Love Notes – SOULstice, BIPOC FIRE, and the height of the season

“If we can grow food together and feed ourselves, what else can we do together? The sweet potatoes, watermelon and spring onions are just a way to bring us together. Who knows what this will spin off?”

~ Rev. Dr. Heber M. Brown III

Katani at SOULstice.

About 400 people celebrated the solstice with us at our annual SOULstice party, where we celebrate the land’s abundance and our resiliency in the face of oppression. It is spaces like these that help energize us to continue our work towards ending racism in the food system. Kala and the Lost Tribe, Naima from Climbing Poetree, Katani, and DJs Trumastr and LikWuid provided the soundtrack we needed to dance all night long, and local food vendors gave us the nourishment we needed to sustain all that dancing. We feel so grateful to Cheryl and Wendelin for being the primary organizers of the event, for our staff and volunteers for offering support, to our community for the love we receive, and to the land for being the container for joy, celebration, nourishment, and healing.

Announcements:

  • One of our beloved farmers was rear ended in an accident that totaled their car. Fortunately no one was injured, but it has left them without transportation and without enough money from the insurance company to purchase a new one. This situation is a setback given that we are currently in the height of the season and there is little time to search for a new car. They are looking for an affordable option to get through the rest of the season by buying or renting a car until late November for $1000. If you have any leads please email one of our farmers at damaris@soulfirefarm.org or lytisha@soulfirefarm.org. Please with patient with us if it takes us a while to respond – we also have limited capacity to respond swiftly. We feel incredibly blessed to have such a loving and supporting community to reach out, and are super grateful to everyone who has reached out to us so far! 
  • 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. 
  • Farming While Black 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! 
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Check us out in Sun Magazine, Times Union, The New Food Economy, 89.3 WFPL, and The Sanctuary for Independent Media.
  • 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!
Damaris holding a spinach leaf to their face for size comparison.

It’s been over a month since the summer solstice, imperceptibly marked by the shortening of daylight hours and perceptibly marked by warmer days and bountiful harvests. Our spring pea picking has been replaced by green beans, the numbers of summer squash and cucumber we harvest keeps getting larger, and our eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes have just begun fruiting. We are especially grateful for the latter, given the number of plants we’ve lost and replaced again and again due to rabbits enjoying the plants as much as we will enjoy their fruits. Larisa’s new best friend, a fake but very realistic looking coyote, now lives near these plants to deter our rabbit cohabitants from eating our crops. In addition to crop issues, due to a riboflavin deficiency more than half of our second batch of chicks developed curled toes and difficulties walking. With some Vitamin B tablets from a local pharmacy, a mortar and pestle, and creative thinking, farmers Noah and Lytisha were able to diagnose the problem our chicks were experiencing and swiftly devise a remedy, ensuring our chickens will thrive as they continue to grow. A recent victory on the farm was Damaris transplanting ginger in one of our high tunnels! Last year we tried to grow ginger but were unsuccessful, and we feel hopeful we will get a good crop this year.

Participants and facilitators from BIPOC FIRE Session 2.

In June we celebrated the sixth birthday of our farmer immersion programs with fifty alum and their loved ones, and this month we are in the midst of programming season, having hosted two BIPOC FIRE programs thus far. It’s deeply healing to be able to hold space for and share laughter, tears, and knowledge with other beginning farmers and food justice activists of color. We have so much gratitude for our participants who show up with their vulnerable selves, their spoken word and haiku-making talents, and sometimes with their curious, energetic children! We appreciate the outside facilitators and train-the-trainers who help us run our programs smoothly. And we are grateful for kitchen magicians and goddesses Ria, Gabriela, and Brooke for nourishing us with delicious food.

BIPOC FIRE 2.0 Youth Education participants.

In addition to our farmer immersion programs, we hosted three BIPOC FIRE 2.0 day-long workshops this past month. Amani and Antonia hosted a workshop on youth education, where participants learned ways to engage with youth in fun, interactive ways about environmental justice, herbal medicine, gardening, and connecting to the land. Mama Ira Wallace came and hosted an incredible workshop on seed keeping last week, and Lytisha and Leah hosted a workshop on how we raise pastured poultry at Soul Fire Farm for meat and eggs. Right now our first Builder’s Immersion of the season is currently underway! We are awed by all the work and preparation Jonah and Kiya did in anticipation of this timber frame learning opportunity.

Some of the Soul Fire Farm staff with Rep. Antonio Delgado.

In addition to program participants, we’ve welcomed many other visitors to the land. This past community farm day we processed basil for future pesto, dug potatoes, weeded, and took care of our perennials with the folks who came on a bright Sunday morning. Youth from Roots Rising, Radix Center in Albany, and the Green Village Initiative spent time with us on the land this past month. We enjoyed a lovely dinner with one of our CSA members Bonney Hartley and discussed ways we can support stopping the construction of the E37 pipeline that National Grid wants to build through the ancestor’s graves and villages of the Stockbridge Munsee Mohican community on Papscanee Island. And we were excited to be visited by Representative Antonio Delgado, with whom we discussed ways the federal government can better support farmers through legislation.

Processing basil on community farm day.

We’ve been quite busy hosting programs on the farm this month and we are wowed by the capacities of our team to participate in events off farm as well. Amani recently spoke at the National Children and Youth Garden Symposium at the American Horticultural Society in Madison, Wisconsin. Last week, Leah explored issues of food justice with John Brown Lives! and Craigardan at a dinner they hosted. On our behalf, Xavier Brown of Soilful City accepted an award from the Black Caucus American Library Association Literary Awards in Washington, DC for Farming While Black. And Lindsey Lundsford, a part of Soul Fire Farm’s speakers collective, attended the Food Justice Symposium in Mancos, Colorado hosted by the 4 Corners Collaborative to bring together community members who are committed to engaging in dialogue and action to address racism in the food system in the Four Corners Region.

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 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, or if you have a project you want to include on the map contact us!

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