Published: Nov 06, 2012 06:00 PM
Modified: Nov 06, 2012 04:24 PM
Durham has been named the foodiest city in the Triangle. We have restaurants that source their menu from producers in Durham and Orange counties. We also have a large number of places where people grow food in the city.
Urban farmers in Durham grow food because its part of our radical politics, which requires a spiritual connection to the earth, self-determination, and open access to fresh, non-toxic, affordable food for all beings on the planet. We are a part of the Good Food Movement, but its not a new movement.
Fifty years ago every home on Plum Street, in a neighborhood near MacDougald Terrace, had a garden. Neighbors had fresh, local food that was not compromised by petroleum-based fertilizer or chemical-based pesticides. At least one grandmother organized canning of fruits and vegetables picked late summer, to be put up for the winter.
The Nation of Islam, the Amish, all indigenous nations and most humans who dont live in the United States understand that self-sufficiency and sustainability are the responsibility of everyone and not just underpaid workers from communities of color.
The people I know grow food because they know what its like to not have enough to eat, not because they are foodie do gooders. We have been taught by La Via Campesina (International Peasant Movement) to believe in food sovereignty which requires that those most affected by not having food, clean water, or land are at the table when policies are being made to end those injustices.
Farmers in Durham stand on the backs of the slaves who were picked to work the fields because of their knowledge of agriculture. They stand in solidarity with immigrant farm workers and poor women and children around the world who feed their families with subsistence farming.
We also know that this land, most of it Occoneechee land, was stolen and that no one can really own land or food. Durhamites do this work because they believe in ubuntu, an Nguni word, which describes an African worldview, in which each persons humanity depends on their interaction with other humans.
Simple put it means I am, because you are. Since food insecurity is tied to race, class, and politics there is always more work to do. I have been in meetings where community gardens are framed in the context of one group of people saving another from their inability to make good food choices. I sat hot faced in a meeting with community thought leaders discussing the possibility of funding a mobile market to ensure food gets into some of our poorer communities in Durham. When I proposed a list of vegetables like collard greens, lettuces and sweet potatoes, someone turned to me and said. We should think of offering fruit, because they like fruit; its sweet.
This is also the culture of the food movement in Durham. Please watch what our City Council and planning committees do about the zoning and small business ordinances that are currently flexible enough for urban farmers to grow and sell food from their community gardens, which are also urban farms, and always teaching gardens. There are cities like Detroit, New York and Miami and countries like Brazil, India and Cuba who intentionally let ordinary citizens grow food, keep livestock, teach, and make a living wage in gardens located in the heart of very busy cities. We are perfectly poised to be a shining southern example of sustainable urban agriculture. Lets not blow it.
If you are anything like me, you will defend Durham to anyone, warts and all. When people ask you about the hipster, foodie, local food scene, however, I hope you will remember the words of people who work the land here:
• Cristina Rivera Chapman and Tahz Rufus Walker of Tierra Negra Farm grow in order to feel powerful and because their family experienced the trauma of black land loss.
• Santos Flores of SEEDS and the Durham Agriculture Land Trust (DALT) knows that teaching youth to become stewards of the planet and showing up in their lives as a teacher/grower/mentor is a powerful way to help them make their own future.
• Sarah Vroom of Bountiful Backyards and DALT wants you to know that she is not a hipster or a foodie. She is working with every day people to demystify the process of changing seeds to food.
As the co-founder of Green Space Initiative and a DALT board member, I believe that being a farmer/grower is a calling. It is me submitting to the whims of Mother Nature and still trying to turn a profit or at least break even.
If partners grow food together, it often means that one of them has a job off farm that helps pay the bills. Farmers are committed to sharing the secrets of fish emulsion which makes the best tomatoes. They are bursting to tell you that peeing around your raised vegetable beds will keep the rabbits away, at least until the next rain. They are good food evangelists who are willing to do underpaid, undervalued work because it is necessary and wise to know how to grow your own food.Contact Kifu Faruq at email@example.com
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