Black Farmers & Urban Gardeners Come Together: Lessons from Brooklyn for Tompkins County

By: Anthony Gallucci

Date: 12/10/2010
 
I was honored to attend the 2010 “Black Farmers & Urban Gardeners Conference: Growing Health, Wealth, & Justice in Our Communities” in Brooklyn, NYC. The gathering of numerous Original People (Black, Latin@ and Indigenous) to discuss, educate and network around food security, farming rights, agricultural policy, the need for agricultural autonomy, and methods for achieving such a reality was inspirational and motivational. The conference began with Will Allen of Growing Power in Milwaukee discussing the possibilities of using technological development for the purposes of healthy food market sustainability and closed with a personal peek into the concerns, remedies and aspirations of downtown Brooklyn community agriculturist, historians and urban farming operations. Since the closure of the conference I have been contemplating how the experience could translate to our local space here in Tompkins County.

The focus of the conference being Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners, I thought to focus on how we can credibly create opportunities for Black people to farm and garden in Tompkins County’s urban and rural areas. It has been my own conjecture that urban farming is a plausible way to increase health in the urban communities, traditionally composed of Black and Latin@ Americans. The Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference showed there are a plethora of individuals and organizations, locally and nationally, who agree.In reflecting on urban gardening and how to move forward on increasing Black farming in urban centers such as Brooklyn, I must remind people that however inspirational, a sixteenth or quarter of an acre on one city block in a housing project is not going to provide a sustainable way to feed the people in the area. This is especially the case when the (paid) organizers and directors of these operations rarely are empowered from within the communities being served. With limited financial backing, land and social investment there surely would not be enough yield to afford for the undercutting of mass-production farm products in the local food markets, nor for the sustainability of an independent “People’s” food market.

But the motivation, the markets, the distribution networks and the dedicated people already exist within urban centers. Therefore, adequate land space, “ownership,” and autonomy of ecology* would secure a more independent and sustainable urban agriculture as a reality, and people could offer the access to year-round healthy foods that is required for individual behavioral change to beget cultural change in regards to healthy eating.

For this to happen there needs to be an initial exchange of land space, “ownership” and autonomy of ecology (voluntarily or involuntarily) from the private interest to the People whom inhabit the space. Secondly, there needs to be an increase in access, affordability and social comfort* offered, or taken, through land redistribution outside of the urban centers for people quarantined to the urban centers (traditionally Black and Latin@ Americans).


In regards to urban farming as an approach to ending food insecurity in Tompkins County versus Brooklyn we have slightly different geography and social circumstances that COULD allow for healthy foods to reach all people. In terms of arable land, or land that could be cultivated to become again arable, we must look beyond land located in our downtown urban areas to include land on our hills, heights and land-trusted spaces.

With the vast landscape of Tompkins County we must also think about urban farming, not just in terms of utilization of land (farming), but also in terms of the actions or policies that will enable redistribution of land “ownership” in urban settings and redistribution of land space, “ownership” and autonomy of ecology in our rural areas. The immediate goal should still be increasing access to healthy food and food choices for people living in urban areas. However, much effort should be put into increasing access and ownership of land for people in the urban centers (specifically Black and Latin@ Americans) inside and outside of the urban center. Without foresight, inclusion and equitable redistribution of land space, “ownership“ and autonomy of ecology a mere 1/8th of an acre can be a mockery, serving to create further disenfranchisement and distrust between people with access and those without.

The above thoughts are merely a reminder that social transformation is an intricate, tireless and selfless process. To secure health for all people and exemplify our supposed national exceptionalism takes commitment and sacrifice. We know what we need to do; it is the delusion of the availability of choice that keeps us choosing today’s comfort over collective responsibility, sustainability and future-mindedness. Remember, the world is small when we see each other as part of the same biospheric community with All Beings as part of Our evolutionary journey; let‘s step up and make a BIG change!!

*Terms:

Land Space: Space is a concept that must be included in the discussion around sustainability. Space beyond the scope of the traditional discussion includes not only access to land but the ability and comfort to participate in ecology once land is made available, or taken. Comfort in the sense of the feeling that comes with freedom and equity of access consistently available until a culture is able to be constructed through ecology.

Land “Ownership”: The process or state of having so-called “legitimate,” state-sanctioned autonomy of ecology that empowers one to the rights of protection and privacy of said space/land.

Autonomy of Ecology: The state of being independent and self-directed/governed in one’s ability to have an unadulterated, comfortable, sensitive and sustainable relationship with the earth.

Social Comfort: The ability to function, relax and otherwise exist in peace in any given social space; e.g. there is often a social discomfort imposed upon Black Americans who live in the rural areas of the US by the indoctrination of racial pseudo-science through theology, ideology and practice.

Note from the Author: To remain relevant to the behavior of the majority who need to self-initiate the behavioral and psychological changes required for our collective evolution; I decided to remain under the simple supposition of the John Locke treatise on the so-called logic of land “ownership” as an acceptable declaration of an innate human entitlement. To the contrary of the practices of the “conquering” of the western frontier to the imperialism of Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and many other states I believe that we must devalue our exceptional stratification of Beings that defines People as superior and begets a feeling of entitlement over the rest of Our biosphere and the other characters in our collective evolutionary narrative/journey. I apologize for being lofty versus truly pragmatic; however with thought and patience I know this approach to be constructive. Thank you for your time and attention; for time is our only commodity!!

Anthony Gallucci a.k.a. Maj*K is the co-founder of Overstanding Publishing & Production (Non-conventional Media Outlet) in Ithaca, NY. Anthony is also the father of two inimitable daughters… Please visit Overstanding Production the Webpage @ www.overstandingvision.info and/or Overstanding Ithaca @ Facebook.com for more information.

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