Just in time for the very first Black Farmers Conference. I couldn’t wait to be in a room with so many inspiring leaders, wise agriculturists, historic change makers and hopefully my future employers…but first I had to get some sleep, and desperately needed a shower.
A good friend from my DC days let me crash at her and her partner’s place, and the next morning I was fresh and ready for the day.
I arrived at the conference and instantly ran into Leah Penniman, owner of Soul Fire Farm in upstate NY, who was there to speak at one of the day’s workshops “A Place for Us: Black Farmers in the Organic Movement.”
Leah and I talked about her experiences at past farmers conferences, sometimes being one of only 15 people of color out of 1000 attendees, she now felt happy to have this space. The very first Black Farmers Conference sprouted out of this shared need among black urban growers, food activists and farmers to have a discussion about issues pertinent to the community.
I looked around the room to find that it was so full of people they were lining the back and sidewalls and trickling into the overflow room.
As the discussions, presentations and empowering speeches began, the support and input from the crowd sent goosebumps down my spine. This was not just a conference on farming; it was a space to let out our frustrations with the food system and the injustices black folks face in this country to this day – it was a look into our history.
Some of my favorite quotes from the day were:
“If we’re going to have agriculture that is sustainable, we have to break down barriers.”- Karen Washington (whom I mentioned in my piece about NYC’s food justice movement)
“The industrial ag system is starting to argue against Michael Pollan’s message, that’s a good sign, it means we are starting to have an impact.” – Will Allen of Growing Power
“The majority of the land in America is not used to grow food for you, its used to grow food for the beef that goes into McDeath and MurderKing” – “Doc” Ridgely (Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu’min Muhammad) of Muhammad Farms
“There is no reason why people of color should not be leading this movement…it’s amazing how thinking ahead is really going back, back to our roots.” -Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx Borough President
When the session came to a close, the room was filled with one of the most powerful, binding energies I have felt in a long time.
You can read more about the Conference in my post on Grist!