CFSA’s 2014 Sustainable Ag Conference
by Maya Jackson, SAC14 blogger and Marketing Manager at UDI Urban Farm in Durham, NC
This workshop was my favorite of the conference. I was excited from day one to know that I would be amongst new and experienced sustainable farmers at the Conference, but to have the chance to meet with a woman of color was inspiring. You see, I am a newbie to farming. I love eating local and clean foods, but the closest I have been to a farm in my city is the local pumpkin patch. I got into the food justice movement because I believe that every human being on this Earth deserves the right to have access to clean and healthy food, but I have to learn about farming as I go.
When the opportunity presented itself to be a part of the development team for an urban farm in my city, I knew that God was pointing me in the right direction. After doing some research, I stumbled upon Natasha Bowens’s blog Brown Girl Farming. Bowens is also the author and creator of the multi-media project, The Color of Food. This project takes us into the lives of farmers of color all across the country. It depicts their triumphs, struggles, and testimonies of how race, gender, and how access to resources play a pivotal role our country’s agricultural system and how all of these things are coming together to reshape the food movement.
My biggest take away from this workshop was reconnecting with my ancestral roots in farming through oral traditions. Natasha shared several stories and images of women of color from her project. Though these women all came from different backgrounds, the one thing that they had in common was their love and passion to preserve their community and family. Many farmers of color are faced with barriers such as discrimination in land allocation, land loss, gaining consumer trust, abuse of immigrant farm-workers, and much more. Every woman in her series has had to deal with one or more of these barriers along the way, but sheer will kept them focused.
Hearing the stories of these women gave me time to reflect on my own personal journey. I only have a few memories of what it was like going down to the country to visit my parent’s family in Southeastern North Carolina. Just visual images of fields for days, eating boiled peanuts on the side of the road with my dad, the smell of country air, or snapping peas with my Aunt Emily on her porch. Though those visual images stick with me, it’s the stories of generations before me that I can remember as if I lived it myself. It’s important for me as a woman of color to guide and inspire others from my community to understand the importance of agriculture in our lives and the impact of our roles in the food justice movement. The movement is not just about community gardens, and food is neither black nor white. Food is about community, and it’s our social responsibility to ensure that we create a community of fairness and inclusion on our path to sustainability.