“The Thing That Brings Us Together As a People Is Food,” Says Karen Washington


For urban communities, growing food isn’t just a healthy choice: it is an opportunity to embrace ethnicity, culture, and tradition, crafting a different narrative for American farmers.

On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Karen Washington—a community activist, farmer, and co-owner of Rise and Root Farm—wants a different farming narrative, inclusive of all races, genders, and sexualities. “If you look at the face of agriculture, it’s always white male. But if you look globally, you’ll see the foundation of agriculture: its mostly women, and mostly women of color. For too long it has [been] disregarding the work of people who have put a dent in the food system,” Washington tells Food Tank. “Let’s change that narrative. Who is in the field, doing the work: it’s mostly people of farmers of color and immigrant farmers.”

Washington, voted one of the 100 most influential African Americans in the country by Ebony Magazine in 2012, notes that black farmers are taking back a unique narrative, one that calls attention to the slave trade’s impact on developing the food system. “Black farmers are out there, and youth and people of color are out there, trying to take back that narrative: that we were brought here for our knowledge of agriculture and we at one time were issued our 40 acres and a mule,” says Washington. “Still to this day I want my 40 acres and a mule! Give us our opportunity, and you’ll see what we can do to turn this country around for the betterment of it.”

“Agriculture must be inclusive in its diversity,” says Washington. Rise and Root Farm is a place of healing for diverse and marginalized communities. “At this point in time we need our farms and gardens to be a safe haven for people who feel victimized or marginalized,” Washington explains. When the Orlando, FL Pulse nightclub shooting unsettled the LGBTQ+ community around her, Washington invited them to come to the farm. “It offers people regardless of who they love, or who they are with, or their skin color, that they can come to our farm and feel comfortable and safe,” Washington tells Food Tank.

Working on a farm, says Washington, allows farmers to harness power: “[people in the community] see the power of growing their own food, the power of owning their own land, and the power of change—which needs to be done.” As co-founder of Black Urban Growers (BUGS), Washington will lead the Black Farmers & Urban Gardeners conference, “Roots and Resilience: Preserving Black Land, Reclaiming Self-Determination” on October 19–21, 2018.

To learn more about how growing food may help communities realize their power, listen to the full podcast episode. You can listen to “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” on Apple iTunesStitcher, or wherever you consume your podcasts.

Photo courtesy of Nation Swell.

The post “The Thing That Brings Us Together As a People Is Food,” Says Karen Washington appeared first on Food Tank.

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