Farming While Black
November 10, 2018 7:22 PM   Subscribe

Farming While Black "She made it her goal to start a farm for her neighbors, and to provide fresh food to refugees, immigrants and people affected by mass incarceration. She calls the lack of access to fresh food "food apartheid" because it's a human-created system of segregation."

More on Leah Penniman and her book, Farming While Black:

An excerpt from Leah Penniman's book, Farming While Black

Learning this, I realized that during all those years of seeing images of only white people as the stewards of the land, only white people as organic farmers, only white people in conversations about sustainability, the only consistent story I’d seen or been told about Black people and the land was about slavery and sharecropping, about coercion and brutality and misery and sorrow. And yet here was an entire history, blooming into our present, in which Black people’s expertise and love of the land and one another was evident. When we as Black people are bombarded with messages that our only place of belonging on land is as slaves, performing dangerous and backbreaking menial labor, to learn of our true and noble history as farmers and ecological stewards is deeply healing.

Interview with Mother Jones

And after more than 20 years of growing food all over the world, she realized that it wasn’t a lack of interest keeping African Americans out of agriculture—but instead historical exclusion, discrimination, and intimidation. “A lot of farmers and networks have talked about how their white neighbors don’t want them around and so their animals disappear, they get cops called on them or unexplained damages,” she said. “Because of fear of aggression, a lot of elders are giving away their lands.” On top of that, she felt like an outsider at farm conferences with mostly white participants, and training programs that left out black and indigenous techniques and traditions.

Americans of Color are Largely Excluded From Producing and Eating Fresh Food

Food like this isn’t easy to come by in Albany’s South End, a federally recognized “food desert.” The term has come under criticism in recent years for failing to convey the fact that food insecurity is a man-made phenomenon, often the result of discriminatory policy. Food insecurity affects black communities at a rate of more than 26 percent, and over 22 percent for Latinx folks, compared to a national average of 15 percent. The South End is more than 70 percent African-American, and it’s where most of Soul Fire’s food gets delivered.

‘Farming While Black’ is a Guidebook to Dismantle Systemic Racism

At first, Leah Penniman’s new book, Farming While Black, reads like any other aimed at new farmers. In it, she writes about finding land, crop planning, seed saving, and raising animals. When readers get to the chapters called “Healing from Trauma,” “Movement Building,” and “White People Uprooting Racism,” it soon becomes clear that Penniman set out to write much more than a handbook.

'It's not fair, not right': how America treats its black farmers

A year earlier, June and his wife, Angie, had found a chain tied around the steering wheel of a tractor and the hydraulic lines stuffed with mud. But the dead cats were a marked escalation in intimidation. The following day, June found the windows of another tractor shot out. Later that season, someone hid cinderblocks in Angie’s fields to ruin the equipment.

Around that same time, Angie and June noticed vehicles parking near her fields, the drivers watching her work. June recognized one of the drivers as a representative of MA Patout & Son sugar mill, the company he contracted with to harvest and mill his sugarcane.
posted by jj's.mama (11 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you so much for this well crafted FPP full of links.
posted by infini at 10:35 PM on November 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

Oh, the irony of this given that over 70% of the fresh produce grown and sold on the African continent is by women.
posted by infini at 10:37 PM on November 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

The reparations map in the Mother Jones link was very interesting. There’s a gofundme near my hometown identified.
posted by natasha_k at 6:11 AM on November 11, 2018

Thank you for sharing this. I'm really interested in learning more about Soul Fire Farm.
posted by kokaku at 8:12 AM on November 11, 2018

, but she also moved to Albany, N.Y., to a neighborhood classified as a food desert.

Yeah. This is a thing. Not just for farm shares, but there are neighborhoods where if you want to go grocery shopping, you're taking a cab or you're paying bodega markups on limited selections available in your neighborhood. They used to be served by local chains, but they're all gone, and the remaining chains all moved up to where there are parking lots.
posted by mikelieman at 12:55 PM on November 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

Brief review from Marion Nestle. "This is the second copy of this book sent by the publisher. The first was snapped up off my desk by a colleague who was desperate for this book, not even knowing it existed."
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:03 PM on November 11, 2018

7 Contributions of Black Farmers to Agriculture

seven major agricultural contributions from African American farmers, horticulturists, and inventors. Their contributions have revolutionized the way our food system functions today.
posted by infini at 4:01 AM on November 12, 2018

As said by Leah Penniman, a farmer and activist, “You can’t go through hundreds of years of enslavement and sharecropping and tenant farming and convict leasing and not have that trauma get imprinted into your DNA and your cultural history.”

Farming as a Political Act: The Connection between African-Americans and Land
For centuries, the connection between African-Americans and agriculture was tainted by the institution of slavery and the exploitative labor systems that continued in the years following the abolition of slavery. Even as African-Americans gained the right to own land, there were - and continue to be - institutional policies and practices that work against black farmers and land owners. In the modern day, however, farming has become a way for African-Americans to reclaim a piece of history and promote community health and healing. In this two-part series, we will explore what it means to be a black farmer. We will discuss history (Part I), as well as the modern black farming movement (Part II), by uncovering stories of heritage, lost and reclaimed.
posted by infini at 4:09 AM on November 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Fantastic first post, jj's.mama. Thanks for posting it!
posted by homunculus at 10:24 PM on November 13, 2018

That article on the Louisiana sugarcane farmers is heartbreaking!

Soul Fire Farm has a page on reparations (source of the map found in the Mother Jones article). They also link to a list of Black-led farming organizations to support.

And here's another, more detailed review of Farming While Black, written by a white farmer living on a commune (a neighbor of mine).
posted by chantenay at 7:13 PM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yes awesome post! Thanks!
posted by XMLicious at 5:55 AM on December 10, 2018

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