Farming While Black: African Diasporic Wisdom for Farming and Food Justice
~ Leah Penniman (Co-director and Farm Manager of Soul Fire Farm, Grafton, NY), Keynote Speaker for 2020 Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Common Ground Country Fair
It’s no surprise that industrial agriculture is a leading driver of climate change, water withdrawals, water pollution, conversion of wildlife habitat into managed habitat and of biodiversity loss. Industrial agriculture is one of the most important factors that we need to address when we talk about continuing to live and breathe and thrive on this sacred planet earth. It’s not that we don’t know how to farm in a way that honors the earth and honors one another. Remember those seeds that were braided into our ancestors’ hair before being forced to board transatlantic slave ships? We know how to do it, but – in the name of racial capitalism, in the name of concentration of wealth and power, in the name of domination of the earth – our society has chosen a very, very dangerous path.
We see this even more exacerbated in the time of multiple pandemics. We have COVID. We have wildfire. We have police violence. We have despotism. This is highlighting the already existing cracks in the industrial food system and in racial capitalism. We are seeing disproportionate burdens of disease falling on communities who were already hungry, and on farm workers who were already struggling to get food to all of our tables. We see the disproportionate impacts on Black communities in terms of being over-policed and subject to police violence.
This is a time, I believe, of awakening. My hope is that it is not just a fad or trend to care about Black lives, to care about the earth and to care about local food systems, but it is a permanent awakening and a permanent call to action that will catalyze us into that next phase of justice and sustainability.