Empowering farmers of color and dismantling racism in the food system
This is a conversation on Green Dreamer with Kaméa Chayne, a podcast exploring environmental regeneration and intersectional sustainability from ideas to life. Subscribe to Green Dreamer on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or any podcast app to stay informed and up to date on our latest episodes.
Leah Penniman (@farmingwhileblack) is an educator, farmer, the author of Farming While Black, and food justice activist who currently serves as founding co-executive director of Soul Fire Farm (@soulfirefarm) in Grafton, New York—a people-of-color led project that works to dismantle racism in our food system.
On this podcast episode, Leah sheds light on the impact of colonialism on soil health around the world; how the oppression of Black and Indigenous people-of-color in the United States has affected farmland ownership and continued, institutionalized injustice; how we can take action to support racial justice in food production; and more.
To start, get a glimpse below into the conversation between Leah and Green Dreamer Podcast's host, Kaméa Chayne.
On how food can help us understand racial justice:
"Farming and food touch all aspects of our lives.
I'm particularly interested in racial justice in the food system—everything from who owns the land, how farm workers are treated, who gets access to good and fresh, healthy food is all bound up with race, class, and systems of oppression.
So we can use food as an entry point to understanding the way white supremacy and capitalism impact all the systems we experience."
On spirituality and respect for the land in farming:
"One story I like to tell goes back to my time living in Ghana, West Africa, in my early twenties. My mentors were the elder women who are called the 'Queen Mothers.' They asked me sincerely:
'Is it true that in the United States, a farmer will put a seed in the ground and they will not pray over it, sing, dance, offer libation, or even say thank you to the earth, and then expect the seed to grow?'
Of course, that is the case. And they said, 'That's why you're all sick. Because you see the earth as this material thing from which you can extract without limit, instead of the living, breathing thing she is, deserving of reciprocity, respect, and consent.' So I think there's a spiritual and ethical dimension to the way we interact with the soil and the land as well."
Leah's final words of wisdom:
"Our history of being in a consensual, respectful, and mutually-sustaining relationship with the earth is so much longer and deeper than our history of exploiting the earth. So all we have to do is catch up to our ancestors and build from there."