LOVE NOTES #23
December 11, 2016
By Leah Penniman
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Watch out world! Our 2017 farmer-activist crew is already on fire. We are so honored and blessed to be welcoming Jas Wade and Keidra Gordon to the family. Jas is a Los Angeles-born community organizer, earth medicine practitioner, and beloved graduate of Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion and CASFS Santa Cruz. Keidra is a Georgia-born environmental engineering graduate who just completed an apprenticeship at Amber Waves Farm and brings a sharp business sense, passion for regenerative farming, and positive, honest energy. Stay tuned for our next Love Notes to find out the 3rd farmer who will be helping manage the operations next season. Please join us in wishing them joy, success, and meaning at Soul Fire.
With the exception of Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion, I don’t often cry while facilitating. The Ending Racism: A Toolkit for the Spiritual Activist training at Deeper Change Forum, New Haven was the notable exception. As soon as Naima and I started telling stories of being 6-7 years old and loving Mama Earth so passionately that we collected and returned cans for funds to buy stamps to write letters to everyone in town with earth-saving tips… heart opened. What a powerful day. We depicted facts about structural racism with our bodies, so that we could feel, not just intellectualize the oppression of white supremacy. We wrote collective poetry on our vision for a society where black lives matter. We each drafted an action plan for leveraging our power to end racism, and implemented one small action right there in the space with witnesses. We were surrounded by STITCHED, a tapestry of thousands of human stories that was literally soaked with the smoke of the sacred fire at Standing Rock. Facilitating with my heart-womb-soul sister Naima Penniman was everything! Our connection is deep and authentic, and allowed me to align my internal universe with what I presented on the outside. It felt risky, vulnerable, and perfect. (Photo credit: Tom Ficklin)
These are some of the faces of the love warriors who dedicate time and resources behind the scenes to make Soul Fire Farm happen. It’s been less than a year that we’ve been “officially” a nonprofit with a tiny staff and still depend on our volunteer family for writing thank you notes, evaluating programs, navigating social media, researching the facts that inform our curriculum, raising funds, and straight up caring for the land. We had a gratitude lunch for our unsung heroes, shared soup and salad from our harvest, exchanged stories of why we do the work, and played some of our favorite community-building games. There was chocolate mousse cake too, because we believe in kale, but not kale all the time.
This year was pretty off the chains. We built a barn/apartment, contributed to two books, worked with almost 5000 people, figured out how to do this “official organization” dance, and stayed mostly connected to our hearts. For a summary of our work, check out this report. Our board is working to develop our 2017 goals, which will increase our emphasis on healing justice, regional organizing, and farmer training. We will also be setting upper limits to what we do for the first time, and trying to take at least 1 day off per week. Please help us be accountable to our compassion and care for self.
Winter involves a lot of talking. The land is happy to rest and have a bit less of our attention – so we are able to focus outward and engage in important conversations about racial justice in the food system. We recently presented at the Young Farmers Conference at Stone Barns and at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. It’s inspiring to witness the courage of those who invite us to facilitate, understanding that many of these institutions are wary of naming oppression. Breaking the silence is the first step. (YFC Photo credit: Ben Hider)
It’s likely that our next LOVE NOTES will have report backs from our solidarity delegation to Haiti and maybe even a program calendar for 2017. Thank you for being with us on this journey. The work is challenging and we could not do it without your prayers and affirmations.
Love and blessings,
Leah and CrewFollow soulfirefarm