Try Again

OK clicking below will take you to ‘Page Not Found’ error page but you’ll be on the new site! So just click on the Blog tab on the left hand side of the page and then you will see the Sign Me Up button on the right to re-subscribe. Apologies for this, not sure why WordPress missed this important feature of transferring my blog subscribers to the new site! 

New Year, New Site!

It looks like my new site didn’t transfer over your subscriptions to my blog. So my posts haven’t been reaching you if you’re an email subscriber! Please CLICK HERE and RE-SUBSCRIBE on the new site, you will see the Sign Me Up button on the right.

Here’s the old post about the new site, sorry for any repetition if you did happen to receive it:



So I guess my 2013 resolution was to write less blog posts. Looking at the fact that I haven’t written since the end of the farm season (at least for those in the north) and the start of the holiday season, I’d say I started my resolution early!

No, it’s not at all my resolution actually. It’s been unintentional and simply a byproduct of working on the Color of Food project, moving my home, traveling to present the farmers’ stories and exhibit their photos and re-designing my website!

Which I’d like to introduce you all to now: You’re On The New Site! Welcome!

New Site!

The new site combines the blog and the Color of Food project in one place!  You can see –

Hope you enjoy, and look for more blog posts to come!

Don’t Forget the Point

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, a time to remember what’s important and to love, and here I sit listening to NPR talk about the new Thanksgiving. A time of year when Americans now think about the discounted iPad they can get if they just trample over people in line. A holiday season where family and love is forgotten and materialism and greed has taken over.

The show was focusing on how Black Friday, a day of frenzied shopping responsible for deaths in recent years, is now no longer just the day after Thanksgiving, but has crept into dining rooms all over the country leaving them empty at Thanksgiving dinner. Over the past several years more and more shoppers – and don’t forget retail workers that have to leave family to be there – are spending Thanksgiving day in line in front of shopping malls, sleeping in store parking lots and declaring war on their fellow man in the name of Samsung.

It makes my heart hurt.

Since I was a child Thanksgiving was always a time to remember and show love.

We remember and bring to life the food and culture of our family through old recipes.

We remember that, though we still see happy “pilgrims and indians” on the holiday decorations in schools and stores, the true history of that time and those relationships is vastly different than portrayed. We remember and send love to that pain.

We remind ourselves to live gratitude, all year long, for every blessing we have in our lives.

We remember our family and loved ones. We get together with those we can, call or send our love to those we can’t.

We remind ourselves to send love to the suffering and gratitude to those who have provided for us.

We reminisce on holiday memories and make new ones.

This is what this holiday has meant to me for so long. No matter what it means for you, I hope we can all remember the bigger point of this time of year. I hope we can reflect on how we treat each other, what we value in life and how we live on this planet. I hope we can learn to respect, love and give thanks to the Earth, her bounty and each other.

These are my hopes and I am just putting them out there for something to chew on at your dinner table tomorrow. And don’t forget to thank the farmers! 🙂

We Got This

Despite the media’s successful attempt to convince me to fear the future of this country, to question the sanity of my neighbors or the pride of our women and other suppressed voices, I can rest today, beaming with the solid proof… that we got this.

Hateful rhetoric, racism, sexism, homophobia and pure bigotry have filled the airwaves for the past six months(at least). And sure it’s still out there, but last night it was silenced for now.

Yesterday this country showed its true colors – its new colors – as the election results came pouring in. State after state showed that people didn’t fall for the bullshit about Obama, but instead believe in his commitment to do the right thing. State after state showed that they want senators who are just as committed. States decided loud and clear that they want to give their neighbors the right to marry who they want, smoke what they want and generally have the freedoms we should all have.

Last night this country voted in the first openly gay senator, the first Asian-American senator, more women senators than ever before and we re-elected the first Black president.

By voting – not talking shit for six months- we showed what we stand for and what we won’t tolerate.

We declared that we won’t tolerate lies and greed. We declared that we won’t tolerate people trying to enforce their radical religious beliefs on us. We declared that we won’t tolerate racist white men trying to keep people of color out of power. Women declared that we won’t tolerate men making decisions about our bodies for us. We shut that shit down. (Take that, Team Rape.)

These historic votes showed the decency, the empathy, the acceptance of diversity and, thankfully, the I.Q. level of the majority of this country. It is such a relief and it is extremely exciting to think that this is the way forward.

HOWEVER, allow me this cliché: There’s still so much work to be done. California losing on Prop 37 (requiring food to have GMO labeling) proves that corporate dollars still win out no matter how hard we fight. So we keep fighting. Climate change getting just a quick mention in Obama’s acceptance speech is an effort to end climate silence, but not even close to enough. So we keep fighting. Black and Hispanic communities targeted by suppressive voter laws and abortion and healthcare attacks proves we still have a long way to go to eracism. So we keep fighting.

Armed with the results of yesterday though, the future of the fight just looks a little brighter.

Making It All Possible

The interviews, pictures and abundant information gathered from farmers of color this spring and summer are underway to be transplanted and transformed into the Color of Food book.

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about making all that work possible, over the next estimated year, while trying to keep my own head above water.

For the past two years I’ve been making my way, trading farm work for room and board, working odd jobs, living off my minuscule savings and taking the occasional open couch invitation from family and friends. All because I have been driven to dig.

An insatiable hunger for digging into the food system has consumed me. Digging my hands into the soil; digging into the lives of our forgotten farmers; digging down into the true meaning of community, sovereignty and justice; and digging underneath the many layers of ugliness, intertwined with resilient beauty, which comprise our agricultural system.

The journey it’s led me on is comprised of its own layers; layers of success and excitement along with those of worry and hard times.

With the state we’re in today, it’s no secret that society puts value on the wrong things. Hardly anybody wants to truly help our farmers. Young farmers are struggling to find money for land. And it’s as if folks are trying to get blood from a stone when applying for funding with amazing projects in agriculture and urban food systems that would change the world.

So you can imagine my despair over the years in asking myself if I could really find the support to do this work. I’ve been caught in the impossible Catch 22 that so many of my fellow activists, farmers and dreamers are caught in: clawing for the time and support to realize our movement’s dreams while facing the nightmares of its reality.

In short, since Brown Girl Farming and the Color of Food’s inception, I’ve been asking myself “how the hell am I going to pull this off with impact, living as a dirt poor, land-less farmer with no voice to be heard?”

Then, somehow, you all gave me a voice. A collective voice growing with every farmer and food sovereignty-passionate person that showed interest. You all eased my worry and gave me hope for these crazy project ideas. The support for this documentary getting off the ground poured out in a huge way.

And just when I returned home, trying to make impossible calculations like Mitt Romney on how to close the gap in what is needed to complete this project and publish the Color of Food book, the voice you all created was heard.

I’m writing all this to say that today the Color of Food received funding that will ensure the completion, the printing and publication of the photo documentary book on farmers of color across this country! Farm Credit has gotten behind us, and I can’t thank them enough.


A huge thanks to all of you donors, readers and media who have showed interest and helped spread the word about this blog and the Color of Food.

I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to keep on diggin’.

Gullah Seedlings

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.

These posts are just small excerpts from the upcoming COLOR of FOOD/ photo documentary book! I just arrived back home from the 5 month tour interviewing farmer to farmer. So I will continue to post photos and stories here and on thecolorofood.org site! Bear with me as I am way behind on posts, still catching up from having limited web access on the road. Currently still posting from my time with mainly Black farmers in the Southeast, but more posts from Hispanic and Native farmers in other parts of the country are to come!!

Generation Farmers

I mentioned Gullah culture in a previous post when I’d first arrived in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, which is a hub for many Gullah/Geechee people. But in my next two posts, I want to highlight two family farms running amazing businesses and preserving their family history in the heart of the Gullah islands.

Joseph Fields Farm

Helen and Joseph Fields at their home on Johns Island, SC

“I’m a third generation farmer. Born and raised on the farm. My family’s been doing ‘organics’ here since the 50s, maybe 40s too, ’cause we used chicken manure and cow manure. But then I started doing conventional farming. Now I’ve switched back to organic because those chemicals, they cause cancer,” Joseph Fields.

Joseph and Helen Fields are farming the Fields family land on Johns Island, SC, which has been in the family since the 1800s. “My parents told us to hold onto this land, because land is hard to hold onto. The kids will lose it somehow during the years, through tax or other problems, so that’s what we’re trying to do, is hold onto it,” says Joseph.

And that’s exactly what they’ve done. Joseph and Helen have been farming the land for about 40 years, and about 11 years ago they began learning about modern organic farming through the Bioneers Conference and got certified with the help of the Southeast African American Farming Organic Network. Now, they’re selling organic produce through several farmers markets, to some local schools and most recently their produce is going to Whole Foods!

I drove around the farm with Joseph for the afternoon, who told me stories about growing up on the land, about his family’s Gullah culture and about how he and Helen met so many years ago. He had quite the sense of humor, so his stories were interjected with my laughter, but he also had quite an array of knowledge on farming.  As he pointed out the various crops growing on their plots spread out over the 60 acre land, he shared with me some of the practices they use – like black plastic mulch for their tomatoes and drip tape pumped from their well.

I got to meet some of Joseph’s apprentices, or young farm hands, working and learning from Joseph. Both were in their 20s, one a student, and both were white. I asked Joseph how many of his apprentices over the years are Black, or people of color. He said “none.”

Farming in the middle of Gullah nation, where agrarian roots and food traditions are so strong, and yet the question remains: Where are our young brown people on the farm??

These posts are just small excerpts from the upcoming COLOR of FOOD/ photo documentary book! I just arrived back home from the 5 month tour interviewing farmer to farmer. So I will continue to post photos and stories here and on thecolorofood.org site! Bear with me as I am way behind on posts, still catching up from having limited web access on the road. Currently still posting from my time with mainly Black farmers in the Southeast, but more posts from Hispanic and Native farmers in other parts of the country are to come!!

This is the last ‘Behind the Wheel’ post, as I am now off the road from the Color of Food / photo documentary tour, and am back home working to put the stories and images together from all the farmers of color I interviewed, so they can be shared far and wide!

This morning, I returned from the mechanic with heartwrenching news. In fact, I feel like I should have been wearing black with a prepared eulogy in hand.  Lucille, my home and the Color of Food headquarters for the last 5 months, is dead.

Miss Lucille was the 1990 Oldsmobile station wagon that carried me safely across the United States this summer to interview over 60 farmers for my photo documentary – the Color of Food.  She, after being garaged most of her life, drove thousands of miles for five months straight, endured over 100 degree temperatures, traversed dirt roads across rural America, climbed the steep mountains of the West and ventured through the isolated prairie lands of our Native reservations. And she did it all with style and grace.

This is the first time in my life that I’ve become attached to a material thing, so much so that I’m even blogging about it. But this beast of an automobile morphed into a real person for me and others who had the privilege to know her out on the open road. This car really had her own personality – she did things her way and took her sweet time doing it- but she gave me a priceless gift.

Not only did Lucille keep me safe for every moment on the road(living up to her namesake, B.B. King’s guitar who he claims saved his life), but she was responsible for getting me face to face with the many farmers this country needs to know:

Black farmers in the South who invited me into their homes and shared with me photos of their ancestors, stories of first buying their land, struggles of escaping disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the pride of providing for their families and communities from their own land.

Hispanic farmers on the border of Mexico transitioning from farmwork to owning and running their own farm businesses, or those that are farming the same land their family has farmed for 300 years, growing traditional foods and irrigating with the same indigenous practices that have been used in their region for hundreds of years.

Asian farmers who are introducing their traditional foods and vegetables into communities where food diversity is severely lacking, as are healthy alternatives.

Native American farmers who are proving that dry farming (no irrigation) is not only possible, but a way of life for many indigenous cultures in the driest parts of our country; while others fought battles with water rights in the face of drought -which is an extremely significant issue with a global farming community facing drought, climate change and an opressive movement of GMO/drough resistant seed takeovers. These farmers  invited me, an outsider, in to learn about sacred traditions with corn, traditional foodways and ceremony.

I never would have had the chance to spend this time visiting with and learning from so many of this country’s amazing and resilient communities and the people who are feeding them, had it not been for Lucille. She started as a gift from those who supported the Color of Food’s fundraising efforts, and now with her death (which only occurred once she was sure she’d gotten me safely back home), she’s ending as the gift that made this whole project possible. She worked hard to ensure all of these voices were captured, so I will work hard to make them heard.  

Thanks Lucy. I will miss you dearly.

Rice & Lowcountry

Lowcountry South Carolina was and still is rice country. Along the coast where the land is marshy and the heat is sticky, you can find a tiny grain growing that carries a story, a culture and an immense impact on today’s diet all over the world.

The culture of rice is beautiful worldwide. In places like Asia, India and Africa, rice carries significance for family traditions, spiritual ceremonies and culinary legends. Part of the history rice carries in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, however, also has a side that is not so beautiful. West Africans were skilled in cultivating rice on their land, and so when they were brought here and forced into slavery in the South, they were put to work in the malaria and mosquito infested swamps along the coast to start rice fields. With the skill and hard work of African slaves, the rice industry boomed and funneled money into the South’s economy. The success in rice launched the entire country’s agricultural industry and still today, the credit and benefits reaped never reached African-Americans.

Driving through the Lowcountry (named for its low land elevation), the remnants of rice and agriculture’s story here are visible everywhere, but you have to search for that deeper history for Africans and agriculture.

I found some of it on Freewoods Farm in ­­­­­­Burgess, South Carolina, north of Georgetown, SC, which is “the capital of rice”. O’Neal Smalls and his sweet sister, Geneva, have started this living farm museum to preserve the history of Black agriculture after the Civil War in the South. They are farming in the traditional way, using two mules (named Pete and Jake!) for plowing the land. They are raising vegetables, hogs and chickens and are also making homemade sugarcane syrup from cane they grow on their land. Their father used to own the exact land that they now cultivate. It was important to them to preserve the history of the area and remind us all of the importance of agriculture for Black people in this country.

As Geneva said to me, “ A lot of our history is not in the textbooks. After the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, you had 4 million slaves with no place to go, no one to put them up and they were just told that they were free. And really what saved them was land.”

Gullah culture

Further down the road lies Charleston, SC, which was the port where 3 out of 4 slaves brought to this country entered and were processed and auctioned (You can visit the Old Slave Mart Museum as I did while there).  Charleston is also one of the hubs of Gullah culture. Gullah culture is rooted in West African culture and has been preserved in the low country and Gullah islands of South Carolina. Much of that culture is centered around the language, rice, agriculture and traditional recipes.

I went to Gullah Cuisine, a Gullah restaurant in Charleston, owned by Charlotte Jenkins who has been cooking Gullah foods since she was 9 years old with recipes from her grandmother and great-grandmother. Their signature dish is the Gullah Rice, which is Gullah Spiced Rice with Chicken, Pork Sausage, Shrimp & Vegetables. I talked with her nephew, who helps run the restaurant there, and he thinks that the recipes for Gullah Cuisine are not just recipes but lessons. “What we want to do here is keep the Gullah culture alive. We’d like to have a school here and get the kids more involved in the culture and teach them the history.”

These posts are just small excerpts from the upcoming  COLOR of FOOD/ photo documentary book! I just arrived back home from the 5 month tour interviewing farmer to farmer. So I will continue to post photos and stories here and on thecolorofood.org site! Bear with me as I am way behind on posts, still catching up from having limited web access on the road. Currently still posting from my time with mainly Black farmers in the Southeast, but more posts from Hispanic and Native farmers in other parts of the country are to come!!

My Sister’s Farm

Sisters, Joyce and Carol, making each other laugh on their farm in Burgaw, NC

Carol Jackson and Joyce Bowman are the coolest sisters farming this side of the Mississippi. As soon as I met Carol – nicknamed “Sensei” by those that know her well, for her bad ass jiujitsu skills – she invited me into her home and we sat and talked for hours, sitting stretched out on her wood floor petting her dog Sasha. We talked of the joy growing food gives her and her sister; we talked of the discrimination her eyes have seen growing up in the South; we talked of her frustration with the way her family’s farm land has changed since the city built a highway cutting off the natural drainage path, resulting in constant flooding of the soil.

Carol is a strong Aries woman (why we got along so well!) who taught self-defense classes for 15 years in Harlem. (And taught me a few moves there in her living room.) Both her and  her sister, Joyce, are retired special needs teachers; both raised in Burgaw, North Carolina on the family farm.

When Carol returned from NY to NC and saw her sister gardening, they had the idea to expand onto their empty family land to start My Sister’s Farm.  They are growing certified organic produce and are active members of the Southeast African American Farming Organic Network.

These posts are just small excerpts from the upcoming The COLOR of FOOD/ photo documentary book. Please remember to keep $upporting this journey and the farmers’ stories!