I left the last post with an intentionally unanswered question: Where are our young brown people on the farm??
Well this woman in the Gullah islands, along with her husband, is engaging and preserving youth interest on the farm and the broader food system!
Marshview Community Farm
Sará Reynolds -Green with one of her students at the school garden
Getting young people on the farm and into all aspects of the food system is exactly what Sará Reynolds-Green and her husband – affectionately called Mr. Bill by the students- are focused on. Sará is a guidance counselor at St. Helena Elementary on St. Helena Island, SC (home to abundant Gullah history, as well as the first school for African-Americans and center for civil rights activism, the Penn Center). Her 13 years in the school system is just one result of Sará’s passion for youth and education. She began a garden at the elementary school and creates curriculum and programs for building self-esteem and career education through the garden and food. She also has an after-school program where she brings interested youth to her and Mr. Bill’s farm to help harvest, weed and be a part of the farm’s business.
Their farm is on Sará’s family land, which was purchased by her great-grandfather in 1892. “I was born here, by a midwife in my Grandfather’s house. I saw a deed where my great-grandfather purchased 20 acres of land in 1892, but you know, they freed the slaves in 1861, so just 30 years later he was able to purchase land. I thought that was commendable,” says Sará. She grew up on the farm here on the island and she understands the desire young people have to leave the farm. “A lot of kids now want to leave where they come from. I did too, but when I left, I started to lose my identity. I started to lose my memories of how the food tastes, how it smells here. I started yearning for that, for family, for community. So I came back. Here, you are surrounded by family, that’s where we get our strength from,” says Sará. And that’s what she and her husband are trying to instill in the youth of the island, the importance and strength of community and food.
Mr. Bill on the land at Marshview Community Farm
Mr. Bill is a farmer and a chef who owns Gullah Grub, a local restaurant serving Gullah dishes on the island. He employs some of the older students in the restaurant and teaches cooking classes where kids learn not only about food and cooking, but about their own cultural history here on the island and the history of the food they’re cooking, like rice.
The students are involved in every aspect of the farm business, from seed to table. “With the students, we create a long list of careers tied to food and agriculture. They come up with jobs I didn’t even think of: the food photographer for marketing the food, the heating/cooling specialist for building food refrigeration storage. Once you think about it, the entire food system encompasses just about all your careers,” says Sará.
Sará and Mr. Bill are an inspiration to the rest of us trying to get young people back on the farm, and an example of how we should see our agrarian roots as a strength instead of chains from the past holding our people back.