I had the great honor and privilege of attending the session “Farming While Black: African Diasporic Wisdom for Farming and Food Justice” given by Leah Penniman as part of the OAK farming conference this morning. Her book, Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm's Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land is a must read if you’re interested in racial justice in the food system. She discussed practices they incorporate on her educational and production farm, Soul Fire Farm. They are truly doing incredible work.
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.
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:
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.