On February 20 and 21, Food for the Spirit co-hosted a two-day, in-person Public Narrative Training in Albany NY for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and other farmers, gardeners, and food systems actors of color in New York State. The purpose of the training was to engage participants in advocacy around the 2023 Farm Bill Campaign, and it was hosted in collaboration with our partners: Black Farmers United NYS, Equity Advocates, and the Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust.
More than 20 participants attended the training to learn how to strategically construct a narrative focusing on one or more urgent food issues impacting them and their communities. They developed narratives that merged their personal food story with the story of the communities / organizations they belong to, and by the end of the training, each participant had a narrative they crafted to use when speaking with politicians or other Farm Bill decision-makers.
“I learned how to better narrate my story by being concise and how to ‘draw a picture’ when telling it. Making it short and to the point but drawing in the audience leaves a greater impression.“
“I had not been to a public narrative training, so the entire curriculum was new to me. It helped me think through the best way to approach a personal story that connects to broader groups / communities I’m connected to, and urgent issues that are most pressing at the current moment.”
“I want to bring this to our Buffalo network, and think through how this kind of approach can be used to build solidarity as well as consensus about important initiatives to focus on together.”
“The Public Narrative Training was very informative and supportive of everyone’s needs and accommodations. We left with a wealth of knowledge to take back to our communities and make a change.”
“I really appreciated not just the chance to develop a framework and language to tell my own story, but to hear from others and feel in community with folks with similar values. It makes me feel hopeful to know this network is being created.”
“I really felt like I built a lot of camaraderie with the other Public Narrative Training attendees in a way I have never experienced before at an event or training. It made it so meaningful for me.”
Since 2020, a team of Buffalo Food Equity Network members have led the Western New York (WNY) Food Stories Project to engage community storytellers in sharing their perspectives about food and land issues in Western New York.
Our project centers Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander storytellers to create stories and tools for community transformation and liberation. The first group of storytellers were engaged virtually due to the pandemic, and with support from Nexus Community Partners and the W.I.N. Initiative, a video was produced with highlights from their stories.
This summer, we collected a second group of stories at Buffalo’s 2022 Juneteenth Festival as a participant in the Juneteenth Agricultural Pavilion. Approximately twenty festival attendees shared their food stories at a video booth created in collaboration with the W.I.N. Initiative. Now, we are working to create a new video with this fresh batch of stories.
In the coming months, we are looking forward to working with Buffalo Food Equity Network members to find ways to lift up these stories to facilitate change in the WNY food system. Our efforts are grounded in the belief that radical transformation in systems and structures is necessary for communities most impacted by food systems injustices to thrive.
The first Juneteenth festival was held in Buffalo in 1976 and it has now grown into one of the largest celebrations of Juneteenth in the country to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. The Juneteenth Agricultural Pavilion was introduced as part of the Juneteenth Celebration in Buffalo in 2019 with the purpose to provide hands-on educational presentations and demonstrations related to agricultural history; as well as resources and education related to current practices and careers in agriculture.
Food for the Spirit has supported Buffalo’s Juneteenth Agricultural Pavilion since the pavilion’s inception. Buffalo Food Equity Network members and partners have shared space at the pavilion and provided one-stop access to resources and information for festival-goers. Activities at the pavilion included a children’s shoe box garden project, plant seedling giveaways, gardens-in-a-bag and food demonstrations. There was a video booth set-up by the WNY Food Stories Project, Emergency Food Storage consultations by Ms. Della Miller, and a beautiful exhibit by UB Food Lab students highlighting the work being done by Black women leadership in Buffalo’s food system.
Food for the Spirit staff have supported the Ag Pavilion’s founder and chair, Jaime Swygert, in executing a vision where Black and brown people could convene and gather community resources, historical education, access career information, and learn about food equity, justice, and policy-advocacy efforts.
2022 marked the festival’s return to in-person celebration, after some virtual holdings due the pandemic. In 2020 and 2021, even while the festival was virtual, Buffalo Food Equity Network members continued to support the Pavilion; members held plant seedling giveaways and curated exhibits to commemorate the Juneteenth holiday. This support enabled the Juneteenth Ag Pavilion to continue distributing information and resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Written by Jaime Swygert, Chair of the Buffalo Juneteenth Agricultural Pavilion, September 2022.
Join Buffalo Freedom Gardens at Groundwork Market Garden’s 2nd annual plant sale and giveaway event on May 14, 2022. The event will take place at 1698 Genesee Street, Buffalo, NY 14211 from 10am to 2pm. Two free plants per household, while supplies last!