Love Notes – Spring brings us showers, inspiration, and connections

“A Small Needful Fact” by Ross Gay

Is that Eric Garner worked

for some time for the Parks and Rec.

Horticultural Department, which means,

perhaps, that with his very large hands,

perhaps, in all likelihood,

he put gently into the earth

some plants which, most likely,

some of them, in all likelihood,

continue to grow, continue

to do what such plants do, like house

and feed small and necessary creatures,

like being pleasant to touch and smell,

like converting sunlight

into food, like making it easier

for us to breathe.

Afro Seder (credit: Tagan Engel)

During our annual Afro-Seder, a celebration of the resiliency of our Black and Jewish ancestors, we were inspired by hearing about Harriet Tubman’s legacy and freedom work. Through adding items to our collective seder plate we shared our own journeys towards liberation. On the plate, potato chips represent the reality of food access issues for low-income communities of color under food apartheid, while sugar and charoset, made of fruit and nuts, represents the mortar our Jewish ancestors made when enslaved in Egypt and the cane fields our enslaved Black ancestors worked and often died in.

Announcements:

  • Farming While Black, an excerpt of which can be read here, is available for purchase on Powell Books, an independent bookstore in Portland, and IndieBound, 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 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.
  • 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 are hosting two Uprooting Racism in the Food System trainings on our farm, with the next one on Oct 4. We are accepting applications on a rolling basis, so apply now!
  • Please join us for our monthly Community Farm Days. We work the land and learn together followed by a potluck lunch and conversation.
  • Get ready for our annual SOULstice party, June 22!
  • Check out this podcast interview Leah did with Radio Cafe and Li’s lectures at Red Emma’s and the Schumacher Center. We were also mentioned in The Post and Courier, The Charleston Chronicle and the Charleston City Paper in regards to the first South Carolina Black Farmers Conference hosted by Fresh Future Farm. You can also learn about our BIPOC FIRE programs through an article published by the Oregon Tilth.
  • 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!
  • 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 and Raina transplanting and seeding beets.

Red and sugar maple, white ash and pine, and hemlock are some of the trees that surround Soul Fire Farm. Deciduous trees visually embody the shift in seasons in temperate climates – bare trees in winter bud leaves during spring, form a dense summer canopy, and in autumn their leaves shift from green to reds, oranges, and yellows, soon to be released to the ground to become bare trees once more. It is now May, so much of the foliage surrounding us is becoming bright green. The days also grow in brightness and length. The ground is very wet from almost daily rain, and squelching noises from attempting to unstick muddy boots joined the daily rhythm of laughter and conversation when BIPOC FIRE alums Raina and Sajo worked with us for a week in late April and May. Lots of bed prep, seeding, and transplanting occupy our days, as well as new baby chicks and executing thoughtful pasture rotations for our laying hens designed by Lytisha and Larisa. Meanwhile you can witness Jonah and Kiya working on various projects, like rooftop work and landscape beautification, on these days.

Us with folks from the Hudson Valley Farm Hub.

Delicious pozole, a mesmerizing tractor show, and a farm tour given in Spanish with simultaneous English translation expertly offered by Raul, Adriana, Jesús, and Eric of the Hudson Valley Farm Hub filled our visit to the Farm Hub in Hurley, NY. We were awed by the scale of their operation in comparison to ours and enjoyed having the opportunity to spend more time with our Farm Hub friends – this time on their farm. Farm Hub folks also made up some of the people who came to our Community Work Day this past Saturday. With volunteers we prepped beds, laid plastic, hung tomato hooks in our high tunnel, spread compost and mulch, and cleaned out our barn, courtesy of the amazing organizational and delegation skills of Damaris.

Leah, David Ragland, and Danielle Saint Louis.

We also had the honor of hosting people who inspire us over delicious food and insightful conversations. Savi Horne of the Land Loss Prevention Project, Michael West, author of “From Toussaint to Tupac,” and Kathy Lawrence of NESAWG joined us for brunch, during which we learned about heirs property and fractionation, topics essential to navigating how to preserve indigenous and black tenure. David Ragland of the Truth Telling Project of Ferguson and Danielle Saint Louis, who is connected to the Stony Point Center, engaged with us about spiritual activism and healing work. We were also inspired by the folks who attended our first on-farm Uprooting Racism training of the season, with people coming from all over the country to explore ways of addressing inequity in their organizations and collaborate on seeding justice into our food system. We also welcomed students from Darrow, the school Leah teaches at, as well as students from Sheridan Prep and Schenectady High School Roots Club, all of whom offered their curiosity, hearts, and hands.

Amani with youth from the Philip J. Schuyler Achievement Academy.

Our work happens both on the farm and out in our local community. Cheryl has been attending neighborhood association meetings, such as the South End Neighborhood Association Meeting and the Arbor Hill Neighborhood Association Meeting, on our behalf to find out from what our communities want and need from us. Cheryl also attended the South End Earth Day event in Albany at the Radix Center. Rain and hail did not prevent community members from showing up to build raised beds and prep community gardens. Through Soul Fire in the City, Amani is working with youth from the Philip J. Schuyler Achievement Academy to work on their garden. Amani also gave a sermon and shared a children’s story at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs during their weekly service, and spoke at an environmental justice course at Hunter College. And Leah spent time with the youth, aka our future farmers, from the Kingston YMCA Farm Project, and hosted a virtual Black agro-forestry seminar through the Savanna Institute.

Karen Washington, Leah, Jalal Sabur (credit: Kent Miller Studios).

Just as we continue to find inspiration from stories about ancestors like Harriet Tubman every year during Afro Seder, Leah’s storytelling during the Farming While Black book tour inspires Black, indigenous, and people of color to reclaim our ancestral right to make livelihoods on land and inspires white folks to engage with reparations work. Leah gave a keynote at the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, NC and was invited by RISD Earthlings in Providence, RI to speak about Farming While Black. While visiting the West Coast we formed connections to other farmers and activists committed to justice at places like Soul Flower Farm, Pie Ranch, CASFS UC Santa Cruz, Spiral Gardens, the Museum of the African Diaspora, the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, and Yisrael Family Farm. Leah also got to hang out with former farmer and blues musician Taj Mahal and Pandora Thomas! Our work was honored at the James Beard Award ceremonies in Chicago, which was also an exciting opportunity to connect with dope people like Michael Twitty and Sean Sherman.

Leah with at the Land Trust Alliance with Stephanie Morningstar (NEFOC)

Earlier this month, Leah gave a keynote with Stephanie Morningstar, co-coordinator of the Northeast Farmers of Color, at the New York Land Trust Alliance’s Conservation conference in Saratoga about our work in addressing food apartheid and building solidarity between Black and indigenous communities. They mentioned the Reparations Map for Black-Indigenous Farmers, a tool to connect Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and other people of color to resources for their farming and food justice projects. 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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