Conversations in 2020 – Session 2

On Tuesday, July 21, we hosted the second 2020 session of Conversations on Race & Racism with over fifty people in attendance. A video recording of the second session is embedded below.

Two special guests were invited: Alison Espinoza of Rootworker’s Croft in West Bloomfield NY; and Jessica Gilbert from Rushville NY, who is also a PhD Candidate at the SUNY University at Buffalo and a food justice activist.

In 2020, Conversations on Race & Racism are sponsored by 13 libraries in the Pioneer Library Systems. A list of the sponsoring libraries are below.

For further inquiry, participants are encouraged to view a presentation by Chris Bolden-Newsome, an urban farmer and youth educator from Sankofa Community Farm, which is a part of Bartram’s Gardens in Philadelphia, PA.  A link to the presentation and some questions to ponder are below.

For those of you who were unable to attend last Tuesday’s program, here it is on YouTube:

The link to the homework presentation is here: “Chris Bolden-Newsome” and here are some questions to consider while viewing or afterwards:

  • How has your personal discomfort or hopelessness regarding the suffering of others led to apathy in your life?  In what ways do you tune out to the suffering of others?  In what ways might you tune in more to the suffering of others in a way that is productive and leads to action?
  • What might be some opportunities that can emerge from this current racial and social crisis that we are in?
  • What might it look like to willingly and intentionally engage in suffering or struggle together with those that are different then ourselves?

Here is a list of the libraries that sponsored this event:

  • Naples Library
  • Newark Public Library
  • Wadsworth Library
  • Marion Public Library
  • Palmyra Community Library
  • Lyons Public Library
  • Geneva Public Library
  • Livonia Public Library
  • Victor Farmington Library
  • Sodus Community Library
  • Clyde-Savannah Public Library
  • Gorham Free Library
  • Macedon Public Library

Freedom Gardens Thank You

An open letter to the Buffalo BIPOC community,

All around the country community responses to the COVID-19 virus have been varied, most have been uplifting and inspiring and a few divisive and disturbing.  The virus has manifested in Buffalo like it has in other places, spreading in Black populations disproportionally thereby resulting in more cases and deaths. It has exposed and exploited the systematic conditions that arise when poverty and race are neglected and ignored. Our response to this crisis has been to target the underlaying causes that perpetuate the health disparities in our communities…the lack of healthy fresh nutritious food. Our health will improve when we have neighborhoods that prioritize health and wellbeing.   

This letter is a thank you to everyone who contributed to our marketing success and provided funding for Freedom Gardens.  For over a century Buffalo has been the epicenter of Black freedom movements created in response to challenging moments in history. An expansive coalition of community-based organizations announced the Buffalo Freedom Garden initiative to bring organic gardens that inspire resilience, independence and community building to residents in the zip code areas hardest hit by the COVID-19 virus. Our print campaign was launched last week with an ad and article in The Challenger News. The message that Freedom Gardens was our response to the COVID crisis was carried by influencers on social media, radio programs on POWER 96.5, and undergirded by a direct marketing campaign fueled by the power and influence of community-based organizations! Once the community began to take notice in less than five days over 334 households applied for 50 gardens!  I would like to thank all the families and individuals that filled out an application. Your outpouring of support is being used to expand the number of gardens we can establish in an attempt to meet the increased demand.   

Black owned media outlets, Citigroup, WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund, Juneteenth Festival Agricultural Pavilion Committee, Food for the Spirit, Grassroots Gardens, Access To A-Free-Ka and others played a critical role in organizing, promoting, funding and providing leadership for this initiative.  Please join me in acknowledging our sponsors and supporters. Our best moments come when we unite as a community to do the work of the people! Together we rise! 

Sincerely,

Gail V Wells & Rebekah Williams

Freedom Gardens

Buffalo Freedom Gardens

This article was prepared by Gail Wells for The Challenger News, May 2020.

pictured: Gail Wells, of CopperTown Block Club, surveys raised bed containers for planting being readied for distribution to community households

An expansive coalition of community-based organizations, spearheaded by Seeding Resilience, have come together to address food apartheid in areas hardest hit by the COVD-19 virus with an initiative designed to inspire resilience and independence for Buffalo residents.

Freedom Gardens is a groundbreaking approach to strengthening community, building self-reliance, and increasing food security that is supported by Food for the Spirit / Buffalo Food Equity Network, Grassroots Gardens WNY, CopperTown Block Club, Access To A-Free-Ka, the Juneteenth Agricultural Pavilion Committee, and the Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo.

Through Freedom Gardens, 50 households in Buffalo will be supported in starting backyard or front-yard, raised-bed or container gardens at their own homes at no-cost. Freedom Gardens will equip all aspiring home gardeners with tools, resources, and knowledge that will enable them to grow organic food to help feed their families. Residents living in the following zip codes are eligible to apply for free supplies and material: 14215, 14213, 14211, 14209, 14208, 14207, 14204.

All interested should complete the online form at bit.ly/freedomgardens by Monday, May 11, 2020 by 5:00 PM.

The value of having a Freedom Garden is the emphasis it places on wellness, healthy eating and growing your own organic food. Freedom Gardeners will have access to an educational program designed by Soul Fire Farms, operated by Co-Director Leah Penniman, author of Farming While Black.

The educational program will provide the gardening and farming expertise of Black growers, including gardening and nutrition expertise, information about growing culturally relevant food and herbs, and resources for self-care and COVID safety protocols. Freedom Gardeners will receive heirloom organic non-GMO seeds and seedlings that will provide fresh vegetables and herbs throughout the growing season.

Freedom Gardens is supported by Citigroup and WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund, local philanthropic organizations collaborating to address the most critical needs in our community.

For additional details visit: bit.ly/freedomgardens

NYS Black Farmers 2019 Survey

In 2019, Food for the Spirit circulated a survey amongst Black farmers throughout New York State and one farmer commented “We are a dying breed”. Black farmers suffer from most issues associated with small farms in a system that favors large-scale agriculture, however; their experiences are compounded by a history of discrimination through both private and public sectors controlling markets and finance.

The 2019 survey was circulated online and in-person at farmers markets throughout New York State to Black Farmers. Eight surveys were completed:

  • Seven respondents identified as Black farmers and one identified as a “Black farmer aggregator”
  • They reported selling mostly vegetables, fruit, value-added products, eggs, poultry and herbs.
  • They rely mostly on farmers markets to sell their products.
  • Though two sell at farm stands and restaurants, and one sells through a CSA, none have institutional contracts.
  • Some of the barriers they face in attempting to access new markets are: market managers ignore barriers to healthy food options for marginalized consumers; racism and classism; CSA’s as too labor intensive; lack of workforce and funding
  • One farmer wants to shift to institutional sales and fewer products.
  • Four farmers reported annual profits less than $30,000; one reported $40,000 to $50,000; one reported fluctuating profits between $10,000 and $30,000; one chose not to respond; and one reported barely breaking even.
  • Two family farms are run by 9-10 adult siblings who learned to farm from their fathers.
  • While two of the farms are over 40 years old and one is just starting operations, the remaining have operated for an average of 8.4 years, ranging between 3 and 15 years of operation.
  • The geographic locations of the respondents farms were widespread: one downstate (Orange County); three in Central New York (two rural Tompkins County, and one rural Wayne County); one Upstate New York (rural Rensselaer County); and two in Western New York (one rural Orleans County and one urban Erie County).

Of the eight Black farmers that have responded, five farmers agree to participate in a cooperatively developed project to increase their profitability.