Farming While Black Book Report by Nick Speed

Nick Speed, Gateway Greening Educator

I recently read Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been combing through the book and blown away at all of the topics included. Each topic is centered around people of color, their contributions to agriculture, and the history of systemic discrimination in American agriculture.

The author, Leah Penniman, is the founder of Soul Fire Farm in New York. Her goal for the book was to create a manual “for African-heritage people ready to ready reclaim our rightful place of dignified agency in the food system”. Farming While Black also details her experiences as a farmer/activist, and how people with zero experience in gardening and farming can find real power and dignity through food. This comprehensive piece highlights topics including finding land and resources, restoring degraded land, healing from historical trauma, youth programming practices, and tangible ways for white people to build equitable authentic relationships with people of color and institutions/organizations led by people of color.

One of my favorite quotes can be found in the introduction and sets the tone for the book. “To farm while Black is an act of defiance against white supremacy and a means to honor the agricultural ingenuity of our ancestors.” To me, this quote highlights the importance of acknowledging not just the legacy of slavery and plunder of black and brown people in America, but the innovation, perseverance, contributions by people of color that helped advance American agriculture and our food systems.