Taking Action to Support Black-led Organizations on the Land
How do we engage the energy of this moment? Steeped in historical, legal and social disenfranchisement, the ongoing violence against black lives calls for long term, place-based and collaborative work. What would it look like to be in solidarity with all life? What would it look like to reimagine the commons*?
We need a “commoning” of privilege and wealth, a systemic transformation that counters the great “uncommoning” of schools, land, security, and resources that have shaped America’s historical looting. Let us build equity and make reparations through redesigning the food system and land arrangements whose roots are racist, colonial, and capitalist.
This work can take the form of securing land tenure for black farmers in rural spaces and in urban food apartheid; it can take the form of policies that create healthy, equitable food systems for both farmworkers and the land; it can happen with dismantling the mass incarceration system. Whatever form it takes, success depends on the generosity of those with access to capital and privilege to use their proximity to institutions of power for the rebirth of a new commons.
This calls for great organizational acuity and lots of work – work that is already being done by Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and POC farmers, organizations, and institutions. Below we have highlighted some of the many outstanding organizations doing this work with links to support them directly, along with resources for education and sharing. This list is in no way comprehensive, and we encourage you to comment below with any other organizations that are doing this work.
* “The commons” is a multilayered theoretical concept. Within the boundaries of the commons are physical land and waters, resources, public goods, structures of governance, culture, and knowledge and theory. While the commons can simply be imagined as shared resources, they have also come to represent a framework for thinking about ideologies, community, sustainability, and governance.
P.S. We’re building out a new website with updated blog and resource sections – how can we continue this conversation and make information sharing more useful to you? What do you want to see?
- Southern Foodways Alliance: Fighting for the Promised Land – A Story of Farming & Racism
- Point of Origin – a podcast uplifting the voices of women and people of color
- “Gastronomy and the social justice reality of food“: TED talk by Michael Twitty
- The Atlantic: How Black Americans Were Robbed of Their Land
- Vice: The Young Black Farmers Defying A Legacy of Discrimination
- Freedom Farmers, Monica White
- Farming While Black, Leah Penniman
- Black Farmers in America, John Francis Ficara
- Dispossession: Discrimination Against African American Farmers in the Age of Civil Rights, Pete Daniels
- The Cooking Gene: a Journey through African American Culinary History, Michael Twitty
- What’s In A Social Justice Diet?, Rav Levy-Uyeda
- Indignant Heart, Charles Denby
- Survival Pending Revolution, Raj Patel
- Verso Books is providing a limited time free download of “The End of Policing”
Black Family Land Trust
The Black Family Land Trust, Inc. (BFLT) incorporated in 2004 and based in North Carolina, is one of the nation’s only conservation land trust dedicated to the preservation and protection of African-American and other historically underserved landowners assets.
Black Farmer Fund
The Black Farmer Fund supports black farmers by increasing access to capital, supporting business ownership, supporting economic democracy, and creating social and cultural changes to support black sovereignty within the food and farm economy.
Earthseed Land Cooperative
Formally established in 2012 by a group of black and brown farmers and social justice organizers. Over the past decade, they have sought to establish a stable land base for their families and an equally grounded, self-sustaining, and welcoming hub for community building, particularly among farmers of color and food justice advocates, in Durham, North Carolina.
Farms to Grow
Farms to Grow, Inc is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to working with Black farmers and underserved sustainable farmers around the country. Farms To Grow, Inc. is committed to sustainable farming and innovative agriculture practices which preserve the cultural and biological diversity, the agroecological balance of the local environment.
Land Loss Prevention Projec
LLPP is a non-profit public interest group that has been working for almost 40 years to curtail the epidemic loss of black-owned land in North Carolina. They provide planning and legal support, succession planning, and fight legal takings of black-owned land. LLPP helps farmers function under the weight of debt and market fluctuations, while supporting sustainable ecological and economic practices.
New Communities Land Trus
New Communities Land Trust is a 501(c)(4) that began as a 5700-acre farm collective, and is widely recognized as the original model for community land trusts in the United States, and has been protecting communities of color in Georgia at a grassroots level for over 40 years, working for the better of human communities, wildlife habitat, and racial justice.
Planting Justice is a grassroots organization with a mission to empower people impacted by mass incarceration and other social inequities with the skills and resources to cultivate food sovereignty, economic justice, and community healing. Since 2009 Planting Justice has built over 450 edible permaculture gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area, worked with five high-schools to develop food justice curricula and created 40 green jobs in the food justice movement for folks transitioning from prison.
Soul Fire Farm
Soul Fire Farm is a BIPOC*-centered community farm committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system. We raise and distribute life-giving food as a means to end food apartheid. With deep reverence for the land and wisdom of our ancestors, we work to reclaim our collective right to belong to the earth and to have agency in the food system. We bring diverse communities together on this healing land to share skills on sustainable agriculture, natural building, spiritual activism, health, and environmental justice. We are training the next generation of activist-farmers and strengthening the movements for food sovereignty and community self-determination. Soul Fire’s Founder, Leah Penniman, is also the author of Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land.
Read their Action Steps for Food Sovereignty
Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network
Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network (SAAFON) is a nonprofit based in Atlanta, GA. We are a network of Black farmers in the Southeastern United States who are committed to culturally relevant, ancestrally guided, and ecologically sustainable agricultural-based living. SAAFON’s higher calling is to seek the liberation and empowerment of Black people through agricultural, food, and land-based strategies. We promote agricultural production and land management practices that are rooted in indigenous ways of knowing that span geographies, space and time. We recognize, honor and uplift the ways of our ancestors and ask for their guidance as we show how Black agrarianism offers solutions to some of the most pressing challenges of our communities. The SAAFON network allows our members to connect with like-minded farmers, to build collective power in order to achieve our visions of land-based success, and to model alternative ways of living in the 21st century.
“In myth (as well as biology),
the sea is the source that all
things arise from and return
to.” – Paul Pitchford
If you haven’t heard, we Greenhorns are quite the algae allies. Check out our exciting & new(ish) spin-off project, Seaweed Commons! Seeking to form ecologically minded seaweed coalitions through a commons-based approach, support and inform public discourse, increase algal literacy, and set up an appropriately scaled & just seaweed economy.
(Dear designers with laptops and time, Seaweed Commons is seeking a new logo!! Will barter designs for Maine seaweed, nutrient dense, responsibly wild-harvested, and major umami yum for your soups. Contact email@example.com if you are interested.)
If you are lucky to live coastally…and the shore in your home place is not over crowded…this could be a great place for escaping shelter-in-place: take up contemplative tide pooling, salt-air-breathing, paradigm shift reimagining, and (when back at home) supporting the online sales efforts of any number of responsible edible seaweed producers! Salt Point Seaweed — epic Recipe Collection recetly released, Maine Seaweed LLC, and Greenhorns director Severine’s very own Smithereen Farm — visit the dreamy web shop!
Ready to deep dive into the world of seaweed? Sign up for this Introduction to Algae Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) produced by the Algae Technology Educational Consortium and UC San Diego with funding from the Algae Foundation, the National Renewable Energy Lab, and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Recent in seaweed scholarship, “Seaweed in the time of Covid” from the illustrious Josie Iselin, author of The Curious World of Seaweed. View her gorgeous website here (and purchase her book if you want to learn more about specific algae species! In a stunning coffee-table-book format).
We hope you’ll take some time to look through our knowledge sharing site, seaweedcommons.org. Marine algae case studies from around the world illustrate the full range of issues from small scale wild harvest of edible seaweeds, traditional uses in Asia and Europe for fertilizer, large scale cutting and machine-harvest of rockweeds, the international corporate players, the range of approaches undertaken by fisheries ministries and the complaints of local communities. We have information about traditional net-based aquaculture systems for nori in Asia and large scale biofuel kelp farms proposed by the US department of energy for federal waters off the Eastern Seaboard. We look into toxic algae blooms, the cultivation of seaweed for biofuels, aquaculture, and the IMTA (Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture) designed to capture the runoff / nutrients from salmon pens around the world. The ‘global archives’ section is especially slimy with diverse seaweed learning!!
Sample recipes from Salt Point Seaweed’s Recipe Collection! Incredible stuff:
Watch now! Severine v T Fleming’s virtual presentation, Our Landscape in Common, Customary Rights and the Incoming Generation, featured at the Stegner Center’s 25th Annual Symposium, Food and the Environment: Resilient and Equitable Food Security for the West.
We are in a “fascinating moment to talk about the future of land use and the emergence of new customary rights in response to the crises that we face”.
Her talk highlights case studies and proposals “to think about reorganization and reorientation and reformatting of social economic and legal regimes”.
Severine asks the crucial questions. Theoretically and philosphically speaking, what is the scale of the repsonse that is needed in these times? “How, especially in this time of crisis, are we thinking more boldly about the reconfiguration of our social institutions and economic forms to respond to the unfolding climate — and of course health — crisis? The level of engagement and response that we could enact to build local food reslieice and rediversify the use of our landscape, and repair the ecological degradation that we see on our lands in the same way that we are approaching the preservation of human life — that would be the scale of repsonse that is needed.”
Severine von Tscharner Fleming, the Executive Director of Greenhorns and a leading organizer and cultural worker within the young farmer movement for 12+ years, co-founded the National Young Farmers Coalition, FarmHack and Agrarian Trust. A part-time farmer and board member of the Schumacher Center for New Economics, her work has spanned many media to celebrate, bundle and broadcast the voices and life-ways of young agrarians.
Check out this awesome zine about making mead sent to us by our friend Jonathan Tanis. It starts with an introduction contextualising fermentation as a political act which is both democratizing and embraces the commons, bubbling away with “unrealized possibility” for forming human connections and alliances. It then moves on to explain the historical and anthropological contexts of mead making. Humans have been consuming honey for nearly 9,000 years and mead has featured heavily throughout our civilizations. Naturally there are also instructions and a recipe for brewing your own mead at home!
This is a fascinating and inspiring read full of history, art, poetry and politics, and as the authors say, in this time of global strife and agitation, make mead, not war.
If you or somebody you know is an artist, poet, academic or farmer, and would like to get involved with future Culture & Agriculture or Agropunk zines, please contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On this day in 1845, Westminster, the UK Parliament passed the 1845 enclosure act. Although not the first step in the enclosure of the commons, this act created enclosure commissioners who were given the authority to enclose land without prior parliamentary approval. In total, over the course of 300 years, the British government enclosed nearly 7 million acres of the commons in Britain alone. In doing so they created the ‘working class’ and systematic private property in one fell swoop. This model became a worldwide blueprint that has led us to the situation in which we find ourselves today. Enclosure of the commons, coupled with imperialism has ensured that hundreds of millions of people are unable to access agricultural land and billions more live in abject poverty, despite living in regions of abundance. (more…)
We should all be so lucky.
The Community Land Trust in the Southern Berkshires (CLTSB) and the Berkshire Community Land Trust (BCLT) invite you to attend their joint Annual Meetings & Speaker Series on April 23, 2017: Re-imagining the Commons with David Bollier of the Schumacher Center.
If you’ve not heard of David Bollier, now is as good a time as ever.
Bollier is an author, activist and blogger that spends a lot of time researching and thinking about the commons. He has written a number of excellent books looking at ways in which economies and communities can transition to commons based systems.
From his latest book Think Like a Commoner:
In our age of predatory markets and make-believe democracy, our troubled political institutions have lost sight of real people and practical realities. But if you look to the edges, ordinary people are reinventing governance and provisioning on their own terms. The commons is arising as a serious, practical alternative to the corrupt Market/State.
The beauty of commons is that we can build them ourselves, right now. But the bigger challenge is, Can we learn to see the commons and, more importantly, to think like a commoner?
Recently Bollier gave a lecture in Athens about the emerging commons economy in Greece post collapse.
Here is a link to the English lecture.
And here is link to Bollier’s blog.
Farmer, tool hacker, organizer, and self styled agricultural anthropologist (and, we’re proud to say, a GH blog editor) Samuel Oslund takes us on a journey into les Rencontres de l’Atelier Paysan. Les Rencontres is a yearly gathering of farmers from across France, hosted by our French farm hacking heroes l’Atelier Paysan (roughly The Peasant’s/agrarian Workshop). The event is a hands on skill sharing celebration, filled with food, good wine, and some fairly strange music. (more…)