“What I caution against is folks who believe that just by buying organic or just by sharing muffins with my neighbor, I’ve done my part. There’s more to it than that.”
– Leah Penniman
Dear Real Organic friends,
Leah Penniman took a typical path into organic farming, starting as an apprentice on small farms, reading, gaining skills. Like many of us, she loved working in the soil, watching the miracle of plants growing, of providing food.
But as a young woman of color, Leah saw that there were not that many people who looked like her in the organic community. The link between the farms and the many people who had no access to good food was weak. And Leah wondered if there was a place for her in the organic world? Or should she pursue a life of value elsewhere?
Leah decided to stay in farming. But her version of organic meant the farm would be a cooperative. And it would focus on serving the community, especially those without access to good food. Before they knew it, their Soul Fire Farm also became a meeting place of learning and celebration for many other young black farmers. And finally, she wrote the book, Farming While Black, which set a wheel in motion. The waves from the book continue to spread, growing larger every day.
This podcast is my wonderful conversation with Leah Penniman, another kind of revolutionary, another kind of farmer. Can we imagine that the organic movement will look like the rest of America? Can we create different ways of relating to the land, to ownership and stewardship, drawing on the best of our past? Leah’s voice is strong and clear as she shares her vision of a different world and her work in the world as it now is.
“I prefer butter to margarine because I trust cows more than chemists.“
– Joan Gussow
As we struggled to get through COVID 19, Joan Gussow wrote an article called COVID 91. The reversal of numbers referred to Joan’s age. This vibrant author, professor, and gardener has had a long career as a courageous explorer. She developed courses at Columbia Teachers College that tied together the loose threads of agriculture, nutrition, and economy. Joan was an early advocate for organic farming long before it was cool, or even safe for an academic. Please dive into this conversation about health and nutrition, and “how did we get here anyway?”
At 92, Joan is still very much worth listening to. She was on the early USDA organic advisory board. Joan has testified to Congress and has taught thousands of students to think differently, to see differently. The organic she has fought for is threatened, but not dead.
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