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
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Kiera Butler’s fascination with 4-H began in 2011 after she attended a county fair for the first time. A senior editor at Mother Jones, Butler grew up in “unleafy” Sommerville, Massachusetts, where country living wasn’t an option. Flush in the middle of a love affair with CSA-boxes, urban chicken coops, and Michael Pollan-inspired farm-to-table food, Butler writes about her first trip to the Alameda County Fair: “You might be wondering why a grown woman was displaying toddler-like delight at the prospect of seeing barnyard animals. The truth is I was going through a livestock phase.” Read more
I grew up visiting the local grange in the small town of Los Olivos, California. The lawn outside was always abuzz with activity. Picnic tables were laden with potlucks, babies lounged on blankets, and streamers were flying high. It was the place where everything in our town happened, at least that’s how it always seemed to me. We went to the grange to see films, attend dances, and sit through my parents’ boring grownup meetings. There was a close-knit spirit of support, collaboration, and family that I rarely see anymore. Read more
Searching for the perfect holiday gift for your locavore friends? The Farmer’s Guild Cookbook makes a great stocking stuffer. A beautiful collection of recipes and photographs, the book highlights the new and young farmers from across Northern California. The Farmer’s Guild selected each farmer who offers advice on cooking the food they grow themselves. Read more
When Leah Penniman posted on Facebook about an upcoming one-week Black and Latino immersion program on her upstate New York farm, it filled up in 24 hours. The program at Soul Fire Farm is designed for young people of color, “to ease them back into relationship with the land,” says Penniman.
This farmer/educator’s life is rooted in a commitment to fighting racism and dismantling what she calls “oppressive structures that misguide our food system.” Penniman wants everyone—regardless of class, color or creed—to have access to fresh, healthful food and an understanding of how to grow their own. Read more
In a dimly-lit lab on the Des Moines, Iowa, public schools’ agricultural science campus, students in aprons, safety goggles and plastic gloves poke and probe chicken wings. About 15 girls and just one boy in this vet careers class are looking for ligaments, tendons, cartilage and other features of this animal part that teenagers more often experience cooked and covered in barbecue sauce. Read more
The founders of First Generation Farmers in Brentwood, California have spent the morning squatting and stooping uncomfortably as they hand-harvest row after row of asparagus. “This is the hardest work we’ve ever done in our lives,” says Larry Gaines, hauling a bin of asparagus to his car. His business partner, Christian Olesen, announces that he feels like puking from the effort. Read more
In wrapping up a recent conversation with Kiva Zip’s Justin Renfro, I asked him whether there was anything else he wanted to say about the crowdlending platform he helps to run. “Please let more farmers know about us,” he said.
It was an offhand request, but a remarkable one. In his mission to connect small farmers and food makers with sources of interest-free capital, his plea wasn’t for more people to write more checks–it was for more people to give checks to. Read more
If you find yourself at a Farmer’s Guild meeting, you’re as likely to find a date as you are a tractor. With seven chapters across Northern California, the Guild has become the “it” destination for agrarians looking to mingle. Small farmers and farm-curious folks arrive at these once-a-month gatherings to swap planting tips and talk rural life over beer and a homegrown potluck. The Guild is half party and half knowledge exchange. And it’s entirely about face-to-face connections at a time when most social networking has lost touch with its in-person origins. Read more