m the Robin Hood of Power,” he said. “What I would like to do is steal the power from the power wealthy, federal and state government agencies and big corporations that are interwoven with them into the channels of power, and give that power back to the local municipalities.”