Love Notes #10 – August 28, 2015

AnnouncementsP1050664resize

  • Join us for our fall community workdays and potlucks, Saturday September 26 and October 17. We have our hands on the land together from 8am – 1pm and share a potluck meal from 1 – 3pm. All are welcome to join for any part of the day – bring your open heart and weather-appropriate clothing. P1050476resizeRSVP appreciated.

 

  • Harriet’s Apothecary Healing Village will be at Soul Fire Farm on September 13, 12-7. More info and registration here. Volunteers needed for transportation, food prep, setup, cleanup, and childcare. “Harriet’s Apothecary is an intergenerational healing village led by the brilliance and wisdom of Black Cis Women, Queer and Trans healers, artists, health professionals, magicians, activists and ancestors. We are committed to co-creating accessible, affordable, liberatory, all-body loving, all-gender honoring, community healing spaces that recognize, inspire, and deepen the healing genius of people who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of color and the allies that love us.”

 

  • We need a hydraulic wood splitter. We cook and keep warm in the winter by burning wood. It is on the top of our wish list at the moment as the impending cold weather approaches. Don’t hesitate to look at our other wishes to see if you can help out.P1050640resize

 

LOVE NOTES #10 – August 28, 2015

 

My ancestors hid rice grains in their babies’ hair, as they boarded transatlantic slave ships bound for unknown and terrifying futures. They placed their hope in the seed, and their faith in a future that involved planting something, reaping it, consuming it. I hold onto this image often to offset the despair of state sanctioned violence against our communities, in all its forms. If they could hope, we honor their faith by hoping, and by planting the descendent varieties of that stowaway seed.

 

The summer has been bountiful, blessed, spacious, and HOPEFUL.

 

YOUTH FOOD JUSTICE EMPOWERMENT20150727_115649resize

 

We have hosted over 150 youth for food justice empowerment training, including crews from Produce Project of Troy, Radix, AVillage, and Youth Organics of Albany, Truthworker Theater Company for an overnight from NYC, Dream to Achieve youth from Bard College, Kite’s Nest Social Justice Leadership Academy in Hudson, Hartford CT Food System, Bronx Youth on the Move in Community, and Mission Accomplished Restorative Justice, Albany. Most of the young people who come through tell us they don’t want to leave the farm, and that they can see a future for themselves in this work, that it’s “real” here.20150728_115307resize

 

Possibly the most enthusiastic and energetic group ever to visit Soul Fire were the 26 beautiful spirits (ages 6-13) from Harlem who brought their hugs, questions, strong arms, appetites, and creative voice. We had a “taste tour” of the farm and I could not keep up with the pleas for more kale, parsley, broccoli. We brought compost to the herb garden in buckets by hand then picked plant medicine for cures. Lots of first time veggie burrito eating and general agreement that the food was “better than McDonald’s.” We made our own media with good food messages. Folks affirmed the importance of seeing people of color owning land and running farms. “This life is for us too!”IMAG0137_1resize

 

We are so inspired to be building for the first time with food justice fighters from CT and MD!  We had next level conversations about holding critical analysis and joy simultaneously. We heard testimony from young leaders that they once saw no future for themselves and now, as urban farmers, think of their lives like seeds – requiring nourishment and hope. Theatrical interpretations of Black land loss and resistance were poetic and beautiful. We even planted the fall spinach. Lots of love splashing around that day!

 

20150729_073829(0)resizeLIBERATORY TRAINING FOR ADULTS

 

We completed two sessions of Black and Latino Farmers Immersion, an intensive blend of hands-on, science-rich farmer training and bare-your-soul psycho-spiritual healing on the land. 50 adult participants and trainers transformed Soul Fire into a day and night celebration of hope in the future of our people and unfettered       P1050529resize         alive-ness. Our core team of farm trainers and kitchen managers was on fire – Che DeSanctis, Cynthia Espinosa, Gabriela Alvarez, and Naima Penniman – who facilitated heart opening and hand strengthening with elegance and joy. We heard, “I learned more in my first day and a half here than 10 weeks at masters urban gardening class” and “If my resilience was a cup it would be overflowing” and “love is dripping over my entire being.”

 

Every moment of BLFI was delicious beyond description – from the carefully placed candied hibiscus flowers on top of the mofongo at dinner, to the moon howling dance ecstasy at midnight on the last day, to sweet Emet’s realizing (after living on a farm most of his life) that “wow, a small seed really grows into this tall maize.” We thought we were creating a farmer training and ended up creating a picture of what is possible in a healed world. “I am realizing the purpose of this planet, this universe, this life

I didn’t realize potential for real community, real solidarity.” We are also nurturing discontentment with anything less than being fully alive.

 

“I can’t go back to the bullshit

I can’t go back to not being my unique self

I can’t go back to eating shitty

I can’t go back to not engaging all of my talents.”

 

more participant reflections here20150817_140656resize

full photo album from BLFI #2 here

 

We stretched and challenged ourselves too and held a mirror to our limitation. We have necessary work to do around confronting gender oppression and being accountable to and being a safe space for genderqueer, gender non conforming and trans communities. We are listening and committed to growing.

 

P1050606resizeWe are also confronting real challenges around capacity. We have S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-D to the edge what we can do with our time, money, building, septic system, hot water, and kitchen space. Still, we are turning away hundred of individuals and groups that want to get in on the revolutionary love. We are calling on the forces of the universe to rain down upon us with financial, material, and human resources so we can grow the work!

 

FARM AND INFRASTRUCTURE

 

P1050552resizeHuge gratitude to all of you who gave your time, money, and love to our Raise the Roof Campaign. We raised over $65,000 of our $100k goal! We are continuing the fundraising through a diversity of other avenues. We are humbled by such an outpouring of support that allows us to continue and expand our work, but more so, you trust in our vision and capacity to manifest.

 

The barn keeps going up, under Jonah’s persistent and patient hand. Lines are installed to bring water to the loft and receive wastewater. Window spaces are measured and cut and the roof is close to finished. Despite its unfinished state, the barn has received heavy use this summer – Afro fitness dance classes, harvest bounty in the cooler, sleeping guests in the loft. We are hoping to have it closed in before winter frost hits.

 

P1050592resizeThe vegetable production during this Sabbatical year is only about ¼ of the farm area, but still keeps us busy with weeding, harvesting, and donating food to the community. Our experimental Oaxacan milpa (intercrop of maize, amaranth, beans, and squash) is towering above us, delighted to be nurtured by our carefully amended soils. We are planning ahead to expand the growing area into the East Field next year and to that end, Emet and I started the clearing with a laughter-filled machete attack on the thistles that stand in competition with future crops. Jonah and I measured out 3 new 90×70 foot sections, totalling ½ acre, a 50% increase in growing area, and tilled under the sod. On our last community work day, we sowed the soil with buckwheat, an enriching cover crop, and will do so again next year so that 2017 vegetable crops will have a rich, deep place to send roots.

 

COMMUNITYP1050487resize

 

It’s amazing that front lines community organizing groups see Soul Fire as a place to land for rest, strategic thinking, and connection. We hosted Liberty Partnership Program for a day of connection to land and deepening tools for communication and undoing-oppression work. We are gearing up to welcome a coalition of activists from Schenectady as well as Harriet’s Apothecary, a village of Black women and trans healers, students of color orientation from Williams college, and NOFA VT farmers interested in food justice.

 

We have had two powerful community work days. In July we prepped food and space for BLFI participants. In August we harvested hundreds of pounds of veggies for barter and donation to Unity House, Peace Pagoda, and Prison Bus Project. We also spread cover crop on the area that is transforming from pasture to crops. We even got around to weeding those strawberries, who sighed a “thank you.” When our work day coinciding with the national convening for the movement for black lives in Cleveland, we sculpted our bodies into “BLM” for #blacklivesmatter and sent the photo love to our activist family.

 

Farther afield, I’ve been dropping love and knowledge at conferences, when I can and continue to write articles. It was fun to let my science nerd shine through in the latest YES Magazine article on Oaxacan farming. I also presented on Oaxacan agriculture at the NTAC conference in Chicago and talked about African farming wisdom at indigenous remedies. This fall, we’ll be representing at Goddard College, Connecting for Change, NOFA NY Winter Conference, the Young Farmers Conference.

 

P1050560resizeIn this moment, I am feeling deeply grateful and humbled by the selfless and unbounded giving of those whose work usually gets overlooked. To make possible the magic of the liberatory programs, Jonah spends crazy hours on mundane tasks like filling propane tanks, sealing roof leaks, and mailing lost items back to their owners. To make possible the construction of the barn, DJ TruMaster commits proceeds for BeatShot Music Festival to Soul Fire raising $600 and Elizabeth Vitale takes time to write personalized thank you notes to everyone who contributes resources. That’s over 400 personalized thank you notes! To make possible the distribution of free food to the community and to prepare the house for programs, open-hearted strangers show up to our work days to weed, make pesto, and clean windows. To make possible this spontaneous and profound healing, the Earth herself absorbs our pain and sends back hope and connection through our bare heels.P1050623resize

 

We are doing this, friends. We are winning.

 

See the full collection of photos from the past month and a half at Soul Fire.