Love Notes – Connecting with BIPOC farmers and preparing for our season

“Truth, to me, goes beyond just being honest with others, but with yourself as well. My mom always told me that if you can’t be true to yourself, you will be lost in your journey.”

Maryori Marie Conde

Soul Fire Farm 2018 Photo Collage.

We have two pieces of exciting news to share! Every year Grist searches high and low for the most inspiring innovators and do-ers working on fresh solutions to the planet’s biggest problems, and this year Leah was named one of 50 Fixers working to build a sustainable world. We are also being honored by the James Beard Foundation for our work in food justice and in creating a more equitable and sustainable food system. Thank you to our community for supporting our work and elevating with us the importance of recreating a food system centered on BIPOC food and land sovereignty!

Announcements:

  • Farming While Black, which was listed as a finalist in the 2018 Foreword INDIES contest, is available for purchase on Powell Books, an independent bookstore in Portland, and Indie Bound, a website that connects consumers to local, independent bookstores in their area. Reserve your practical guide to liberation on land today!
  • Farming While Black also may be coming to you! Check out the dates and locations for the book tour here.
  • Read our 2018 Annual Report!
  • Applications are open for BIPOC Builders Immersion: hands-on trainings designed for equipping and inspiring changemakers, community builders, farmers and food fighters to “level up” our hard skills in building and construction. One session will be on beginning carpentry and the second session with be an intermediate carpentry training focused on timber training. Applications are due April 1. For more information about the program, click here.
  • Applications are also open for BIPOC FIRE 2.0! Building off of the momentum of our weeklong BIPOC FIRE, these 2.0 workshops are “deep dives” into specific farming and homesteading practices. We have invited passionate and experienced facilitators to offer daylong workshops throughout the season. Please apply by March 27 to have your application considered in the first round. Applications are considered on a rolling basis after that.
  • Spanish Language materials for BIPOC FIRE and FIRE 2.0 are now available online.
  • Signups are open for our Ujamaa Farm Share CSA program for the 2019 season for those living in the Albany/Troy region!
  • This year at least 14 refugee and immigrant families will receive FREE vegetable delivery with your support. Please pitch in for a Solidarity Share today.
  • This year we will be hosting two Uprooting Racism in the Food System trainings on our farm – on May 14 and Oct 4. We are accepting applications on a rolling basis, so apply now!
  • Please join us for our Community Farm Days – monthly from April-October. We work the land and learn together followed by a potluck lunch and conversation.
  • Get ready for our annual SOULstice party, June 22!
  • A dear friend and member of the Soul Fire team is looking for 2019 housing somewhere between Grafton and Troy that has a private bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen, wifi, and rent under $500/month for April-November. They are willing to work trade as part of rent. Email damaris@soulfirefarm.org with any finds. Thanks!
  • Check us out on the She’s Got Drive podcast and  WPKN Community Radio.
  • And for folks who plan on visiting the farm, please drive slowly on our road. The speed limit on our road is 10 mph, and we request that folks do not turnaround in a neighbor’s driveway out of respect for our neighbors. If you miss the turn, continue down Route 2 until you reach the next actual road from either direction, Josh Hall Pond Rd traveling West to East, or Taconic Lake Road traveling East to West. Thank you!

Jonah and Damaris building new greenhouse seedling tables.

Did you know that seedlings grow faster when they are sung to? Damaris discovered this when tending to our first seedlings of the season in our newly renovated greenhouse, courtesy of the ingenuity of Jonah and Damaris. We now have sleek new surfaces that increase the amount of space we have for seedling trays and are much easier to navigate. Our new tables make Larisa so happy that “like the seedling I am I want to start a plant community on those surfaces!” In addition to building new tables, we’ve had virtual farm team meetings; Lytisha placed orders for our new Freedom Ranger chickens; we’ve hosted groups like Drive Change NYC, Albany Leadership Charter High School For Girls, the Tamakoce Wilderness retreat, and YouthGROW Worcester; and we are preparing for our second annual staff retreat, where we will get to know our newest staff members Cheryl, Noah, and Kiya!

Leah with new friends from Stockbridge Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation.

The original stewards of the beautiful land we steward in Grafton, New York is the Mohican Nation, who were displaced to the Midwest in the 1800s. While in Wisconsin for the MOSES conference, Leah connected with our new friends Molly Miller, Twila Shawano, Squirt and Tammy Pecore of the Stockbridge Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation, who generously agreed to welcome Leah to their space and support our learning, listening, and accountability as people who are farming on their ancestral lands. We are excited to continue to grow our relationship with them and strategize for ways we can support them.

Students from Cornell University.

Living in our truth is difficult, but necessary for wholeness. As BIPOC farmers, reclaiming our ancestral right to steward and form meaningful relationships to the land is a way we live in our truth. This journey is healing and can oftentimes be lonely – agriculture is one the whitest professions in the United States, with 92% of farmers being White men, contributing to the social isolationism BIPOC farmers often experience. Black students at Cornell shared stories of the struggles they face being the only students of color in their agriculture classes but shared, upon hearing about our work at Soul Fire Farm and the rich history of Black land stewards, that “Now I know I am not alone.” We are so grateful to the next generation of Black farmers who are navigating so many social and systemic obstacles in order to take their rightful place on land.

Neshima and Naima with the Getting Grown Collective.

Connecting with other BIPOC farmers is such a strong affirmation and energizing source of encouragement for continue our journeys to heal our relationships to land. When Leah visited Montreal for a Farming While Black book talk she got connect to many BIPOC farmers doing incredible grassroots work that are eager to build a network similar to Northeast Farmers of Color for their region. In Chicago, Leah, Neshima, and Naima visited the Urban Growers Collective, Grow as is Chicago, Sweetwater Foundation Food, Getting Grown Collective, Grow Greater Englewood, and the Semillas de Justicia Community Garden, leaving prayers and offerings for the land at each farm and blessings for an abundant season.

Some attendees of the Groundswell Land Access and Reparations workshop.

In early March, farmers and community members gathered together to create an action plan for land access and reparations in the Finger Lakes region. We were grateful to be welcomed to Gayogohó:no’ (Cayuga) land by Chief Sam George, Debbie George, and Cayuga Nation Language teacher Steve Henhawk as well as Pachamama, Groundswell Center, Youth Farm, and Rootworks Herbals to lead a 2-day conversation on BIPOC land sovereignty. The Finger Lakes region is likely to be a leader in the Northeast land reparations work and has some strong coalitions built. The work of Black, Indigenous, and people of color solidarity in land sovereignty is very much the work of healing past harms within and between our communities, which is not easy work, but we are committed to humbly engage in the learning and relationship building. We are also excited by conversations across the country about Green New Deal legislation. The New Deal, a series of programs and projects instituted during the Great Depression, excluded agricultural workers and domestic workers, whom were primarily Black, from labor and wage protections – a legacy that continues to harm farmworkers today. The National Black Food and Justice Alliance, as well as other Black land and food leaders, are preparing a statement on the Green New Deal legislation to ensure that Black farmers are also beneficiaries of these promised green jobs.

Leah at the Tang Museum.

Leah and Amani have been all over the map, facilitating workshops on uprooting racism in the food system, talking about the contributions farmers of color have made and continue to make in farming, and exploring ways to rebuild a food system based on justice, dignity, and abundance for all. Leah was on a panel on food justice and sustainability at the Tang Museum with Isolde Brielmaier, Kate Daughdrill, and Anthony Hatch, and at the University of New Hampshire lecture our friend Taina Asili performed her beautiful song “Plant the Seed.” Amani was at Bentley University, the University of Southern Maine, SPACE in Portland, Maine, and the Cooperative Development Institute in Lewiston, Maine. And Leah spoke about Farming While Black at the Tompkins County Public Library in Ithaca, the Albany Public Library, Red Emma’s in Baltimore, and at the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network.

Oppression underwrites our food system, and a tangible action we have taken for addressing food security and food sovereignty issues in our communities is taking reparations into our own hands through the creation of the Reparations Map for Black-Indigenous Farmers. We recognize that the food system was built on the stolen land and stolen labor of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and other people of color. We also know that we cannot wait for the government to acknowledge that stolen wealth and land must be returned. Through this map, a group of university students reached out to TKO Farming in North-Central Mississippi to visit and learn more about them! We want to increase the visibility of other amazing Black and Brown farming and food justice projects in the hopes it leads to funding. If you have resources you want to share contact a farmer directly to share them, or if you have a project you want to include on the map contact us!

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This month’s Love Notes was written by Lytisha Wyatt.