Lately I feel like a pot bubbling to the brim that needs to spill out. I am overflowing with inspiration. All the experiences I’m having here in NYC, on these different farms, at these different markets and events, running around back and forth across the boroughs working with a wide range of people, from very different walks of life… I almost feel like a little research fly on the wall, learning, cross-comparing and analyzing this food movement as it grows live in front of me.
I can feel a sense of empowerment in the energy that circulates through some discussions I have been participating in, and that is just what I am looking for. Particularly yesterday at the Harlem Harvest Festival and Food Summit, organized by Harlem4, a great grassroots organization that came out of Harlem 4 Obama back in 2008.
NYC has 1.4 million people who are food insecure. So Harlem is working to have these communities take responsibility for their food security by demanding change and even growing food for themselves. This is what we discussed all day at the Summit yesterday, especially, being in the black community of Harlem, how blacks and latinos can join into this movement (as you may all have read on Grist.org, I’m quite interested in this facet of food justice and urban ag!)
The plight of the black farmer is an issue I keep raising and am still exploring. If you’ve been seeing the news about the lawsuits filed by black farmers for settlement on subsidies they were cheated of due to racism and discrimination in the USDA — would you want to jump on the urban farming bandwagon as a young black person with that kind of picture painted before you? (Or as a young Latino person? Let’s not forget the ugly agriculture picture painted for our dominantly Latino farm workers, who work under horrible conditions and for shit pay to benefit our industrial farm industry.)
It may have been obvious to most, but it hit me like a mack truck yesterday in the Harlem food justice workshop: In the 1920s, Black farmers made up 14% of the ag industry — nearly one million farmers. Then, in the 1930s the federal government began working with farmers to support them after the Depression and give them subsidies.
Hmm, all those white men in power during an era where blacks still held no rights…who do you think were denied that support and money to keep their farms alive?
The timeline, as subsidies continued pouring out and still do to this day (1/3 of our farming industry is supported by free money from the government –they happen to be the biggest food corporations in the world) speaks for itself. Today, black farmers make up just 1% of all farmers, and they are not the ones reaping in the dough.
Coincidence? I think not.
So, there is my two bits of info for the day. I am learning so much and I just feel I am on the right path!