LOVE NOTES – Reflections on a Year of Magic, Growth, and Impact



And what is it to work with love? It is to sow seeds with tenderness And reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit. ~Rumi c.1248

When I get my box of vegetables, I pick up each one in my hand and think how much hard work is required. I look at each one and say “This is a miracle.” ~Jun San 2017

This was a year of hard work and surrender to the river of life. It was a year of transition, impact, and reflection. Our family has grown, with all seven Soul Fire Farm stewards – Leah, Jonah, Neshima, Emet, Larisa, Amani, and Damaris – committing to another season of tending the soil, feeding the community, and organizing for racial justice. Below, you will find each of our reflections on moments of power and connection in 2017. You can also read our annual report for more details.

Leah listened more deeply to her ancestors. During the 7th and final delegation of Ayiti Resurrect, post Hurricane Matthew, when our crew worked with the farmers of Komye to install irrigation and rebuild homes, Leah balanced her time between pounding nails in boards and pounding medicinal leaves to the beat of ceremonial drums. She came alive to those rhythms and the spicy plant dust overwhelming her senses. She carried this connection to her facilitation of our 1st ever Black Latinx Youth Immersion, a coming of age farm training program for movement youth, where she held space for the young people to name their lineage and connect to the enduring support of their people. She also carried this connection into the early months of writing her first full length book, Farming While Black, a practical agricultural manual rich with stories of our ancestors’ contributions to sustainable growing and unapologetically interweaving the material and magical. She is also considering coming out as a literal tree hugger.

Jonah became a Jewish carpenter again. If you have been able to peel Jonah from atop a building or the tractor this year, you probably noticed his tour augmented with even more emphatic hand waving and pointing. (As if possible, right?) “Here is the irrigation and swimming pond. Yeah! It has trout!” and “This is our new growing area that doubles our production capacity and ability to grow our soil fertility.” and “Here’s the teaching wood shop with accommodations for 10 in the loft…” Big news on the farm has also been working closely with Larisa to transition the farm management. It has been a beautifully rich process with opportunities for innovation, deepening our love of land, and abundant professional and personal growth. Fatherhood has proven more rewarding and challenging than ever, best defined by surrendering to emotional whims, puberty, social lives of teens, and lots of driving with Emet and Neshima in two different schools. This has meant less socializing off farm, but deepening with a few friends, his nephews (yes we welcome Micah Ariel), and a long completed book list. Finally, Jonah has recommitted to a co-counseling practice that has major implications for leading a good personal and professional life.

Neshima designed a meaningful life. Thanks to the generosity of her community, Neshima was able to be united with her dream harp, something she never imagined possible. She found the confidence to share her profound gift during performances at the synagogue and her school, always to standing ovations. Neshima completed middle school, giving a powerful graduation speech about the impact of a recent Civil Rights trip on her connection to her ancestors and commitment to social justice. Now in high school, Neshima is forging meaningful friendships and balancing a full schedule of rigorous courses, cross country, Black Student Alliance, pottery, stained glass, and music. She is also the photographer for her mother’s book, using her wages to pay her phone bill and harp insurance.

Emet ran his fastest mile time. Emet has made an unwavering commitment to his personal health and strength this year, working out several times and day and consuming no added sweeteners. He can now beat everyone in the family at arm wrestling and the one-mile run. Being twelve is not easy. There is so much homework in middle school, plus piano lessons, sports, and Bar mitzvah studying. Emet invests most of his time working diligently, rooted in his strong desire to do well. He cherishes his friendships and will spend the money he earns from youth program facilitation on gifts for them, but rarely  buys anything for himself. He especially celebrated the friendships he made and strengthened at the youth immersion. Emet is also preparing to receive his Hand of Ifa and strengthen his connection to Wisdom.

Larisa and this Land fell in love with each other. After nearly 10 continuous seasons of farming, Larisa felt newborn reverence and wonder at the slope of this sacred land, at youth pulling roots and planting seeds during intergenerational immersions, at the brilliance and beaming heart rays of her Soul Fire family. She sang childhood songs about viboras with beloved volunteers during community work days, as they read the molted snakeskins slither-shed in the straw bales like signal fires. Bowed head humility came from the lessons of Oya and the storms of the Spring, when the fields were sheets of water silvered with slug trails and even the most daunting weeds fruited to tigernuts beneath the earth. And still more joy flowed from finally listening, hearing, leaning into the hands of her ancestors palmed to her back, learning that her ancestors survived on maize sown on terraced hillsides, harvested, ground and patted to rounds with those calloused hands.

Damaris danced with dragonflies. Damaris hasn’t felt this connected to the earth since she was a child wandering through the desert around her family’s home in Arizona. During a recent visit back home in the Sonoran Desert she realized with a start that the land with which she has been cultivating relationship at Soul Fire – the land that sent snakes to welcome her, dragonflies to protect her and vegetables to nourish her – is the same land that whispered to her through saguaro blooms and ocotillo branches, stunned her with neon sunsets and cradled her in the green limbs of mesquite trees. With this realization Damaris caught a glimpse of what her West African ancestors embodied when they planted sweet potatoes into unfamiliar land as an act of restoring their connection to earth and thereby resisting their displacement. She remembers harvesting sweet potatoes at Soul Fire this fall and with them the understanding that agriculture is not a relationship of consuming from land but rather one of communicating with earth.

Amani brought it all to LIFE. Amani inspired, catalyzed, and trained hundreds of learners in the youth programs and Black Latinx Farmers Immersions this year, ending each program with a circle of action commitments. Each person shouted, “I feel evolutionary!” and the group echoed back, “Revolutionary!” After the “I will” food sovereignty commitment was made, the community affirmed, “We got your back!” This dynamism catalyzed the loving evolution of our community. Amani helped stitch our revolutionary quilt, fortified by the constant hum of magnificent beings coming through the doors of Soul Fire Farm, making the work enticing and soul sustaining. Amani is beyond grateful to be here and to be found in parts of all of us who have joined this wave of energy towards sovereignty for all humans and the Earth. Thank you.

The Soul Fire Farm family gives a shout out to Keidra Gordon and Jas Wade, farmers on this land earlier in the season, as well as Gabriela Alvarez and Ria Ibrahim, who nourished hundreds with kitchen magic, and of course all of YOU, who shared your love, resources, labor, and kind words with us this year.  This work is no small undertaking and your energy makes it possible.