Here are just a few nuggets from the session:
- Honor and build relationships with the indigenous people whose land you’re on. Her farm, Soul Fire Farm, developed a land easement for the indigenous people of the land they farm where the people have permanent access to the land for specific uses such as ritual, hunting, fishing and more.
- In African farming tradition there is an obligation to build soil. Imagine the difference if our culture thought of restorative land practices as an obligation, rather than seeing land as an economic resource.
- Here is an abbreviated list of all the organic/regenerative farming practices that have roots in Black/African traditions. Here she named specific dates and peoples where these practices were developed. I didn’t get all of these, so this is an area for me to research more! All of the ones I’m listing are part of the practices here on Barr Farms.
- Pastured chickens
- Raised beds
- Work parties/ trade labor with other farmers
- Tools: lots of types of tools, but the hoe is a prime example, and one of the most useful tools on our farm
- Refrigerated trucks
- Food preservation techniques
- University Extension services… the first was out of Tuskegee University
- Organic/regenerative agriculture practices… Fifty years before the Rodale Institute, which is typically credited as the beginning of the organic movement, in the late 1800s, George Washington Carver was advocating practices to Black farmers like compost, silvopasture. Rotating crops, eliminating chemical use and more.
- And possibly most important for us… the CSA model!
There were more practices listed, like food hubs, coops, both farmer coops and buying clubs, cooperative financing (if anyone has ever used a credit union!). The bullets listed above are the practices we use on our farm.
She also spoke of “spiritual technologies” and said her teachers in Africa think we are crazy here in America that we don’t have regular practices of song, dance or prayers when planting seeds and harvesting, and how important those rituals are.
She also brought my attention to a bill in congress called the Justice for Black Farmers 2020, which would be incorporated into the next farm bill. She asked us to learn more about it and consider supporting it.
There was a question: what can white-led organizations do? The first step? Ask! Ask how you/we can support Black-led organizations. There was much more in the presentation, but this was just a brief synopsis.
So my take-away action steps from this session are to:
- look more deeply at the Justice for Black Farmers bill,
- look into ways of building relationship with the Cherokee people/nation, with an eye toward how we can support
- look at ways to actively support Black farmers,
- join with organizations I’m part of to support Black-led farmers and institutions
- give credit where credit is due on all the amazing farming practices that are in use on our farm,
- continue to build and develop spiritual practices of gratitude and humility into our farm and life. This is maybe a longer future post, but we’d like to develop further the rituals that have already begun thanks to Sustainable Agriculture Louisville and a Latina woman named Valentina who asked to come do a “Mother Earth honoring ceremony” as part of the Three Sisters planting of corn, beans and squash, (an indigenous planting method) that we do here every year.
- Continue to learn, especially in the "racism in agriculture" farmer group Adan and I are part of. Act where we can, individually and collectively.
- Look at Soul Fire Farm's action steps and choose at least one to act on.
Thanks so much to OAK for the conference and for bringing in Leah Penniman as one of the keynote speakers. And thanks to Leah for all you’re doing to educate, reconnect and lead the way in land and food justice.