This is the first in a series of four excerpt from The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience, and Farming. Read more about the book and the author, Natasha Bowens, here.
Renard “Azibo” Turner is a compact bundle of energy as he swiftly moves from one part of his 94-acre farm to the other. He is a machine, a methodical man who starts each day with just five hours of sleep and a cup of coffee and doesn’t stop working until supper. Read more
At the height of Black farming in the U.S., a million farmers owned almost 17 million acres of land. Between 1920 and 1996, however, Black land ownership dropped by 70 percent and in 2012, there were only 44,000 Black farmers in the nation. Read more
When the call came from the British Embassy, Melissa Kratzer was surprised. Would the Kentucky-based Food Literacy Project want to host Camilla, wife of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, the embassy wanted to know. As a small grassroots nonprofit dedicated to educating young people about healthy food, Kratzer says, the group has never gotten a lot of celebrity attention. “We were blown away,” she recalls. Read more
In the Bell Hill neighborhood of Worcester, Massachusetts, Ana Rodriguez walks door-to-door, inviting residents to host a backyard garden plot or volunteer in one nearby, and share in a bounty of local produce at the end of the season. But Rodriguez doesn’t work for an urban farming nonprofit; she represents a nearby hospital. Read more
Collie Graddick wants to do something many might say is impossible: Support traditionally marginalized groups of people through one of the least lucrative occupations in the nation—small-scale farming. And yet, despite the odds, that’s exactly what he’s doing. Read more
In August, five young men showed up at Soul Fire Farm, a sustainable farm near Albany, New York, where I work as educator and food justice coordinator. It was the first day of a new restorative justice program, in partnership with the county’s Department of Law. The teens had been convicted of theft, and, as an alternative to incarceration, chose this opportunity to earn money to pay back their victims while gaining farm skills. They looked wary and unprepared, with gleaming sneakers and averted eyes. Read more
On a rainy November afternoon in Portland, Oregon, 21 high school students took the food handlers’ exam in a church basement. The usual chattering of nearly two dozen young people dropped to a silence as they worked. Sitting upstairs, I could tell when they had finished by the sounds of laughter coming from the basement kitchen.
These teenagers are participating in the Portland Kitchen, “Oregon’s only free culinary after-school program for youth,” according to founder Abigail Herrera. Read more
This fall, Robert Wood started teaching an after-school cooking class in a low-income area of Washington, D.C. When a student’s mother raved about a soup the class had made the week earlier, Wood was thrilled. It was a sign that the recipe itself was a hit and it meant that the student had gone home energized to try the recipe again at home, with her own family. Read more
Last month’s impressive Black Friday protests at a reported 1,000 Walmart stores highlight the growing movement against the company’s low wage culture. As the nation’s largest private employer, Walmart has done more than any other company to reinforce income inequality. With an average wage of $8.81 per hour, Walmart keeps its labor expenses low by encouraging its employees to rely on charity and sign up for federal benefits such as Supplemental Nutritional Assistance (SNAP).
The corporation’s impacts on the food system are no less troublesome. It has been at the center of the nation’s cheap food structure, forcing a globalization and industrialization that is grounded in a race to the bottom for labor and environmental standards. It has driven out of business an untold number of small food retailers, which were once the heart and soul of community food systems across rural America. Read more
When Allison Miller lost her job as a server at a restaurant that closed last summer, she wasn’t sure how she would make ends meet while living in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the country.
Surviving on unemployment benefits, she was able to qualify for CalFresh, funded through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), AKA food stamps. Although she had limited resources, she wanted to continue to buy her produce at the farmers’ market, where she had developed strong ties with local farmers. Read more