Love Notes #22 – snow, ancestors, and survival


November 22, 2016

Leah Penniman

ancestors and elders never gave up.jpg

Our ancestors and elders never gave up on us, and we are not giving up on our children. Our great great grandmothers braided okra and rice seed into their hair before boarding transatlantic slave ships, believing in a future of planting and harvesting in the face of brutality most of us cannot fathom. Now is the time to hold fast to our seeds of hope, to renew our commitment to Assata’s call, “we must love and protect each other,” and to lean upon our Ancestors and the Earth to give us strength to persevere.


Winter is upon us at the farm. We are buried under two feet of snow and Nature is in charge. Much of our attention is turned toward physical infrastructure projects, grassroots organizing and movement building, public speaking, and putting together our farmer-activist team for next year. We have created an annotated photo update for you of the last couple weeks, so that you can be witness to some of the seeds of hope and resistance we are working so hard to cultivate. Announcements at the bottom.


This week we honor the festival of Manje Yam (Eating of Yams), a Haitian harvest ritual where we give thanks for the land and the good food she yields, and where we spiritually travel back to Ginen (land of the ancestors) for renewed strength. Ayibobo. Ase.




The Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference, Harlem, was like a family reunion for us. We spent our time in strategy sessions with the National Black Food and Justice Alliance, offering a workshop on the Freedom Food Alliance – ending mass incarceration and advancing food justice, and moderating the keynote panel for our brilliant elders, Mama Savi Horne, Dr. Walter Hill, and Dr. Owusu Bandele. It was so amazing getting to hear them speak, that sometimes I forgot I was supposed to be moderating.



Our community farm days this fall have been incredible, with over 60 people attending each day despite the chilly weather. This crew of young folks came all the way from Jersey, departing at 5 AM so they could give the soil some love (in the form of leaves, limestone, and rock dust). All of the harvest from this day went to Karen refugee families in Albany. We remember when we started in 2011 and our volunteer days were just us, our parents, and a couple close friends. So abundant!



Not sure how it happened, but people seem to want to hear us talk! We recently visited Yale University and SUNY Oneonta, with RPI, Deeper Change Forum, and Young Farmers Conference coming up soon. It’s a fun challenge to get across the dense factual context of racism in the food system, while providing seeds of hope and opportunities to connect to our hearts. Many people who get involved with our training and farm share programs first meet us through these talks and workshops. We keep a list of upcoming events here.


snowy farm by Naima.jpg

On Saturday, it was 60 degrees and sunny when welcomed community to the land for an ancestor healing ceremony with Enroue ‘Awo Onigbonna’ Halfkenny. He led us in making offerings to our ancestors and asking them for support with the healing needed in our lives. We sat in witness to one anothers’ prayers as the sun set, the stars emerged, and the temperature dropped. By morning, the season changed. Many of us were snowed in and “forced” to dance and eat pumpkin soup together in between hours of shoveling.



What do farmers do after the deliveries stop? So much! Probably the most time consuming opportunity of the past several weeks has been conducting interviews for our farm manager and farm crew next year. We are close to making those decisions. Next we need to hire a food justice educator and office manager, applications will be posted soon here. We also get to improve our infrastructure. We have been starting seedlings in our living room for years and they don’t fit anymore, so this hoop house is getting double plastic and a heater for the baby plants. There’s an endless list of things to fix – insulation on the shop, a new well pump, etc. Winter is the container for planning and readying.


The other big project that we are honored to undertake is solidarity rebuilding with farmers in Komye, Haiti. Hurricane Matthew destroyed almost all of the farms and many homes in this town, where we have been working since the 2010 earthquake. Our delegation of mostly Haitian and African diasporic healers, artists, and farmers are returning to Haiti next month to lend our hands and hearts to the restoration of space and spirit.



  • Naima and Alixa of Climbing PoeTree just released this incredible new music video, We Survived. It brings me to tears!

  • Winter is a great time to read up on food justice issues. Check out these zines by our friend Beatriz Beckford on what United Farm Workers and SNCC can teach us about our movement.

  • Want to be volunteer with Soul Fire Farm this winter? Our biggest needs are video editing, in-kind donation management, and tabling at Capital District community events. You can apply here.

  • Consider sharing your resources with Soul Fire Farm by making a donation or in-kind gift and encouraging others to do the same. We are trying to raise our 2017 funds before spring so that we can focus on the farm and programs after the thaw. Doing both at the same time in 2016 was super stressful – no need for that. Thank you!

  • In these times, we are increasing our commitment to work in solidarity with farmworkers, immigrants, and refugees. A first step is listening to what is needed. Rural and Migrant Ministries is putting on a conference highlighting the voices of rural women of color and we hope other can attend and support.

  • We also want to encourage our community to support the AfroColumbian women who are defending their land from mining companies, and the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribal nations who are defending their water from oil companies.

  • You can support our delegation to Haiti by donating money or supplies. We need to bring down construction tools, seeds (zone 8), and first aid supplies. Let us know what you can gather.