Love Notes – Our CSA begins, laughing with youth, and uprooting racism in the food system

“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”

~ Malcolm X

Our first CSA share.

Yesterday marked the first day of our 2019 CSA! 105 families will be receiving weekly produce from us all season. We are so grateful for our farmers Larisa, Damaris, Lytisha, and Noah for lovingly growing and distributing this food to our community, and to the land for providing us with so much nourishment.

Announcements:

  • Keep up with the work of Northeast Farmers of Color by checking out their May newsletter!
  • Farming While Black, which won a Readable Feast Award in the Socially Conscious category and is the 2018 Foreword Indies Gold Winner in the Multicultural Adult Nonfiction category, 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 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.
  • We are looking for volunteer drivers for our BIPOC FIRE summer programs. Some participants travel far to attend our programs, and we need help getting folks to and from the farm and Albany, NY. Time slots for when we anticipate needing drivers for are listed here, and we will reach out to the people who sign up for slots at a later date to let them know the exact time they would be needed.
  • Signups are still open for our Ujamaa Farm Share CSA program for the 2019 season for low-income folks and people receiving EBT that live 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.
  • Our next on-farm Uprooting Racism in the Food System training is on 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, this Saturday 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. They are willing to work trade as part of rent. Email damaris@soulfirefarm.org with any finds. Thanks!
  • Read about our work in GPB Radio News, Huffington Post, Faith and Leadership, and Yale Climate Connections, and check out these interviews we did with Indigo Radio, Wildly Rooted, Philippe Matthews Show, and Flipping the Table.
  • 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!
Farm Apprentice Noah holding a radish.

Tomorrow is the summer solstice for those of us living in the Northern hemisphere. In many areas of the world summer is well underway, but for those of us in upstate New York summer has not truly commenced yet. The steady lengthening of days has been disguised from us by almost daily rain and cloud coverage, but on rare days where the skies are clear we are able to witness how long the sun lingers in the evenings. We’ve been blessed with newly flowering peas and crowning broccoli and challenged by ubiquitous weeds and pests, from whom Damaris and Larisa have been thoughtfully devising ways to protect our seeds and seedlings. Our new apprentice Noah started a few weeks ago, and Noah and Lytisha have been collaborating on raising our chickens and innovating our systems. Thanks to Jonah and Kiya, our new parking lot is ready for the SOULstice party, the grass around the land is growing back so beautifully, the porch looks amazing, and they are working with farm team to innovate our vegetable washing station.

Tying up bundles of hope at Decolonizing Our Food System workshop.

Despite the fact that more than eighty-five percent of the food grown for those of us residing in the United States is grown by people whose primary language is Spanish, in many food justice spaces interpretation is not available nor is Spanish centered in other ways. This year we are working with our friends at the Hudson Valley Farm Hub to provide interpretation at all our BIPOC FIRE 2.0 workshops this year. Decolonizing our Food System was our first workshop, where participants learned about what decolonization and reclamation of indigenous and pre-colonial relationships to land and sustenance could look like with respect to diet, land tenure, farming techniques, labor, and food access. The workshop ended with participants burying the barriers holding us back and tying up hopes and goals to a tree for the wind to carry.

Youth from Philip J. Schuyler Achievement Academy.

We’ve had lots of other visitors the past month. Two year long farm share members Ronyah and her family visited the farm for the first time! 5th graders from the Philip J. Schuyler Achievement Academy, 4th graders from Giffen Elementary, and youth from Kite’s Nest also came, blessing us with laughter and joy we could hear across the farm. Folks from the Department of Civil Service joined us for conversations about racism in the food system and helped us mulch the milpa. We welcomed BIPOC herbalists from Seed, Root, and Bloom for their retreat. During our most recent community work day, we mulched elderberries, readied our barn for the beginning of our CSA, laid weed mat in our bed pathways, and weeded beds. And Toshi Reagon, composer of the Parable of the Sower opera inspired by Octavia Butler’s work, and musician and friend Taina Asili spent part of a day with us, and Natalie Baszile, author of Queen Sugar, visited us this past week!

Larisa facilitating training for California Extension.

Larisa led an Uprooting Racism in the Food System training for 60 University of California Cooperative Extension and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources staff. Together they explored the history of racism and resistance in the United States and within California’s food and farming systems, including the roles played by agricultural and community support institutions like land grant universities and cooperative extension programs that have been complicit in violence against First Nations people. Adae Romero-Briones of the First Nations Development Institute, and Patricia Miller of the Black Urban Farmers Association of Stockton were two dope and brilliant guests of a panel Larisa organized. And Mandela Partners, Agriculture and Land Based Training Association, the Fresno Center, Kitchen Table Advisors, and UC extension spoke about institutional transformation for racial justice and how UC extension can better show up for communities of color.

HEAL-FCWA Summit in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Cheryl attended the HEAL Food Alliance and Food Chain Workers Alliance Summit in Albuquerque and the Capital Region West Indian Association Health and Wellness Fair on behalf of Soul Fire Farm to talk about our work. Amani was welcomed to West Hartford with lots of love and food to talk about our food system, and just returned from Hub Farm in Durham, North Carolina where they talked about thin privilege and weight stigma, inspired by recent organizational conversations facilitated by Lytisha, Damaris, and Larisa about these topics in relation to food justice. Amani also strutted in a fashion show, donning a 5/5 jacket by Keion Hennessey made to honor the fact that Black people have always been whole people despite the racist 3/5th Compromise. The event was hosted by the New Leaders Council where they celebrated other local community organizations like YOUTH POWER!, Miracle on Craig Street, Young Futures, Sunhee’s Farm and Kitchen, and Planned Parenthood.

Leah, Jacquelin Guiteau, and Naima.

Leah was in Boston speaking about Farming While Black and our work at the Urban Farming Institute with the Food Project, Higher Ground Rooftop Farm, Impact Hub Boston, and Branchfood. At the International Herb Symposium, Leah gave a keynote about five plants that were instrumental to black freedom – basil, mwavi, cowpea, cotton, and poppy – and connected to other BIPOC healers like Jacquelin Guiteau, a Haitian healer who hosted a sacred flower bath intensive.

Show your support for the New York Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, an act that would establish protections for farm workers such as an 8-hour workday, overtime pay, days off, workers’ compensation, and the ability to organize and bargain collectively!

In addition to lack of work protections for farm workers, oppression underwrites our food system in a myriad of other ways 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 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. If you have resources you want to share contact a farmer directly to share them. If you have a project you want to include on the map contact NEFOC!

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