Farming While Black
The Community at Soul Fire Farm in Upstate New York is committed to uprooting racism and injustice in the food system, and they draw on deep wisdom from African Heritage practices to do it. In her new book Farming While Black, Leah Penniman, co-founder of Soul Fire Farm has created a profound resource of science, history, practice, healing and inspiration for Black and Brown people and their allies to create transformational change and find liberation on land.
Leah and her family are dear friends of mine, and I serve on the Board of Soul Fire Farm. I felt a combination of exhilaration in recording this interview, and a feeling that there was no way to cover the massive number of topics woven through this book, and the work of this community. At the core is the African and Indigenous principle that all living things are interconnected, and that true health, true freedom, true happiness can only be found when we work in balance with each other and everything around us. Farming While Black beautifully illustrates how to put this principle into practice through farming, community building, internal and communal healing, and the decolonization of the world.
In an era where Black communities suffer disproportionately from illnesses related to lack of access to fresh food and healthy natural ecosystems, where violence and discrimination have led to the decline in the number of Black farmers to less than 2%, and where 85% of the people working the land are exploited Latinx/Indigenous migrant workers, there is much work to be done. Farming While Black and the circles of people and communities that contributed to the wisdom in it’s pages are great nourishment for the returning generation of Black farmers and people committed building a just and life giving food system.
I hope you enjoy listening to this conversation, and it inspires you to learn more and get involved in making change. Listen through the play bar at the top of this post, or where ever you get your podcasts. Thanks to WNHH Community Radio and The New Haven Independent for airing the show on 103.5fm in New Haven, CT.
All photos used in this post are from Soul Fire Farm with permission. In the photo of
The work of Soul Fire Farm is multifaceted. Notes on the photos above: the clay soil Leah Penniman and Jonah Vitale-Wolff started with when they founded the farm in 2011 when you couldn’t get a pitchfork throw it, compared to the 20+ inches of rich black soil they cultivated over the following years through Afro-Indigenous sustainable farming practices | a cohort from the Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion now called BIPOC FIRE (the Black-Indigenous-People of Color, Farming In Relationship with the Earth Immersion) | a sustainable grown tomato, part of the farm shares that go to feed 400 people, many living in food apartheid in the Troy,NY area | packing CSA boxes for distribution | multi color corn from the milpa on the farm | a gathering of the NorthEast Farmers of Color network, working on founding a land trust and supporting people of color and Indigenous people’s sovereignty on land | a builders immersion, learning more skills needed for sustaining community | heritage Molokhia greens seeds from Syria and parts of Africa, grown at Soul Fire Farm in partnership with True Love Seeds | The lower field and high tunnels at Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, NY.
Have a POC led food sovereignty project that needs support, or have resources to support a project? Check out informations on the Reparations Map and other Reparations efforts here.