Love Notes – Welcoming spring, new staff, and new connections

“To grow your own food gives you power and dignity.”

~ Karen Washington

Back row: Naima, Stephanie, Noah, Jonah, Çaca, baby Inara. Bottom row: Leah, Gabriela, Amani, Damaris, Lytisha, Cheryl, Larisa, Kiya, Ria, and baby Laura

At the end of March, our 2019 staff and NEFOC coordinators Stephanie and Çaca convened at Wildseed for laughter and shared meals at our annual staff retreat. We learned about each other’s love languages and how we like to receive feedback and affirmations, the history of Soul Fire Farm, and our mission and values as an organization. We were also humbled to have Sarah Konwahahawi Rourke, a member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation and experienced organizer on issues pertaining to environmental justice and sexual and reproductive health,  join us during the retreat to host a professional development session on the intersections between indigenous sovereignty and climate justice.

Announcements:

  • Farming While Black, reviewed by Ira Wallace here, 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.
  • 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 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!
  • 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 Food Tank, USA Today, NPR, the Fellowship for Intentional Community, the Organic Consumers Association, Food Solutions New England, and the Organic Gardener Podcast.
  • 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!
Larisa, peeking out from under our new greenhouse tables.

While autumn and spring may feel similar as cooler-weather transitional states between winter and summer, Damaris pointed out a key difference between the seasons – the amount of daylight. As fall progressed last year, we remember there being many days in which we worked past the early afternoon sunsets. In contrast, during the spring the sun leaves the sky much later, providing light for us well past our work hours. We have been gifted with lots of sunshine and warmer weather than last spring thus far – a wonderful “welcome back” from the land we steward.

First community farm day of the season.

FLarisa and Damaris often joke about “springtivism,” and spring understandably begets optimism as we are surrounded by the return of bird song, tree foliage, and the possibilities of new beginnings as our season begins again. Our greenhouse is filled up with seedlings, some of our beds have been prepared to receive them, and Lytisha and Larisa have been coordinating a pasture rotation schedule for our hens to fertilize the fields our late summer crops will later grow in. During our first community farm day, over 80 people came and helped up lay plastic, spread mulch and compost, clean chicken poop, and move tarps and firewood. And the arrival of Kiya, our new construction and facilities assistant who will work closely with Jonah, and her dog Hobbes, new friend of Chaga, has been another exciting development alongside the projects they are working on. We already have been blessed with a new greenhouse door from them and see them coordinating on the upcoming bathhouse and on the cabin.

Book talk in Athens, Georgia.

The spring signifies new beginnings, but the structure for those beginnings is set in the winter. After all, it is the winter snow that insulates the soil, protects the creatures and microbial life living in it, and melts in the spring to provide moisture for future plants. Similarly, it was coalitions built in the winter with other BIPOC farmers and food justice activists that will lay the groundwork for future collaboration and support. In March, Larisa attended a meeting to welcome two new Stockbridge Munsee Tribal Council members, newly elected Vice President Matthew Putnam and Councilman Marvin Malone, who travelled 1100 miles to visit their ancestral homelands for the first time and meet with the Tuscarora, Penobscot, and Mohegan Nations. We are excited to continue strengthening our relationships. Then, during the Farming While Black book tour, Leah visited many incredible BIPOC-led farming and food justice projects in Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, D.C., Jackson, Tuskegee, Atlanta, Athens, and Charleston. The book tour often served as a catalyst and space for different organizations to connect and find ways to support each other. We also learned a lot from the people we met about what structures they want to build to support the movement towards BIPOC food and land sovereignty.  

Members of H.O.L.L.A at the farm.

MBuilding and maintaining connections also means regular check-ins to see how we can better support each other’s needs, such as when Cheryl and Lytisha attended a meeting for the Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations to ask for feedback from the very communities who prompted us to start this farm project. Here at the farm we welcomed back H.O.L.L.A for a visit and students from Bard College. Away from the farm, Amani attended the Green Thumb Grow Together Conference in NYC, training community garden leaders to address racism in their communities. At the Westchester Social Justice Forum, Amani led a workshop with Doug DeCandia about ways Westchester County can support the work of the reparations work of organizations like the Northeast Farmers of Color Network. Amani also led an interactive workshop at the Ag in the City Conference at Rutgers University about increasing land stewardship opportunities for youth and people of color and spoke about Farming While Black at Kenyon College. In addition to visiting the Midwest and Southeast, this month Leah spoke about Farming While Black at A Different Booklist and FoodShare in Toronto and at the Mass Ave Project in Buffalo, NY, joined by sister Naima and Taina Asili. Leah also led a Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture workshop on how farmers can contribute to economic and social justice with Maggie Cheney and D. Rooney of Rock Steady Farm & Flowers.

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. 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. 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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