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Posts Tagged ‘SAAFON’

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!!
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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!

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