Tractors, Ritual Baths, and Dismantling Racism: Welcome to Black and Latino Farmers Immersion

The program brings together training in topics such as soil chemistry and farm planning with a deep analysis of how racism has divorced people of color from the land.

Farm work at Soul Fire Farm. Photo by Capers Rumph.Soul Fire Farm is a family farm in Grafton, N.Y., committed to the dismantling of the oppressive structures that misguide our food system. We are a community resource, a vessel for education, and grow our life-giving food without pesticides, fertilizers, or hormones. With deep reverence for the land and the wisdom of our ancestors, we act in solidarity with people marginalized by racial inequalities in access to food. We bring diverse communities together on this healing land to share skills in sustainable agriculture, cooking, and natural building, and contribute to the movements for food sovereignty and community self-determination. The Black and Latino Farmers Immersion program is designed for aspiring and novice farmers to gain basic skills in farming and whole foods preparation in a culturally relevant and supportive environment. The author is farm educator at Soul Fire Farm.

"Land is the only real wealth in this country and if we don't own any we'll be out of the picture."

— Ralph Paige, Federation of Southern Cooperatives

We have been uprooted from our land. As African-Americans, many of our ancestors were stolen from West Africa to be sold into slavery. As Latinos, they were forced out of Mexico by international trade deals like NAFTA. As First Nations people, they were driven to walk the Trail of Tears. Some of our ancestors put down roots in new soils. For more than 400 years they tilled the red earth of the American South, while others joined the ranks of “foreign-born” agricultural workers. Our ancestors built the foundation for this country’s wealth and power.

Each person placed incredible trust in the leadership team and the learning process.

We knew the land and belonged to the land, but the land did not belong to us. Brutal racism—maiming, lynching, burning, deportation, economic violence, legal violence—ensured that our roots would not spread deeply and securely. In 1910, at the height of black land ownership, 15 million acres of farmland—14 percent of the total—was owned and cultivated in the black community, according to the PBS series “Homecoming.” Now, less than 1 percent of farms are black-owned.

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