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News Archive

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News Archive

A collection of news, op-eds, and public literature on COVID-19 in the food system as well as equity and justice by people across the globe organized by theme and by year. We acknowledge that many of these articles can fit into various themes as they are intersectional in nature. In categorizing the articles, we try to identify the most salient theme emerging from the article and we place the article in that group. Some articles that were particularly difficult to categorize may appear under more than one thematic heading.

These articles are derived from a weekly digest consisting of 'five articles worth reading' that are shared with our listserv every Friday. For information about joining our listserv click here. If you have articles to suggest for our archive or weekly digest, please email Garland Mason at garlandm@vt.edu.   

Food, Agriculture, and Community

With a Fortifying Soup, Haitians Share Their Pride in Independence by Priya Krishna December 29, 2020. In this excellent article, Krishna recounts a Haitian Independence Day ritual centered around soup joumou, an “aromatic, orange-yellow squash soup” According to Mr. Jean Simon, a Haitian emigrant living in New York City, the annual ritual “is a reminder that even though we are not home, we have something to hold onto our culture and bring all of us back together, . . . We can invite all the people to understand our culture and what the day means to us.” The article reviews the history surrounding Haiti’s independence and the significance of African and colonial foodways. The article discusses the ways soup joumou is made, how and where the holiday is celebrated in the United States, and how the tradition can safely carry-on despite the coronavirus pandemic. Krishna also offers an accompanying recipe for soup.

Reviving a Crop and an African-American Culture, Stalk by Stalk by Kim Severson December 8, 2020. Here, Severson profiles the people responsible for revitalizing the cane syrup industry on Sapelo Island in Georgia in an effort to preserve Salt Water Geechee culture and provide fiscal protection for the land, which has been lost at a rapid clip to property developers or to pay tax bills (details linked in the article). The article describes the process of bringing back a heritage variety of sugar cane to the island and of producing cane syrup. The article is full of vivid images of the process and the island and is worth a glance to learn about food and land sovereignty for a group of people who can trace their heritage back to a group of 400 enslaved West Africans who were brought to the island to cultivate the exact type of sugarcane that their ancestors are now producing once again.

Is American Dietetics a White-Bread World? These Dietitians Think So by Priya Krishna December 7, 2020. This article covers the overwhelming Whiteness of dietetics in the United States. In it, Krishna recounts information and opinions from interviews with dieticians of color and talks about the need for inclusion of diverse body types and cuisines in American dietetics. Dieticians interviewed for the article note that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the largest and most powerful organizations for those working in food and nutrition, according to the article) “[ignores] non- Western cuisines, or [implies] that they are unhealthy. They feel the profession places too much emphasis on consuming less and not enough on understanding individual eating habits. And, they add, it perpetuates an ideal of thinness and gender normativity that can exclude different body types and identities” (n.p.). This is an important read to understand the nuanced politics of the American food and dietetics scene. 

How to Do Thanksgiving With Less Waste by Priya Krishna November 16, 2020. In this article by Priya Krishna, we learn about the traditions of wastefulness that surround Thanksgiving. As Krishna notes, there are “200 million pounds of turkey alone tossed out annually” (n.p.). The article asks readers to not only be more mindful about reducing waste during the festivities this year with a few tips and tricks to help, it asks readers to rethink ‘our relationship to the holiday’ and the waste our celebrations generate. Krishna draws on the resourceful practices of people of color and Indigenous peoples to share how others might curb their wastefulness this holiday season.

When Only Homegrown Sweet Potatoes Will Do by Nicole Taylor November 17, 2020. In this article, Taylor shares the significance of a homegrown sweet potato for many southerners. This article is timely in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday. Here we learn about southern traditions and the importance of place-basedness in a fun and uplifting article.

Mushroom Hunting at the End of the World by Danny Palumbo November 12, 2020. Here, Palumbo reflects on learning to forage for mushrooms and in doing so, reconnecting with food and place. This is a beautifully written story of homecoming and learning within the context of the pandemic. 

For a Daughter of Immigrants, American Soil Offers Plenty to Forage by Vanessa Hua November 11, 2020. In this essay, Hua discusses the significance of foraging for food amidst the pandemic through beautiful prose. Hua places the practice in historical context and explains its contemporary role in society. As Hua put it, “Foraging felt like empowerment and self-sufficiency — a form of resourceful thrift familiar to me as the daughter of Chinese immigrants, and a small measure of control when so much has felt out of control” (n.p.). This is a wonderful story of one family’s experience with foraging for food.

Finding Strength in Sofrito in Puerto Rico by Von Diaz October 26, 2021. Here, Diaz discusses life in Puerto Rico during the annual hurricane season, made worse by climate change, and amidst the coronavirus pandemic. In this article, Diaz notes Puerto Rico’s poverty rate (the highest in the nation) and the toll the coronavirus has taken on the island, and in particular, on the food security of its residents. Diaz extolls the virtues of the island’s most famous dishes and notes their origins in the traditional foodways of Spanish, African and Indigenous peoples. The article also covers the food relief efforts being spearheaded by famous chef, Jose Andrés and others. This thorough article covers themes of food security, food sovereignty and resilience in Puerto Rico.

The Promise of Pawpaw by Rachel Wharton October 19, 2020. This article draws attention to the pawpaw, an elusive fruit native to North America which can usually only be found at farmers markets or on local online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook. Here, the pawpaw is held to be an emblem of resistance and self-sufficiency, tied to food insecurity both historic and contemporary. Wharton, the article’s author discusses pawpaw cultivation in urban areas as well as in rural areas with a nod to their role in food sovereignty, and particularly indigenous food sovereignty.

A Moon Inspired Menu by Valerie Segrest November 15, 2021. In this article from Yes! Magazine, Valerie Segrest (Muckleshoot), a nutrition educator who specializes in local and traditional foods, offers insights into “lunar-inspired menus” where the moon plays an integral role in the kind, type, and pattern of eating. According to Valerie, eating this way means eating seasonal and hyperlocally sourced ingredients. She states, “these foods are at their peak nutrition and flavor during their moons” (Segrest, 2021, n.p). The article also features a “Winter Salmon Moon Chowder” recipe and a list of various fruits, vegetables and ingredients within their specific moons. To Valerie, “syncing our lives and menus with the energy of the moons leads us to be more present in nature and to better engage with our own wisdom and the world in which we live” (2021, n.p). 

All about Garlic by Danielle Russell November 16, 2021. This enjoyable article highlights the value and health benefits of garlic. Here we are introduced to works of the Boys and Girls Club community garden in Poughkeepsie, New York, who engage in garlic farming as an educative and community building activity. The article provides extensive information on the ways to grow garlic and different recipes that incorporate garlic in the making of the food we love. This article is relevant for growers who are interested in diversifying crop production to include garlic as well as individuals interested in cultivating garlic for personal consumption. 

One Baker’s Quest to Make Bread That Blurs Borders by John Birdsall October 27, 2021. This article examines the Indigenous roots of grains and baking in the Sonoran Desert of the Arizona and Mexico borderlands. It tells the story of baker David Guerra who is working to challenge the overwhelmingly white culture of baking in the U.S. by emphasizing these Indigenous roots. The article touches on the results of Guerra’s efforts—he has inspired other Latinx and Black bakers to embrace pre-colonial bread cultures. This article details the types of grains used by Guerra and his peers and provides a brief biography on Guerra—a story of assimilation and then embracing his Mexican identity. The article closes with a powerful quote from Guerra: “Crossing borders, feeding this grain to my people in the form of bread. . . .To me, that’s power” (n.p.).

Apple picking is a bizarre imitation of hard work by Dan Greene October 1, 2021. October is the pinnacle of apple-picking season in Virginia, as well as in the northeastern U.S. This article talks about certain ironic aspects of this tradition: “Quality apples are generally easily available at grocery stores, and it’s not as though such heavily romanticized traditions are built around gathering other foods” (n.p.), and that “The practice defies the prevailing shifts of modern American society and its endless push toward the efficient, frictionless, and remote. At a time when so many activities are mediated through devices, picking apples offers a tactile pastime without any pressure for productivity” (n.p.). The article details the labor through which most apples in the U.S. are harvested, including the rapid and tactical act of grabbing multiple fruits in one swipe of the hand while teetering up in the tree on a ladder, all while risking pesticide exposure and musculoskeletal injury. Additionally, most people who work in the U.S. apple harvest are from abroad—migrant workers often here on H-2A visas, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has likened to a modern form of slavery. The article makes this interesting point: “Over the last 150 years, however, a gap has been forged between the apple’s gathering and its consumption. The ways America picks its most popular fruit, and why, are a product of changes in where Americans live, how we farm, how we have fun, and how we see — and perform as — ourselves” (n.p.) before launching into the history of apple production in the U.S., as well as the history of the apple-picking tradition and the “autumn industrial complex” at play here in the U.S.

An Ode to Heirloom Okra by Shelby Vittek August 15, 2021. This article talks about a project from seed saver and farm manager, Chris Smith, who manages a farm outside of Asheville, North Carolina. The article discusses Smith’s okra seed trials where he experiments with growing over 100 varieties of okra. It also touches on Smith’s effort to obtain more uniform growth in a variety called Whidby White through the Community Seed Savers Project made up of over 250 growers from across the country. 

The Hidden Lives of Modern Food by Zoë Kopp-Weber Aug 13, 2021. This is an interview with VT Food Studies Director, Center Fellow, and co-editor of the new collection of essays Acquired Tastes (MIT Press), Anna Zeide, along with co-editors Ben Cohen, and Michael Kideckel. In the interview, Zeide, Cohen, and Kideckel respond to the following questions: “How did we arrive at the food system we all recognize today? How did our common misconceptions about food history arise? And why does the narrative about how we got here matter?” (n.p.). The editors explain how our modern food system began to come together around 1870, and just accelerated during the Second World War, rather than beginning in the 20th century as many have postulated. They also address common food misconceptions and the ways the pandemic has disrupted the food supply chain in the U.S. and globally. 

The Unsung Caribbean Roots of the Vegan Food Movement by Paige Curtis July 21, 2021. This article highlights the Rastafarian roots of veganism and plant-based diets in the U.S. As the article explains, veganism is often perceived to be a “White, millennial fad” (n.p.). Veganism in the. Rastafarian tradition is based on the belief in “Black sovereignty, health, and ecological harmony” (n.p.). This article discusses the rise of Rastafarianism in Jamaica in opposition to British colonial rule and the threat that their anti-capitalist beliefs posed in the context of colonialism. The article closes with this powerful message: “Decolonizing veganism—overturning its whitewashed history—is a critical act of resistance. Progress happens when more scholars, influencers, and food critics of color reclaim their plant-based food histories—unlocking more inclusive possibilities for all diners” (n.p.). 

Meet You at the Dairy Bar by Rory Doyle June 22, 2021. This article brings us to Rolling Fork, Mississippi where a small-town restaurant offers a hub of community in a place facing rising waters and out-migration. Chuck’s Dairy Bar, the restaurant at the center of the article, began as a place for farmers and farmworkers to gather and eat. Unfortunately, the region around Chuck’s has been declared a disaster area by the federal government due to severe flooding—leaving the economy devastated and the population forced to evacuate. With vivid images, and a captivating story, this article tells of the power of food in building and maintaining a Mississippi Delta community. It tells of race relations in the area, with Chuck’s at the fore, as well as the struggles farmers have faced with the rising water, and the ways the pandemic has affected the town as well as Chuck’s response to it.

Salad will survive climate change. But at what cost? By Eve Andrews June 16, 2021. “How can we democratize salad?” asks this article from Grist. In it, Eve Andrews explores the split among environmentalists who, on one side, advocate for a more plant-based diet, and on the other, claim that resource-intensive production, like that required for a year-round supply of salad greens. The article reviews the history salad—which has existed since Roman times, according to the article—and the oxymoron of industrially produced mesclun mix. It’s important to “balance nutritive value with widespread access” (n.p.) as nutrient deficiencies worldwide remain high and the world does not produce enough fruits and vegetables for all to fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables, as is recommended in the national dietary guidelines in Canada. This is a thorough article examining the origins and current realities of salad green production as we know it, with all of its controversies and conundrums exposed.

Summer’s Greatest Prize: Watermelons, With Seeds, Please by Nicole Taylor June 7, 2021. In this article, Taylor captures the significance of the humble watermelon to summertime, and to Black families celebrating Juneteenth. Taylor talks of avoiding seedless varieties of watermelon, with preference given to heirloom varieties with seeds. We learn of the tradition of the “melon man” (n.p.) who peddles watermelons varieties that can’t be found in stores. We meet the growers who produce the coveted varieties like jubilee, rattlesnake, and moon and stars and learn how they prefer to eat them. This article has some great photos and shares the practices of new and established farmers and food entrepreneurs.

‘Be Kind Be Resilient’ A Conversation with Sylvia Harrelson Ganier of Green Door Gourmet by Maneet Chauhan with Mikeie Honda Reiland May 25, 2021. Southern cuisine is more than the stereotypical “meat-and-three, barbecue, deep fried” foods that many associate with the South, claims Sylvia Harrelson Ganier of Green Door Gourmet a 152- organic vegetable farm in Nashville. In this conversation between Maneet Chauhan and Sylvia Harrelson Ganier, we learn about how the latter shifted from singing to baking to farming, what it means to be a Southerner, and specifically a ‘mountain Southerner’ (Ganier is originally from the mountains of western North Carolina), and the ways the South has changed and continues to evolve. They also talk about the meaning of ‘organic,’ the foodways of the South, and the future of farming. This is a vivid conversation about food and farming in our region and is worth checking to catch a few great stories and some photographs from the conversation.

One Foot in the Soil and One in the Ocean, an excerpt from Bress ‘n’ Nyam, by Matthew Raiford n.d. Here’s a short but beautiful excerpt from the cookbook Bress ‘n’ NyamIn it, Raiford, a descendent of the Freshwater Geechee who grew up on the mainland describes his feeling of having “one foot in the soil and one in the ocean” (n.p.). Raiford describes the ways he has developed a relationship both with the sea, and with the traditional foods of his ancestors. This article from the Southern Foodways Alliance also shares a traditional Geechee recipe from Raiford’s cookbook: fried fish and ‘CheFarmer’s’ grits.

The role of kudzu in architecture, cuisine, and culture by Ayurella Horn-Miller March 20, 2021. In this article from Southerly Magazine, we learn about the history of Kudzu, how it was introduced as the “savior of the South” (n.p.) before becoming “The vine that ate the South” (n.p.). According to this article, kudzu, an invasive species that is “aggressively damaging to biodiversity, economies, and ecosystems” (n.p.) covers an estimated 7.4 million acres of the Southeast and took off as an unchecked invasive species as people left rural areas for cities. Horn-Miller also covers projects designed to remediate the environment and make use of kudzu in Tennessee and North Carolina, focusing on the uses of kudzu for building materials and food.

Lost in the Brine by Miin Chan March 1, 2021. In this article, Chan recognizes the Whitewashing of fermented foods, noting “I’ve watched as many of the once-ridiculed ferments of my childhood have been declared not just acceptable, but trendy by white people eager to fetishize and commoditize them” (n.p.). The fermented products she mentions include kombucha, miso, sauerkraut and kimchi, and tepache. Chan writes of the overrepresentation of White producers in the market of fermented goods, writing “the fermentation industry in the West (meaning North America, the U.K., Europe, and Australasia) is dominated by mostly white fermenters, who often sell whitewashed BIPOC ferments and associated white-gaze narratives about these foods to mainly white consumers” (n.p.). This article contains commentary on sharing cultures as being mostly beneficial to White culture before launching into the history of fermented foods in the West. Chan recommends “looking more closely at the problems within our community: namely, cultural appropriation, the tailoring of certain ferments to suit white tastes, and the gatekeeping that disproportionately benefits (and is exercised by) white members of the industry” (n.p.), notes the barriers BIPOC fermenters face in introducing new products to the market, and advocates that the fermentation community become a model for the promotion of social justice within the food system. This is a long read but well worth the time if you’re interested in fermentation and food justice.

 

How Foraging for Edible Plants Helped Me Connect With My Roots by Zoe Yang August 20, 2022. In this article, the author explores the essence of foraging and its importance to indigenous foodways. In this particular story, she talks about the Mugwort plant and its significance to her Chinese heritage. The author takes us through her journey of foraging, which involves the awakening of her sensory organs, followed by sensemaking, and the moral responsibility of being a forager. Primal among her foraging lessons include learning how to see, name, taste, and remember the plants, additionally, she had to learn the histories and stories surrounding their existence. In her final words, the author bemoans the gaps in plant knowledge mainly due to the fact that most communities have stopped teaching children to identify plants by name, to pick it out of a patch of other plants, to know when it grows, what it smells like, and which parts of it are medicine, poison, or food. Hence, foraging presents a unique opportunity, particularly for immigrant communities to identify, harvest, and eat a part of their histories. 

In Michael Twitty’s Kitchen, There’s Room to Be Your Whole Self by Emily Baron Cadloff August 9, 2022. Michael Twitty is an author, chef, and food historian who proudly identifies as Black, Jewish, gay, and southern. We’ve highlighted Twitty and his work here before in 2020 and 2021. This piece from Modern Farmer covers Twitty’s new book Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew (2022). The book features stories and recipes that relate traditionally Jewish foods with African American soul food. The article discusses Twitty’s experience with code-switching and later learning to embrace his intersectionality. As the article describes, the book explores intersectional identity as well as the intersectionality of cuisines and cultures. 

Reinventing the Peach, the Pimento, and Regional Identity by Cynthia R. Greenlee 2022. This piece from Issues in Science and Technology follows the Elberta peach—the ‘industrial peach’ that became the emblematic ‘Georgia peach,’ originally bred by Samuel Rumph. Here, Greenlee describes the context and politics that led to the rise of the Georgia peach in the post-Civil War era. Rebuking the ideology of the South ‘lagging’ behind the North after the war because of lack of infrastructure and the idea that farmers in the South couldn’t keep up with northern producers, the southern ‘biotech innovators of the nineteenth century’ were determined to raise the reputation of southern agriculture. The article tells the story of how innovators like Rumph, with access to power and capital, honed their agribusiness skills and engaged in vertical integration to contribute to regional transformation, aided by marketers and state officials that contributed to the idea of commodities tied to and marketed by the state or region. This piece shares the history of the peach as a history of the remaking of the agricultural south after the Civil War, touching on the influence of the Morrill Act in 1962 establishing land grant universities and the Hatch Act seeding agricultural experiment stations. Following the story of the peach, this piece delves into the history of the pimento pepper with a similar emphasis on politics, power, social and cultural contexts, and professional and regional identities.

How the Sausage is Made: Notes on Craft and Context by Danille Elise Christensen with illustrations by Jessica Fontenot 2022. In this piece by Center Fellow Danille Christensen, Christensen explores the adjective ‘craft,’ and what it signifies when applied to food. She dives into the history and etymology of the word before noting the distinctions between ‘craft’ and its Old English cousin ‘cræft,’ used to indicate “a savvy resourcefulness, a combination of skill and ingenious adaptation” (n.p.). Using the distinction between craft and cræft, Christensen asks: “In a region in which cured hams and slow-cooked barbecue are beloved alongside ready-to-eat Vienna sausages and red hot dogs, whose craftiness counts when it comes to meat processing?(n.p.). Christensen unpacks concepts and labels like ‘artisanal,’ ‘authentic,’ and ‘processed.’ This piece is a deep reflection on regional identity and the craft of meat processing from the ‘master butchers,’ to preservation traditions of the hills of Appalachia, to the production of Spam.

Fried Okra, Beyond the Batter by Kayla Stewart July 11, 2022. Okra, and its significance within African American cuisine is highlighted in this piece from the New York Times. The article explores the okra to the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade through which Africans brought okra to the United States and explores okra within a West African context as well as within the context of the southern United States, always tying it within African, African American, and Black foodways.

Building a Juneteenth Menu for the 21st Century, One Recipe at a Time by Nicole Taylor June 6, 2022. This is an excerpt from Nicole A. Taylor’s book Watermelon and Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations. This excerpt in the New York Times tells of Juneteenth celebrations the author has attended in years past all across the country. She recalls the food at each of these occasions as offering an opportunity to “feast on food and freedom” (n.p.). Taylor shares her family’s story of racial oppression here, and how she her predecessors’ struggle close: “I set my weekly intentions knowing that my responsibility is to remember to fill my heart with gratitude, to say my ancestors’ names when the room is full and when nobody’s listening” (n.p.). the excerpt closes with an acknowledgment that the legacy of Juneteenth is one of Black joy and the possibility of leisure, as much as it is voting rights and desegregated buses.

‘Watermelon and Red Birds’ Offers a Guide to Juneteenth—and Black Celebration Culture by Lindsey Margaret Allen May 31, 2022. This article  from Civil Eats is about the newly published cookbook Watermelon and Red Birds by James Beard Award-nominated writer and producer, Nicole A. Taylor. The other article from the New York Times offers an excerpt from that book. This article tells a brief legacy of the holiday and notes that Taylor’s book offers insight into the different ways the holiday is observed and celebrated in Black communities across the country. A common thread that Taylor focuses on, the article explains, is “the importance of prioritizing community and joy in the face of a system that often creates a sense of hopelessness” (n.p.). The article includes an interview with the author about the inspirations for the book, and the messages and stories she chose to uplift.

How cooking, eating and harvesting beach greens ties a family together by Laureli Ivanoff May 27, 2022. This story from High Country News is one focused on a family’s connection to their Indigenous Foodways. Laureli Ivanoff, an Inupiaq writer and journalist from the small community of Unalakleet, Alaska, along the Bering Sea, shares a memory of processing beach greens with her grandmother. Here, Ivanoff, in beautiful prose, recognizes the immediacy of the need to learn and pass on Native foodways from elders to youth.

A Cook Who Never Used a Cookbook Now Has Hers by Kim Severson May 9, 2022. This article spotlights Emily Meggett, a cook and a native of the Gullah Geechee community in South Carolina. We’ve covered a couple of pieces about Geechee foodways in the past, including Reviving a Crop and an African-American Culture, Stalk by Stalk, also by Severson (2020, New York Times) and One Foot in the Soil and One in the Ocean, an excerpt from Bress ‘n’ Nyam (Matthew Raiford, 2021, Southern Foodways Alliance). This 2022 piece by Kim Severson in the New York Times calls attention to her new cookbook titled “Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes From the Matriarch of Edisto Island” with over 123 recipes. In the book, Mrs. Meggett shares the story of her life, her family, and her community and also provides some nuggets of wisdom to home cooks: “learn to be intuitive and pay attention to small but essential techniques, like not messing too much with your biscuit dough, or gauging the correct ratio of grain to liquid in a pot of red rice by the feel of the spoon when you stir” (n.p.). 

The Carnivore’s Dilemma by Finn Cohen May 2022. In this interview with Wyatt Williams, author of Springer Mountain: Meditations on Killing and Eating, Cohen aims to answer one central question: “If I have respect and empathy for other sentient beings, how can I also desire to eat them?” (n.p.). As Cohen explains in the introduction, Williams’s view has two intertwined themes. The first involves recognizing and accepting that humans have been omnivores throughout their evolution and that animals killing and eating other animals is an integral part of a natural cycle. The second theme implicates the industrial meat industry in the U.S which Williams views as inherently inhuman, with ‘radical reforms’ needed. The interview encompasses Williams’s reflections on the enjoyment of eating meat, the act of killing animals for food, the concept of the human as predator, and the excesses of meat consumption in the U.S, and his experience working at a slaughterhouse. Cohen and Williams also cover the industrial food system, hunting, the ways meat is classified and cuts are defined within the USDA’s Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications, cultural norms surrounding what is permissible meat and what is not, and vegetarianism. In this long-form piece, Cohen and Williams leave no stone unturned in their conversation about killing and eating animals as meat. This is an intensely reflective piece and is worth reading for anyone who has ever considered the relationship between humans and animals.

In the Smoke with Marie Jean by Adrian Miller March 18, 2022. This article highlights the contributions of African American women to the masculine world of barbecuing. In the article, we read that “For many people, barbecue and “Bro” culture often go hand-in-hand. It’s all about dudes mastering the primal art of cooking meat over wood. Yet, in African American barbecue culture, Black women are a deep part of the tradition” (n.p.). Marie Jean who is featured in the story was an enslaved woman who was able to purchase her freedom from the proceeds she made from a barbeque business in Arkansas in 1840. Because barbecue is often seen as a hyper-masculinized endeavor, Marie Jean’s legacy became widely known among residents in Pine Bluff, Arkansas where she lived and ran her barbeque business. Upon her death, her obituary revealed a fascinating reality of her importance in the community and it acknowledges Marie Jean’s prowess as a pitmaster—a barbeque expert. 

Not Today Seitan: Beyond a Plant-Based Lifestyle by Sarah Lazarovic March 18, 2022. This article highlights plant-based versus meat-based lifestyles with the author arguing for ways to move the conversation around plant-based lifestyle from a sentimental movement to a more pragmatic one. The author cites a recent study which states that “if the world were to end all meat and dairy production and transition to a plant-based food system over the next 15 years, it would prevent enough greenhouse gas emissions to effectively cancel out emissions from all other economic sectors for the next 30–50 years.” Lazarovic then argues that rather than chastising individuals for their choice of going meat or plant-based, proponents of plant-based lifestyle ought to provide empirical evidence that points to the health, climate, and economic benefits. Additionally, the author purports that the key forces that will de-meat individual diets must be market-driven and proposes three practical solutions. First, meat-free foods must cost less, meat products must cost more, and reconstructing/changing the narrative around plant- based diets. To her, ethical arguments such as animal cruelty do more harm than good in propelling the argument for a plant-based lifestyle forward. 

Hillbilly Elegy Doesn’t Reflect the Appalachia I Know by Cassie Chambers Armstrong November 29, 2020. This article pushes back on the narrative put forward by J.D. Vance in the book, Hillbilly Elegy, and in its new movie adaptation. The author, whose life followed a similar trajectory as Vance’s, denies Vance’s claims that Appalachia is a backwards place to escape from. Instead, Armstrong argues in favor of Appalachia’s vibrancy. She explains that “Hillbilly Elegy has to simplify the people and problems of Appalachia, because it has decided to tell the same old pull-yourself-up-by-your- bootstraps narrative that so many of us reject” (n.p.). This is an article about our region that emphasizes the sense of community and the vitality present in Appalachian communities often portrayed as irrelevant as well as economically and intellectually impoverished. As Armstrong wrote, “The way we portray struggling communities—and the people who inhabit them—matters” and denigrating Appalachian communities by falling into tired tropes that highlight their deficits is only going to set Appalachian communities back.

What Is the Future of Black Appalachia? By Oliver Whang September 26, 2020. Here, Whang explores the work of Ron and Jill Carson and the Appalachian African-American Cultural Center in Pennington Gap, Virginia. The article takes the form of an interview with the Carsons that covers the reasons they began the Cultural Center in Pennington Gap, the ways the work of the Center addresses racism and White privilege in their community, as well as how the Center has addressed the recent killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and how the Center has adapted its curriculum in light of current events. This is a brilliant interview with two important figures in Appalachian Virginia.

Black Appalachians find hope in national reckoning on race by Piper Hudspeth Blackburn September 29, 2020. This article covers legacies of racism and Black invisibility in Appalachia. Here Blackburn describes the efforts of individuals to increase the visibility of Black people within Appalachia, specifically through the new Black in Appalachia podcast. This is an important and concise article about the work that is being done to increase the recognition of diversity in Appalachia.

In a Nutshell: A Native Forage with Potential by Matt Dhillon November 14, 2021. “Anything corn can do, an acorn can do better” This article features the co-owner of Asheville Nuttery, Bill Whipple, who expounds on the nutritional, economic, and regenerative agroforestry potentials of native nuts such as acorns, walnuts, and hickory nuts. According to Whipple, these nuts have been neglected because growers may be unaware of economic potentials. From a nutritional perspective, he also offers these nuts as dietary substitutes for their annual counterparts, such as wheat and corn. As an agroforestry option, Whipple proposes a collective ownership model, where several growers collectively own nut tree orchards or farms to create generational food security and ecosystem sustainability. This article also provides an insightful outlet for value addition to otherwise neglected nuts; white oak flour, red oak oil, acorn oil, hickory nut oil and others. 

Elegy for a School: The Lunch Ladies Were My First Role Models in Social Justice by Silas House n.d. In this nostalgic peek into Silas House’s elementary school experience, House reflects on themes of social justice in the lunchroom. The ‘lunch ladies’ of the lunchroom embraced their rural Appalachian accents and colloquialisms, according to House, a significant divergence from the ‘proper English’ of the teachers who had graduated from college. House also recalls how lunch ladies provided extra food to the kids they knew were experiencing food insecurity at home and didn’t heed the typical social dynamics of the school where a class hierarchy existed. As House remembers, the lunch ladies “made us feel loved, that most important thing for a child. And what better act of loving than to feed someone?” (n.p.). In this beautiful remembrance of their child childhood lunchroom, Silas House brings out salient themes of equity and mutual aid. 

West Virginia Creates Jobs Farming Lavender at Former Coal Mines by Kris Maher August 28, 2021. Appalachian Botanical, a company that grows lavender on a former surface mine is at the center of this article from the Wall Street Journal. The company employs former mine workers, felons, and people recovering from drug addiction and has doubled in size in the past year. The company is unique in that it provides on-site counseling services for free and provides a meal for its workers every day. The article also discusses the origins of Appalachian Botanical, the idea for which began with a demonstration project funded by the Appalachia Regional Commission. The article also ouches on the diverse uses of former mining sites—including as sites for solar farms, aquaponics systems, or cabins for ATVing tourists, and explains the potential for the diversification and development of the West Virginia economy through these alternative enterprises. 

Growing Community, Growing Local Foods with Fritz Boettner by Christine Gyovai & Dialogue + Design Associates August 5, 2021. Fritz Boettner, the director of Food Systems Development at West Virginia University Center for Resilient Communities, is the guest on this episode of the Collective Resistance: We Rise Podcast. Boettner and host, Christine Gyovai discuss Boettner’s experience developing a grocery store in his home town where Boettner learned key tenets of resiliency when faced with unexpected bills and a devastating flood. Boettner also discusses the importance of having support from farmers, of understanding and meeting the needs of the community, and of shifting the paradigm from competition to cooperation. Be sure to check out the full podcast episode and show notes with loads of resources to learn more about Boettner and his efforts.

The Mountain Traditions Project by Michael O. Snyder June 8, 2021. Author Michael O. Snyder grew up on the Maryland-West Virginia line on land reclaimed from mining. He revisited the Appalachian region to produce an incredible series of photographs and vignettes that document Appalachian traditions—old and new—and the people carrying them out. In this series, Snydor captures the stories of a mountain dulcimer player and ballad singer, a rock climber, a barbecue pit master, a hemp farmer, an herbalist, a butcher, a morel hunter, a trapper, a cheesemaker, and a family farmer, among many others. This beautiful series captures the essence of Appalachia as well as the diversity of perspectives that make it up.

Black Writers and Poets Are Upending Stereotypes About Appalachia by Amy M. Alvarez and Jameka Hartley April 16, 2021. Here, Alvarez and Hartley describe the work of Black writers and poets in Appalachia who are working to upend the “single story” of Appalachian history, identity, and culture. Highlighting the work of Nikki Giovanni (based at Virginia Tech!), and others, the authors look at how writers and poets “wrestle with what it [means] to be both Black and Appalachian” (n.p.). They also bring up the term Affrilachian and describe the Black renaissance that it has spurred over the last 30 years. The article shares a stanza of a poem that embodies the metaphor of being Black in Appalachia and also talks about the future of Affrilachian culture.

A Huge New Chicken CAFO in West Virginia Has Stoked Community Resistance by Lisa Held Aprl 7, 2021. The construction of two large scale poultry farms in Hardy County, West Virginia is at the center of this article, as is the community’s response to it. According to the article, the two poultry operations that will hous close to a million chickens is owned by a private equity firm in North Carolina, with the birds supplying Pilgrim’s Pride. Community members worry the giant poultry operations could erode the health and quality of life of individuals who live nearby. The article reviews poultry farming in West Virginia, as well as residents’ concerns about poultry farming in their state and county. Last, the article points to the way forward for concerned residents and quotes a resident comparing the poultry industry to the coal industry who notes that similar to coal, with poultry jobs pitted against the environment and health, and that communities are often divided on the issue.

Catawba Sustainability Center sips a sweet mountain staple by Emily Maher April 1, 2021. This article from Virginia Tech News highlights the work of Center fellow Adam Taylor, manager of Virginia Tech’s Catawba Sustainability Center. The article describes Taylor’s efforts to carry on an Appalachian tradition at the Catawba Sustainability Center by researching sorghum and exploring whether it could be a viable crop for local farmers. This article contains a two-minute video describing the research and the process used to extract the sorghum’s sugary liquid and turn it into sorghum syrup. Maher also provides some background and context about sorghum farming in Appalachia as well as more information about how and where the sorghum grown at Catawba is processed.

Ventriloquism Appalachian Style by Max Stephenson March 22, 2021. Here, Dr. Stephenson examines themes uncovered in a talk given by Dr. Carmen Martinez Novo from the University of Florida. According to this blog post, Carmen Martinez Novo’s talk, entitled “Ventriloquism, Racism and the Politics of Decolonial Scholarship,” provided insight into a political performance termed ‘ventriloquism’ wherein—in the context of Ecuador, the focus of Dr. Martinez Novo’s talk—whites and Mestizos don the dress of local indigenous peoples in an effort to speak for and represent them, with the effect of the broader population deeming the performance to be ‘genuine.’ Dr. Stephenson writes “Whatever its social context, ventriloquism finds members of a dominant group that has chosen to discriminate against, or systematically has sought to silence, a minority socially and economically, while purporting to speak for members of that group” (n.p.) and relates this practice to that imposed upon the peoples of Appalachia. He gives examples of the ways ventriloquism has been used to subjugate and marginalize Appalachians including through the ways that the coal industry “speak[s] for” Appalachians, highlighting comments given by Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association and exposing the ventriloquism embedded within them. Stephenson closes with a call for respect, truth, equality, and freedom, without the meddling of ventriloquism from those seeking to “speak for” and (mis)represent marginalized groups.

A Survival Center Tries to Survive the Pandemic by Oliver Whang February 16, 2021. Harlan County, Kentucky is one of the most food insecure and impoverished in the U.S., according to this article. Here, Oliver Whang reports on the efforts of Bobby Simpson, a Harlan County-native whose mutual aid efforts in the county date back to the 1970s. He addresses food insecurity and poverty in the county by operating a Survival Center that distributes food and other items to residents in need with no bureaucratic oversight. Because of the lack of bureaucracy, the Survival Center operates on a principle of trust and Bobby Simpson and his late wife have served as “good neighbors for the whole county” (n.p.), as Whang put it. This article captures the state of affairs for Harlan County and the Cranks Creek Survival Center in the context of the pandemic.

Living with natural gas pipelines: Appalachian landowners describe fear, anxiety and loss by Erin Brock Carlson and Martina Angela Caretta February 3, 2021. This article describes the recent expansion of natural gas pipelines in Appalachia. Here, the authors describe their work collecting the stories of those who live along these pipelines’ paths. According to the article, the stories collected are those of stress and uncertainty, fear and loss. The article captures the enduring legacy of extractive industries in the region and discusses the fatalistic attitude many adopt in response to energy development in their communities.

Rewriting the Story of Race in Appalachia by Ashton Marra January 4, 2021. This article highlights the Black in Appalachia podcast which “narrates the Black experience in Appalachia and the long history of Black communities in the region” (n.p.). The article features an interview with one of the creators of the podcast, Dr. Enkeshi El-Amin. In the interview, El-Amin recounts the beginnings of the podcast, the history of Black Appalachians, perceptions of the region as overwhelmingly White and the impact that has on Black people living in Appalachia, and the roles of ideology and language in shifting and solidifying narratives and beliefs. They highlight a few specific stories and podcast episodes and delve into their backstories.

Pawpaws are America’s hidden edible treasure. Here’s how to pick them. by Cari Shane August 22, 2022. We’re excited to see the pawpaw, a fruit-bearing tree and fruit native to Virginia and central to the cultural history of the Appalachian region being featured and celebrated in National Geographic. The piece explains why the pawpaw “disappeared from the American consciousness” after being exalted as America’s most likely crop to succeed in 1916. Here, we learn of the pawpaw’s arrival in North America, as well of its significance to Native Americans, with Sean Sherman (of The Sioux Chef based in Minneapolis) noting that the pawpaws disappearance, both in the landscape and in the American consciousness is related to the marginalization and violence wrought on Native American communities. This article explains the disappearance of the pawpaw as associated with colonization and deforestation for farming. This piece highlights the pawpaw research program, led by Dr. Kirk Pomper at Kentucky State University, along with perspectives of colleagues at KYSU and the University of Maryland. Read the piece to learn about the cultural history of the pawpaw within Native and non-Native communities in Appalachia.

Kentucky’s Floods Took Appalachian History With Them by Remy Tumin August 4, 2022. If you live in the central Appalachian region, you’ve probably come across Appalshop located in eastern Kentucky. Appalshop, established in 1969, has long been a center for Appalachian cultural heritage and storytelling through film, music, theatre, and other artistic avenues. As staff member, Meredith Scalos described it, ““Appalshop has been always more of an idea in making people feel it’s OK to be proud to be Appalachian” (n.p.). Appalshop has been hit hard by the recent flooding in eastern Kentucky. Appalshop serves as a repository for archives of Appalachian stories captured in cabinets and film reels now destroyed by water and mud. Appalshop also housed art and instruments representative of the region which have been severely damaged or destroyed by the flooding event. This story provides details on the extent of the damage, but also the resilience demonstrated by Appalshop staff and over 50 volunteers who have come to help rescue archival pieces. As this piece shares, Appalshop has taken a forward role in organizing mutual aid efforts in the region despite the hit to their archives and building.

Christiansburg Institute, University Libraries Collaborate to Preserve Appalachian African American Storytelling, History by Ann Brown July 7, 2022. To uplift the exciting work happening in the Appalachian region in Virginia, we share this piece on the collaboration between the Christiansburg Institute and the University Libraries at Virginia Tech to tell the rich history and culture of Appalachian African American storytelling. The project titled “Changing the Narrative: Modeling Equitable Stewardship of African American Storytelling and History” will digitize stories, photos, and documents of Christiansburg Industrial Institute—the first high school in Southwest Virginia to educate people who were formerly enslaved (1866-1966). 

All My People Come from The Hills: In Celebration of bell hooks: Three Poems from ‘Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place.’ by Alysia Nicole Harris January 25, 2022. This article from Scalawag Magazine honors the works and life of bell hooks. The article features three poems from hooks’ Appalachian Elegy collection (numbers 6, 4, and 57). Recounting hooks' life, the author observed the significance of her contributions to society and the Black community specifically. To her, hooks was one of the rare folks who became an ancestor before her death; hence her death is a huge loss. “bell challenged the will—and the won’t—within all of us. She was a master of speaking the truth in love, accomplishing it with such simple conviction...” (Harris, 2022, n.p.). 

Migrant Workers Restricted to Farms Under One Grower’s Virus Lockdown by Miriam Jordan October 19, 2020. This article from the New York Times shares the story of Mexican farmworkers employed by a large tomato enterprise in the Eastern Shore of Virginia. This disturbing account explains the ways Lipman Family Farms has sought to control the incidence of coronavirus outbreaks among their employees by forcing them into lockdown. As the article explains, “The large tomato enterprise has been able to impose the restrictions on its workers because they are beholden to the company for their visa, housing and wages” (n.p.). There are harsh repercussions for breaking the enforced lockdown as doing so would result in being fired and sent back to Mexico, resulting in the loss of pay and future opportunity to work in the U.S. According to farmworkers, the lockdown has made the worksite feel more like a ‘prison.’ This is an important read about Virginia agriculture and the ethical implications of reducing coronavirus through the use of an enforced lockdown, one that would not be possible with more enfranchised workers.

Art, With A Side Of Food Justice, At Institute for Contemporary Art At Virginia Commonwealth University by Chadd Scott October 15, 2020. In this story from Forbes, Scott details a project designed by Richmond, Virginia-based activist Duron Chavis. In this project, Chavis has created his ‘resiliency gardens’ in a vacant lot adjacent to the Institute for Contemporary Art in Richmond. The purpose of this effort is to highlight the issue of food security as well as the significance of Black and brown community spaces that are designed for and by Black and brown people. The resiliency gardens installation includes a wall with a mural featuring the message “Black Space Matters.” This article highlights activism in Richmond and is worth reading.

Food Justice: What is it and how can we fix it by Megan Woods October 6, 2020. This article highlights work of the Virginia Tech Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation in partnership with Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP) based in Roanoke. Here, Woods builds on quotes from community members and Center and LEAP staff to explore the meaning and implications of food deserts, themes of food justice, and mechanisms and strategies to break down barriers to food access and food security. The article highlights LEAP’s mobile market in combating food insecurity as well as the importance of listening and responding to community needs, rather than simply prescribing solutions.

The Market of Virginia Tech helps provide healthy food to students in need by Albert Raboteau September 29, 2020. This article discusses the issue of food insecurity on college campuses, with attention paid to a study completed on the topic on Virginia Tech’s campus last year. Raboteau covers Virginia Tech’s efforts to mitigate student food insecurity and the receipt of a generous gift that allowed the Blacksburg campus to open ‘The Market of Virginia Tech,’ a free online ordering system which provides students in need with a week’s worth of fresh ingredients for healthy and satisfying meals. The article shares quotes from students who have experienced hunger and who have taken advantage of the new Market and it profiles the donors who made the market possible.

What Is the Future of Black Appalachia? By Oliver Whang September 26, 2020. Here, Whang explores the work of Ron and Jill Carson and the Appalachian African-American Cultural Center in Pennington Gap, Virginia. The article takes the form of an interview with the Carsons that covers the reasons they began the Cultural Center in Pennington Gap, the ways the work of the Center addresses racism and White privilege in their community, as well as how the Center has addressed the recent killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and how the Center has adapted its curriculum in light of current events. This is a brilliant interview with two important figures in Appalachian Virginia.

Native American capital among 11 most endangered historic sites by Andrew Lawler September 24, 2020. Here’s an article on land sovereignty in Virginia. This article discusses the ancient capital of the Monacan tribe and the fight to avoid a new pumping station being installed in a location that would jeopardize and endanger the ancient site. This National Geographic article outlines the history of Monacan resistance to invading colonizers and discusses the contemporary development of a water pumping station that would accommodate the increasing population of Louisa and Fluvanna Counties. This article follows the back-and-forth between the tribe and the water authority and underscores the need to recognize the land sovereignty issues present in our own state.

Meet One Farmer Who Left His Tech Job To Transform Northern Virginia's Agroscape by Tonya Mosley and Allison Hagan August 10, 2020. This interview with Chris Newman of Syvanaqua Farms tells the story of a man who left a career in tech to farm in Northern Virginia. His farm is mission-driven, seeing himself first as a water and land protector and a farmer second. In this interview, Newman discusses the transition from tech to agriculture, the practices he uses on his farm, and the ancestral knowledge that shapes his worldview being of both Black and Piscataway heritage. The discussion also highlights farm profitability for beginning farmers, indigenous land management, and Black and Indigenous preconceptions of agriculture, and issues within the food system and food value chain more generally, including issues of access and privilege.

Sowing Seeds of Hope During COVID-19 by Bonnie Newman Davis April 28, 2020. This article follows the work of Duron Chavis, a Richmond food justice advocate who has received national recognition for his efforts. After losing his job at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden due to COVID-19, Chavis immediately devoted himself to grassroots activism launching a Facebook fundraiser to support Resiliency Gardens. This article describes Chavis’s work and fundraising efforts, shares his story, and includes a poem written by Chavis.

Air Pollution from a Virginia Land Fill is Making Residents Sick. Officials Won’t Call it an Emergency by Sarah Wade December 1, 2021. The Twin Cities of Bristol, VA, and Bristol, TN take center stage in this article. The author shares the stories of the residents of the twin cities who are living with environmental pollution in the form of a landfill. HOPE for Bristol, a non-profit organization and other activist groups are organizing to protest and demand justice for the residents. The article highlights the some of the injust conditions that low wealth communities are subjected to. According to the article, residents, particularly children, have had numerous emergency room visits for severe sore throats, headaches, coughs, and other respiratory ailments. For those who cannot afford air purifiers, they resort to gas masks. The predominant cause of the pollutants, as observed by the residents, are structural defects of the landfill causing excessive subsurface heating of trash above the permitted temperature, pooling of waste water on landfill base, and toxic gases filtering into the atmosphere. Thus, creating a state of emergency in this community. 

At Colonial Williamsburg, a ‘Landscape of Resistance’ Is Thriving Once Again by Omnia Saed November 9, 2021. Michael Twitty’s work in food as ancestral inheritance is featured in this article from Atlas Obscura. An article that highlights a Virginia-based project, the revival of the Sankofa Heritage Garden, an enslaved people’s garden in Colonial Williamsburg is the focus here. This garden, which Twitty helped to install, pays homage to those enslaved in Williamsburg in the 1600s and 1700s by reviving their farming and gardening practices through a demonstration plot located within Colonial Williamsburg. The importance of featuring the African and Afro-Creole legacy on a place like Williamsburg is essential because of the largescale erasure of African American culture and history that has long-existed in contemporary living museums and other sites. This article explains the origins of the idea for the Sankofa Heritage Garden in Colonial Williamsburg, the research required to revive the practices used by enslaved people in Williamsburg, and the success of the garden in communicating the importance of African-American farming practices to the museum’s visitors. 

In Southwest Virginia, farmers and brewers hope for a grain renaissance by Sarah Vogelsong September 14, 2021. ‘Appalachian Grains’ could help to revitalize the Virginia coalfields region, according to this article. With reference to expanding breweries in the region and the state, a coalition of agencies and organizations have been advocating for Southwest Virginia o be the “primary state source of specialty grains for Virginia’s craft beverage industry” (n.p.). The article discusses the history of the region’s relationship to alcohol, as well as its history as a grain-growing region. The grains to be grown here would be marketed under the brand ‘Appalachian Grains.’ The benefits to breweries include increased consumer interest in locally sourced products as well as reduced transportation costs. Processing, however, remains a bottleneck that continues to thwart the project’s supporters.

New skilled meat cutter training program will help region’s meat processors serve Virginia cattle farmers by Cindy Sabato August 3, 2021. Here’s a quick press release about a new meat-cutter training program to be offered by the Rappahannock Center for Education, in Rappahannock County, Virginia beginning late fall 2021. The press release explains that a study launched by the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) and conducted in partnership with American Farmland Trust (AFT) examined the effects of the pandemic on the local food system, and found that when, early in the pandemic, many larger meat processors shut down, there was a surge in demand for smaller Piedmont-area processors. According to the article, part of PEC’s mission is to “protect and promote the Piedmont’s agricultural economy” (n.p.). One result of the PEC and AFT study is the development of this new meat-cutter training program to help small processors in the Piedmont keep up with demand. Another outcome of the study has been the creation of an interactive asset map of local meat processors. Last, the press release notes that Virginia Tech and Virginia State University are now conducting a statewide survey of all producers in Virginia and are interested in offering the meat-cutter training program in other locations as well.

Urban Farm in Virginia Aims to Reduce Food Insecurity by the Associated Press July 25, 2021. The work of nonprofit, Hampton Roads Urban Agriculture, is at the center of this article. Hampton Roads Urban Agriculture works to “reduce food insecurity through farming and educational programming” (n.p.). the nonprofit operates a farm in partnership with Zion Baptist Church in Newport News and plans to open its first farmers market on August 14th where they will accept SNAP and EBT payments. The nonprofit’s goal is “to empower food-insecure communities to create and maintain access to healthy food” (n.p.), and this article describes the myriad ways the nonprofit is working toward that goal. 

Touching the Earth by Eileen Mellon This article is about Duron Chavis, Virginia food justice activist and leader. This article highlights Chavis’s four-week farming bootcamp program and the Resiliency Garden Initiative he created. The author also touches on Chavis’s nonprofit organization based on Happily Natural Day—a festival celebrating holistic health and social change. This article captures the many activities Chavis is involved in. Chavis is truly an inspiration and this article is not to be missed.

Virginia dairy farm hoping for a miracle to keep their doors open by Wayne Covil July 20, 2021. This article covers Richlands Dairy in Dinwiddie County, Virginia and its struggle to stay afloat amidst natural disaster, the pandemic, and the day-to-day expenses of running a family business. This article echoes the stories of many family farms in the U.S., with rising prices of feed and fuel, and the constant difficulty of price fluctuations—especially in the dairy industry where cost of production can exceed the price farmers get for their milk. The article also shares a link to a GoFundMe page for the farm if you feel called to support them.

Rooted in History: Virginia farmer fights food insecurity through sustainable, African-American techniques by Alex Littlehales June 30, 2021. Mighty Thundercloud Edible Forest—a farm on the Eastern Shore of Virginia—is cultivating using only African-American and sustainable farming practices. This article talks of the state of Black farmers in America while telling the story of Thelonious Cook, the farmer at the helm of Mighty Thundercloud Edible Forest. During the pandemic, Cook partnered with Ronjeanna Harris who began making cooked meals for folks in need. This article ties in Harris’s story along with the state of food insecurity amidst the pandemic. This article comes alongside two short videos of Cook and his Hampton Roads plot and Mighty Thundercloud Edible Forest.

Food for All by Layla Khoury-Hanold May/June, 2021. In this local article from The Roanoker, Layla Khoury-Hanold deciphers the terms food security and food access in the context of the community of Roanoke, Virginia. With interviews from an extension agent, the Rescue Mission’s Director of Development, and the Executive Director of Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP), this article showcases the food security, and food access situation in the city of Roanoke, and discusses the efforts of organizations like the Mission, Feeding Southwest Virginia, and LEAP to improve food access in the city and also touches on the importance of having culturally appropriate food. The article also touches on the five community gardens LEAP manages and their contribution to the food access scene and to community building overall. This article also contains a bulleted list of ways individual citizens can help.

Catawba Sustainability Center sips a sweet mountain staple by Emily Maher April 1, 2021. This article from Virginia Tech News highlights the work of Center fellow Adam Taylor, manager of Virginia Tech’s Catawba Sustainability Center. The article describes Taylor’s efforts to carry on an Appalachian tradition at the Catawba Sustainability Center by researching sorghum and exploring whether it could be a viable crop for local farmers. This article contains a two-minute video describing the research and the process used to extract the sorghum’s sugary liquid and turn it into sorghum syrup. Maher also provides some background and context about sorghum farming in Appalachia as well as more information about how and where the sorghum grown at Catawba is processed.

Returning to his roots: Award-winning Carter brings Africulture to Orange County farm by Morgan Edwards March 26, 2021. This article is about Michael Carter Jr., a Center fellow and Virginia food systems changemaker. Here, we learn more about Michael Carter Jr., his life, his influences, and his aspirations. This article also discusses Africulture—“an organic agriculture practice based around growing African vegetables and crops” (n.p.). Here, Morgan explains that Carter’s aspires to make Africulture more mainstream and “to create a teaching farm that educates visitors on the numerous achievements of African American farmers and inventors” (n.p.). Here we learn all about Carter’s life and experiences, from Caroline County, Virginia to Ghana in West Africa, and then to Orange County, Virginia. The article covers the disparities in equity that Black farmers in this country face: quoting Michael Carter Jr. “Africulture focuses on this problem because we hold workshops, training, and counseling on racial equity and understanding. You have to put it in terms that people can understand. For me, I like to engage individuals who might be ignorant, because the best way to treat someone who is ignorant is to give them knowledge” (n.p.). Also mentioned are the rising age of farmers and the barriers that new farmers face, like access to land, as well as the difficulties imposed by the COVD-19 pandemic. This is a broad ranging article and an important one to learn about a rising leader in Virginia’s agriculture and racial equity scenes.

Op-ed: $4 Billion in Debt Relief Is a Start, but the Fight is Not Over for Black Farmers by John Boyd March 16, 2021. This article frames the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act as “the first step on the long road to justice” (n.p.). This article offers a firsthand account from a Black farmer in Virginia. He traces his family’s agricultural history and his own experience seeking resources to help sustain his farm—and the racist people and policies he met in doing so. This inspired the author to help start the National Black Farmers Association to confront the systemic racism he encountered. Here, the author traces the history of organizing beginning with that of the mid-1990s and the settlement of Pigford v. Glickman. This article makes an effective claim that the recently passed Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act is an early victory in a long and continuing fight for justice.

Yes We Can: The Rise, Fall, and Potential Rebirth of Municipal Canning by Nhatt Nichols August 10, 2022. In this comic on municipal canning facilities, graphic journalist, Nhatt Nichols illustrates the efforts of rural counties and nonprofit leaders to revive and revitalize community canneries. As the article explains, municipal canneries were common and popular during the first half of the 20th century, there are only a few left now—mostly in Virginia, Georgia, and Florida. The comic explains the reasons for the closure of one of these sites in Hanover County, Virignia. It also mentions a site in Carroll County, Virginia along with the work of Virginia Foodworks at the municipal canning facility in Prince Edward County, Virginia.

Virginia Communities Are Taking Food Justice Into Their Own Hands by Christiana Lilly February 12, 2022. As Martinsville Vice Mayor and Center Fellow, Chad Martin points out in this article, food security is a complex issue. He shares his dream of cultivating community gardens that address the lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables in low-income neighborhoods facing food apartheid. In uplifting the role of community gardens in this work, this piece spotlights the works of two of our Center’s affiliates and members of the Racial Equity in Agriculture Lab (REAL) team; Duron Chavis the director of Happily Natural Day and Shantell Bingham, former program director of Cultivate Charlottesville’s Food Justice Network. The article shares how these two Virginians are harnessing their skills in cultivating and growing a healthy community by emphasizing themes related to the intersections of food security, community gardens, health and education.

The Big Tomato by Emily Wallace June 25, 2022. This piece from Emily Wallace for Southern Foodways Alliance remembers community canneries in Virginia and the artists employed by the Piedmont Label Company who created bright, vivid labels for tomato growers in the early 1900’s. The piece tracks the history of community canneries in Virginia, the changes that brought in supermarkets to replace corner stores (thus requiring those bright, vivid labels to stand out on the shelves), and then the rapid changes both in Virginia tomato production and in U.S. produce markets that shifted the focus of the Piedmont Label Company toward new outlets further afield, while still keeping a number of artists from across the country employed in Bedford, Virginia. This story reveals the intertwined paths of agriculture, food, retail, and art. Now many of the original labels are held by the Library of Virginia and by the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum. This piece showcases several of the labels it describes.

Understanding the Relationship between Food Security and Mental Health for Food-Insecure Mothers in Virginia by Rachel A Liebe, Leah M. Adams, Valisa E. Hendrick, Elena L. Serrano, Kathleen J. Porter, Natalie E. Cook, and Sarah A. Misyak 2022. In this article, the authors sought to examine the relationship between food insecurity and mental health, particularly among mothers. Their study further aimed to understand the different mental health outcomes mothers faced based on the severity of their food insecurity and also by race in Virginia. This study suggests that food-insecure mothers experience stressors and lack adequate social support, which is even more distinct for mothers experiencing very low food security. The authors noted that the participants who identified as Black had better overall mental health and fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression than those who identified as White. This finding was however not consistent with existing literature. Their study also found that, fewer people who identified as Black reported high stress than expected, which was again not consistent with existing literature that suggests that people who identify as Black often experience higher levels of chronic stress, including stress from systemic racism. The authors conclude by suggesting better ways of improving maternal mental health and food security. They also suggest that a framework needs to be developed to explain the relationship between food security and mental health and the factors that may be impacting both relationships.

Bringing barley back by Mary Hardbarger June 29, 2022. This is an article on the potential for grain cultivation to enhance economic vitality in the coalfields region of Southwest Virginia. We featured another article on this topic in the fall of 2021. This article highlights the contributions of Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty in this effort. Professor Wade Thomason, who specializes in specialty grains, has partnered with Coalfield Strategies and the Virginia Department of Energy to identify ‘Thoroughbred,’ a barley variety developed by Virginia Tech researchers in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, as a potential solution to economic decline in the Coalfields. ‘Project Thoroughbred,’ as the effort has become known, is led by a team of public and private stakeholders working in tandem with Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension. This article looks briefly at barley’s history and utility, and the barley breeding program at Virginia Tech, before delving into it’s application for the economic revitalization of the Coalfields through Project Thoroughbred, and a partner project, Appalachian Grains, which focuses on marketing Southwest Virginia-grown barley to the beer brewing industry. This article tells the story of a successful partnership project between Virginia Tech, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and community stakeholders to revitalize an underserved region, read the article to learn the details of the project as well as the vision for the effort’s future.

Celebrating by planting seeds by Myrna Brown June 16, 2022. This is a piece that celebrates a 21st-century Virginian farmer and our very own Center Fellow Mr. Michael Carter Jr and his family’s century farm during the Juneteenth commemoration. In his interview with the World radio, he shares his family’s unique history and participation in the civil war and also shares the thrilling story behind the family’s 150-acre farm purchased in 1910 for $750. To Mr. Carter, the Juneteenth celebrations present a great opportunity to plant seeds of the rich history of African Americans particularly those who fought to ensure that their communities and families are nourished. He adds, “Land is a forever asset. We acquired this land for $722.05 one hundred years ago. There’s not too many purchases that can be made in 1910 that can have the value that this land has presently. I’m planting seeds and when you plant seeds in children, eventually they come back.” (Brown, 2022, n. p).

LEAP Expands Access to Healthy Food in West End Community by LEAP  June 9, 2021. This article highlights the Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP) and their contributions to expanding healthy food access in Roanoke’s West End neighborhood. Part of the organization’s mission is to create a space for a food hub, a food processing operation, a community space, a fresh food retail outlet, a farmers’ market, and office space. According to the article, the retail space will serve the community folks who participate in SNAP to have access to healthy fruits and vegetables. The farmers’ market outlets that will benefit from this initiative include the Roanoke Co+op, Historic Roanoke City Market, Grandin Village Farmers Market, West End Farmers Market, LEAP Mobile Market, Salem Farmers Market, Blacksburg Farmers Market, Floyd Farmers Market, Glade Road Growing, Feeding SW Virginia Mobile Marketplace, Rocky Mount Farmers Market, and more. 

Roanoke Urban Garden Cultivating ‘Food and Mood’ by Emma Coleman May 5, 2022. This article highlights the works of the  Harvest Collective, a non-profit located in Roanoke in the construction of a youth-focused community garden. This project forms part of the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s urban and community garden initiative. Which sort to teach the youth how to grow and eat fresh fruits and vegetables. With funding from the Virginia Cooperative Extension, the founders of the Harvest Collective are collaborating with other local organizations to develop programs that nourish both the mind and body of the youth. Some of the programming feature classrooms for financial literacy training, a computer lab for job searching, a kitchen for cooking classes, and quiet spaces to promote mental wellness. According to Davey Stewards, co-founder of the organization, their programs will also incorporate the arts, mental wellness, and cooking.

A Preliminary Evaluation of Virginia Fresh Match: Impacts and Demographic Considerations for Future Fruit and Vegetable Incentive Programs by Sarah A. Misyak, Molly K. Parker, Meredith Ledlie Johnson, Sam Hedges, Elizabeth Borst, Maureen McNamara Best, and Valisa E. Hedrick 2022. This communication piece presents the results from a preliminary evaluation of the Virginia Fresh Match (VFM) financial incentive program for fresh fruits and vegetables for the Virginia Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The objective was to determine the variability and differences in incentive outcomes by race, gender, and household status before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers administered questionnaires to shoppers at participating farmers markets and community-based food retail outlets. They found that regardless of race, gender, or household status shoppers using VFM incentives increased their frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption. They however found that more white shoppers with lower food security status saw VFM incentives at farmers markets and community-based retail stores as viable food access options for fresh fruits and vegetables while shoppers from racial minority groups experiencing lower levels of food security did not. The authors provide recommendations for the administration of VFM to avoid reinforcing systems that may contribute to disparities in food access and food security in Virginia.

Urban farm set to grow in Roanoke food desert by Megan Schnabel April 11, 2022. This article is about Garden Variety Harvests and Cameron Terry’s role in developing a farm in the middle of a Roanoke food desert. This land will be held by the Southwest Virginia Agrarian Commons, described in this article as “the local arm of a national initiative designed to provide access to land to the next generation of farmers” (n. p.). The article from Cardinal News describes the site and what is growing there, as well as Terry’s plans to sell produce from the site or begin a Community Supported Agriculture program on the site in the future. The article also provides background and context about Agrarian Trust and Agrarian Commons and provides a history of this particular plot, now held by Agrarian Commons, as the former Lick Run Farm and Community Market. It also discusses LEAP’s involvement as a Roanoke nonprofit aimed to enhance and strengthen the local food system (and also a partner of the Center)—LEAP has contributed significant funds to the project through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Food Insecurity and Mental Health in Virginia by Rachel Nelson, Sarah Misyak, and Elena Serrano 2022. This recently published report from Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program shares timely findings from a study conducted to assess the physical and mental health of mothers experiencing food insecurity in Virginia. For this study, a food security and mental health survey was developed by researchers at Virginia Tech and George Mason University. There were 1028 responses to the survey between August 9, 2021 and October 27, 2021. The study showed that, overall, respondents consistently reported worse mental health than the US average across all measures of mental health and illness. Specifically, over half of respondents reported experiencing high levels of stress with the prevalence of symptoms of both anxiety and depression above the average for the US population. These preliminary findings highlight the need for further investigation into the relationship between food insecurity and mental health outcomes, especially focusing on the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Virginia’s Wine Industry is Expanding. Grape-Growing Hasn’t Caught Up by Kate Masters January 3, 2022. Despite the boom in consumers’ preference for Virginia wine, Virginia's vineyard acreage hasn’t kept pace, according to this article. The Wine Board of Virginia has begun a data collecting process to determine the exact number of additional vines the state needs to keep up with demand. As the demand for locally grown grapes continues to boom, there is an attention has shifted to Southern and Southwest Virginia as potential hotspots for vines. The article also highlights grants and funding opportunities that are available for incoming grape vine growers to offset their start-up costs. The author also shares some of the challenges that growers are likely to contend with.

 

Reviving a Crop and an African-American Culture, Stalk by Stalk by Kim Severson December 8, 2020. Here, Severson profiles the people responsible for revitalizing the cane syrup industry on Sapelo Island in Georgia in an effort to preserve Salt Water Geechee culture and provide fiscal protection for the land, which has been lost at a rapid clip to property developers or to pay tax bills (details linked in the article). The article describes the process of bringing back a heritage variety of sugar cane to the island and of producing cane syrup. The article is full of vivid images of the process and the island and is worth a glance to learn about food and land sovereignty for a group of people who can trace their heritage back to a group of 400 enslaved West Africans who were brought to the island to cultivate the exact type of sugarcane that their ancestors are now producing once again.

When Only Homegrown Sweet Potatoes Will Do by Nicole Taylor November 17, 2020. In this article, Taylor shares the significance of a homegrown sweet potato for many southerners. This article is timely in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday. Here we learn about southern traditions and the importance of place-basedness in a fun and uplifting article.

The Black Church Food Security Network Aims to Heal the Land and Heal the Soul by Amy Frykholm November 10, 2020. This is an interview with Heber Brown III, founder of the Black Church Food Security Network. We’re thrilled to feature this piece today because we’ve been following Brown’s work for a while now. According to the article, the Black Church Food Security Network aims to catalyze the strength of Black communities to improve health and well-being. In this interview, Brown discusses the founding of the Black Church Food Security Network, the reasons why he chose to set up a network rather than a food charity and the ways the Black Church Food Security Network has developed since its founding. Frykholm and Brown also discuss Brown’s background and his agricultural heritage, as well as the spirituality that guides his work. This is an excellent interview with a leader in Black food security and food sovereignty and is not to be missed.

The Promise of Pawpaw by Rachel Wharton October 19, 2020. This article draws attention to the pawpaw, an elusive fruit native to North America which can usually only be found at farmers markets or on local online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook. Here, the pawpaw is held to be an emblem of resistance and self-sufficiency, tied to food insecurity both historic and contemporary. Wharton, the article’s author discusses pawpaw cultivation in urban areas as well as in rural areas with a nod to their role in food sovereignty, and particularly indigenous food sovereignty.

Fire Drill by Gilda Di Carli August 19, 2020. This article covers the environmental injustices wreaked by the annual sugarcane harvest. As the author describes, “before harvesting, leaves around the cane are ignited and burnt off like newspaper, revealing the sugar-rich stalks, which are about 70 percent water. This decades-old practice fills the air with smoke, soot, and ash. The result is the kind of particulate matter pollution that has been linked to a litany of adverse health effects — including, most recently, a heightened risk of dying from COVID-19” (n.p.). The article, which includes photos of the burning cane fields and the ash the fires leave behind, describes the damaging health effects that impact the predominantly Black community of Belle Glade, Florida. This is a story of the quest for environmental justice and the marginalization of a Black community by the sugar industry and is absolutely worth reading.

Delta Fresh Foods Is Bringing Food Security to Northern Mississippi by Nadra Nittle October 27, 2021. The Delta Fresh Foods Initiative is designed to combat food insecurity in Mississippi, a state with some of the nation’s most fertile soil and also some of the nation’s highest rates of poverty and food insecurity. In this article, we learn from Delta Fresh co-founder, Julian D. Miller about Delta Fresh’s programming and the importance of integrating young people into food systems advocacy work. Miller also reflects on the link between food justice and civil rights. In an interview, Miller discusses the origin story behind Delta Fresh, its goals and vision, its partnership with Tougaloo College, a historically Black college in Jackson, Mississippi, as well as the legacy of slavery and economic injustice that explains why Mississippi is so hard hit by poverty and food insecurity, despite its fertile soil.

Can the iconic Georgia peach keep growing in a warming South? by Sarah Gibbens September 28, 2021. This article examines the Georgia peach, which, like all peaches, requires cold winter temperatures to produce fruit each spring—a growing challenge in a changing climate. According to the article, winter temperatures in Georgia have risen by five degrees Fahrenheit since 1960, a trend that is expected to continue as the earth warms. This article from National Geographic is complete with images that depict Georgian’s fascination with peaches, including photos from the Georgia Peach Festival which takes place each year in Fort Valley, Georgia as well as photos of peach production and processing, and the researchers exploring the Georgia peach’s viability in a changing climate. The authors also explain the research efforts currently underway to protect the future of the Georgia peach—for example, examining peach DNA to identify a new variety that may require fewer ‘chill hours’ to produce fruit. 

USDA puts $67 million to new program for heirs’ property owners by Leah Douglas July 29, 2021. Here, Leah Douglas explains heirs’ property which predominantly effects African American, Indigenous, and Appalachian families. Heirs’ property, which occurs when a landowner dies without a will and the heirs inherit the land without a clear title, is a major cause of Black land loss in the South because one heir of many can force the sale of the land and families with heirs’ property have been targeted by predatory developers who approach one heir and force the sale from all. This article discusses the $67 million package aimed to create the new Heirs’ Property Relending Program (HPRP). The money will be directed toward families’ ability to clear their titles by buying out other heirs’ shares, for legal appraisal, or other costs associated with title reconciliation.

Summer’s Greatest Prize: Watermelons, With Seeds, Please by Nicole Taylor June 7, 2021. In this article, Taylor captures the significance of the humble watermelon to summertime, and to Black families celebrating Juneteenth. Taylor talks of avoiding seedless varieties of watermelon, with preference given to heirloom varieties with seeds. We learn of the tradition of the “melon man” (n.p.) who peddles watermelons varieties that can’t be found in stores. We meet the growers who produce the coveted varieties like jubilee, rattlesnake, and moon and stars and learn how they prefer to eat them. This article has some great photos and shares the practices of new and established farmers and food entrepreneurs.

A history of groundbreaking reporting on the South's poultry industry by Olivia Paschal June 1, 2021. This article revisits an investigative report on the South’s poultry industry from 1989 and looks at more recent reporting on the poultry industry amidst the pandemic. The article notes the differences and similarities between the reports, noting “One thing that has changed is the demographic makeup of the South's poultry workforce — but the industry still relies on people with little economic or political power to produce the meat that earns it billions of dollars a year” (n.p.). This article gives an overview of the South’s poultry industry noting that the “the country's five largest poultry processing states, by number of workers, are in the region” (n.p.). It discusses the poor labor conditions associated with work in the poultry industry as well as the “Chicken Empires”—noting ever increasing concentration within the industry. The article explores the issues of labor and the pandemic deeply, as well as the safety issues and lack of worker protections within poultry farms and processing facilities. Last, we learn of the organizing efforts of activists rallying around better safety standards and protections for farmworkers.

N.C. has vaccinated over 13,000 farmworkers. Advocates are making it happen. by Victoria Bouloubasis May 28, 2021. Here, we follow one farmworker who travels annually from Mexico to North Carolina on an H2A visa. We learn of his decision to get vaccinated, as well as the efforts of advocates who have been promoting vaccination among farmworkers in N.C. This article revisits the issues that others that we’ve highlighted have covered: the COVID-19 outbreaks in farmworker communities in 2020, a lack of personal protective equipment provided to farmworkers, lack of isolation housing for sick farmworkers, and the pervasion of myths downplaying the severity of coronavirus or denying its existence altogether. It also provides an overview into the obstacles presented in the effort to get vaccines to farmworkers, many of whom are undocumented and/or move from state-to-state depending on the season. Bouloubasis also paints a picture of a “proactive 2021” (n.p.), wherein the agriculture industry is held more accountable for its inaction and advocates come up with a comprehensive plan to protect workers.

‘Be Kind Be Resilient’ A Conversation with Sylvia Harrelson Ganier of Green Door Gourmet by Maneet Chauhan with Mikeie Honda Reiland May 25, 2021. Southern cuisine is more than the stereotypical “meat-and-three, barbecue, deep fried” foods that many associate with the South, claims Sylvia Harrelson Ganier of Green Door Gourmet a 152- organic vegetable farm in Nashville. In this conversation between Maneet Chauhan and Sylvia Harrelson Ganier, we learn about how the latter shifted from singing to baking to farming, what it means to be a Southerner, and specifically a ‘mountain Southerner’ (Ganier is originally from the mountains of western North Carolina), and the ways the South has changed and continues to evolve. They also talk about the meaning of ‘organic,’ the foodways of the South, and the future of farming. This is a vivid conversation about food and farming in our region and is worth checking out to catch a few great stories and some great photographs from the conversation.

One Foot in the Soil and One in the Ocean, an excerpt from Bress ‘n’ Nyam, by Matthew Raiford n.d. Here’s a short but beautiful excerpt from the cookbook Bress ‘n’ NyamIn it, Raiford, a descendent of the Freshwater Geechee who grew up on the mainland describes his feeling of having “one foot in the soil and one in the ocean” (n.p.). Raiford describes the ways he has developed a relationship both with the sea, and with the traditional foods of his ancestors. This article from the Southern Foodways Alliance also shares a traditional Geechee recipe from Raiford’s cookbook: fried fish and ‘CheFarmer’s’ grits.

‘You can’t take that from me’: A former North Carolina farmworker’s fight for protection by Victoria Bouloubasis May 11, 2021. Yesenia Cuello, an activist fighting for changes in farmworkers protections, takes center stage in this article from Southerly. Cuello is a first-generation American who worked on tobacco farms growing up. By documenting the health risks farmworkers face, like green tobacco sickness—an acute nicotine poisoning—Cuello drew attention to the need for farmworker protections. She now works as the executive director of NC FIELD (Focus on Increasing Education Leadership and Dignity). The article discusses the struggles small justice-oriented non-profits like NC FIELD face, as well as the need to uplift people like Cuello who have firsthand experience as a member of the communities they serve.

Meet the Modern Farmer: Peculiar Pig Farm by Shelby Vittek May 8, 2021. This article tells of the traditions of a Black farming family in South Carolina and of the way one descendent of that family, Marvin Ross, “hopes to reclaim some of his family’s agricultural history” (n.p.). Here, we’re introduced to Ross and the ways he encountered agriculture during his youth and as he grew older, as well as some of the lessons Ross learned from his grandfather, a farmer. In homage to his family’s agricultural roots, Ross founded Peculiar Pig Farm. The article discusses the difficulties and discrimination Black farmers in the U.S. have faced and continue to grapple with. Vittek also writes of the ways Ross incorporates principles of regenerative agriculture as well as the traditional practices he learned from his grandfather that mirror those principles. 

The Lipstick Queen of Farming by Christine Rucker 2021. In this article from The Bitter Southerner, Christine Rucker reports on Samantha Foxx, ‘the lipstick queen of farming.’ Foxx is a farmer in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where she operates Mother’s Finest Urban Farm. The article describes Foxx’s urban agriculture enterprise and the knowledge that sustains her and it. Rucker also notes the racism and marginalization Foxx has faced as a Black urban farmer in the South, backed by statistics showing the history of systemic discrimination against Black farmers as well as numbers reflecting the local context in Forsyth County where Winston-Salem is located. The article details how Foxx views this legacy and context, and how she resists and persists against the odds.

From the Soil Up by Beth Ward March 23, 2021. Two women working “to heal themselves, the land, and their communities” (n.p.) through agriculture are the focus of this story from Beth Ward of the Bitter Southerner. Keisha Cameron is founder of High Hog Farm in August, Georgia, while Brandy Hall runs Shades of Green Permaculture in Atlanta. The women’s stories interconnected when Cameron signed up for one of Hall’s permaculture design courses in 2013. Through permaculture, “Tending to her land at High Hog became transcendent work, a kind of sacred restoration that gave Cameron a true sense of belonging”—this article contains the story of that transcendent work including reclaiming ancestral knowledge and grappling with the intergenerational trauma inflicted by chattel slavery, as well as shedding the “culturally instilled shame about what it means to be a land-based worker” (n.p.)—according to Cameron, this is more than ‘reconciliation’ and is instead a project of ‘restoration.’ Pairing Cameron’s story with that of Hall, we learn about the origins of permaculture and the ways that white folks have coopted practices from communities of color to fold them into oversimplified ways of producing food and fiber, as Hall put it: “permaculture is a word created by white men to over-simplify and make palatable what Indigenous people have always known, so it can be received by modernized, post-industrial, capitalist ears. There’s so much more that’s needed than permaculture if we are to truly find our way back to the Big Story and the deep knowing that it’s all alive, interconnected, and intelligent” (n.p.). The article also examines the impact of COVID-19 on both women’s businesses and outlook as well as the impacts of denying people of color access to nature and the work that Hall’s team has done to try to address this.

How a Queer and Trans Latinx Gardening Collective Is Working to Reverse Food Insecurity in Atlanta by Eva Reign March 8, 2020. Here is an article describing the work of Mariposas Rebeldes (translated as ‘rebel butterflies’ in English), a queer and trans Latinx activist gardening collective based in Atlanta. The group seeks alternatives to capitalism and explores themes of sustainability, with the goal of promoting food justice and combatting food insecurity in their home city. The group was recently awarded a grant from A Well Fed World and also relies on crowdfunding and donations to pursue their work. The article offers beautifully captured images of group members and describes the context of food insecurity and food justice in Atlanta.

Op-ed: The Peanut Industry Has a Monopoly Problem—but Farmers Are Pushing Back by Ron Knox January 15, 2021. Virginia marks the northern terminus of the ‘peanut belt’ and Virginia is famous for its peanuts. This article details the record-breaking rise in peanut consumption during and leading up to the pandemic with the tandem flatlining of peanut prices farmers receive. The article provides insight into the economics of the peanut industry, including the tax dollars that prop up the industry and the two mega-companies that purchase 80 percent of peanuts grown in the United States. Further, this article describes the organizing efforts of peanut farmers determined to break up the monopoly and get a fair price for their crop. Covered here is the story of the rise of the monopolized peanut industry as well as a solution proposed by organizers to undercut the monopoly and introduce a cooperative structure to the industry. This is an article about an important Virginia crop and is worth checking out.

The role of kudzu in architecture, cuisine, and culture by Ayurella Horn-Miller March 20, 2021. In this article from Southerly Magazine, we learn about the history of Kudzu, how it was introduced as the “savior of the South” (n.p.) before becoming “The vine that ate the South” (n.p.). According to this article, kudzu, an invasive species that is “aggressively damaging to biodiversity, economies, and ecosystems” (n.p.) covers an estimated 7.4 million acres of the Southeast and took off as an unchecked invasive species as people left rural areas for cities. Horn-Miller also covers projects designed to remediate the environment and make use of kudzu in Tennessee and North Carolina, focusing on the uses of kudzu for building materials and food.

 

How the Sausage is Made: Notes on Craft and Context by Danille Elise Christensen with illustrations by Jessica Fontenot In this piece by Center Fellow Danille Christensen, Christensen explores the adjective ‘craft,’ and what it signifies when applied to food. She dives into the history and etymology of the word before noting the distinctions between ‘craft’ and its Old English cousin ‘cræft,’ used to indicate “a savvy resourcefulness, a combination of skill and ingenious adaptation” (n.p.). Using the distinction between craft and cræft, Christensen asks: “In a region in which cured hams and slow-cooked barbecue are beloved alongside ready-to-eat Vienna sausages and red hot dogs, whose craftiness counts when it comes to meat processing?(n.p.). Christensen unpacks concepts and labels like ‘artisanal,’ ‘authentic,’ and ‘processed.’ This piece is a deep reflection on regional identity and the craft of meat processing from the ‘master butchers,’ to preservation traditions of the hills of Appalachia, to the production of Spam.

Black Farmers in Arkansas Still Seek Justice a Century After the Elaine Massacre by Wesley Brown July 27, 2022. This Civil Eats piece provides a historical account of the Elaine Massacre of 1919 when a shooting incident turned into mob violence at a meeting of the Progressive Farmers and Household Union, a Black-led group aimed at improving living conditions for Black farmers and communities in Arkansas. The deadliest racial conflict in Arkansas and one of the bloodiest in U.S. history. The article provides a window into the economic and social impacts of the massacre on the lives of the residents in Elaine through the story of the Flenaugh family, a farming family in the Mississippi River Delta whose land dwindled from 30,000 acres within a vibrant Black farming community to just 400 acres due to theft, intimidation, violence, and fraudulent property records. The piece explores legacies of land theft in Arkansas and delves into the potentiality of reparations to families who had lost farmlands and their lives during the massacre, along with larger themes like reconnecting Black families to farming and land, and advancing racial justice nationwide.

Fried Okra, Beyond the Batter by Kayla Stewart July 11, 2022. Okra, and its significance within African American cuisine is highlighted in this piece from the New York Times. The article explores the okra to the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade through which Africans brought okra to the United States and explores okra within a West African context as well as within the context of the southern United States, always tying it within African, African American, and Black foodways.

As North Carolina warms, one farm is turning to a tropical crop: Taro by Lina Tran July 5, 2022. This article highlights the potential for crop diversification using the Taro crop. Chris Smith, the founder of the nonprofit Utopian Seed Project, whose mission is to introduce the taro crop to the Southeast is working with farmers, customers, and chefs to cultivate taro. He is also working to create a viable market for it, particularly in North Carolina. Center fellow Michael Carter Jr. is one of the Utopian Seed Project partners and has been experimenting with taro for its leaves, popular among African immigrants. The article further discusses the nutritional and economic value of taro; from root to leaf, the entire plant is edible, though it needs to be cooked first due to its high oxalic acid content. To Chris Smith, cultivating taro can help diversify the food system and make the food system more resilient to climate change. 

Where Your People From? by Audrey Petty 2022. This piece from the Southern Foodways Alliance forms part of their 2022 Gravy summer series, in which writers tell the Great Migration legacies of their home places in Midwest. This piece features Audrey Petty, editor of High Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing and co-editor of The Long Term: Resisting Life Sentences, Working Toward Freedom. In the article, Audrey recounts stories of her childhood visits to her parents’ birthplaces in the South. According to Audrey, the Great Migration stories shared “invite us to sit with the act of migration itself. At the very least, it is some kind of leap; an act of seeking.”

A New Wave of Top Chefs by Jimmy Ryals June 9, 2021. This article spotlights emerging Black chefs in North Carolina who are serving as culinary role models. In this year’s James Beard Foundation Awards, commonly thought of as the Oscars of the food world, the representation of African American/ Black chefs shot up. The article reports that about thirteen of the ninety-two finalists for the 2022 restaurant and chef awards are African American. “It’s about time that African Americans who are culinary experts, who also bring to that restaurant experience a respect for their own roots and sense of home, are honored” (Ryals, 2022, n. p.).

A Cook Who Never Used a Cookbook Now Has Hers by Kim Severson May 9, 2022. This article spotlights Emily Meggett, a cook and a native of the Gullah Geechee community in South Carolina. We’ve covered a couple of pieces about Geechee foodways in the past, including Reviving a Crop and an African-American Culture, Stalk by Stalk, also by Severson (2020, New York Times) and One Foot in the Soil and One in the Ocean, an excerpt from Bress ‘n’ Nyam (Matthew Raiford, 2021, Southern Foodways Alliance). This 2022 piece by Kim Severson in the New York Times calls attention to her new cookbook titled “Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes From the Matriarch of Edisto Island” with over 123 recipes. In the book, Mrs. Meggett shares the story of her life, her family, and her community and also provides some nuggets of wisdom to home cooks: “learn to be intuitive and pay attention to small but essential techniques, like not messing too much with your biscuit dough, or gauging the correct ratio of grain to liquid in a pot of red rice by the feel of the spoon when you stir” (n.p.). 

A Community of Seed Savers Has a Recipe to Revive Rare Varieties of Collard Greens by Daniel Wood April 24, 2022. The work of Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (a participant in our Soil, Conservation, and Place video series last year), along with the active group of seed savers, farmers, activists, and academics that make up the Heirloom Collard Project. The project aims to preserve the genetics of heirloom varieties of collard greens, reintroduce them to people unfamiliar with them, and capture the family stories that accompany the collards. As Wallace notes in the article, “If you want to save a seed, it's good for it to be a good and tasty and productive seed . . . But a seed with the story endures” (n.p.). The article shows photos of rarer varieties of collards and highlights the work of those working to preserve them and identifies the “Collard Belt” an area in South Carolina and eastern North Carolina where most collard green seed savers are found. The article includes Wallace’s personal story as well as a story from the “Collard Belt” of one family’s legacy variety of collards—as Wallace said, “a seed with the story endures.”

Jesse Frost Wants to Help Produce Farmers Stop Tilling Their Soil by Twilight Greenaway  July 22, 2021. This article came out last year but we wanted to uplift it because of its resonance with the 4 the Soil campaign we’ve been promoting. This is an interview with Jesse Frost, author of The Living Soil Handbook (Frost, 2021). The book discusses the cultivation methods that reduce labor and repair ecosystems through no-till agriculture. Here, we hear from Frost about his experience applying no-till systems on his farm, the importance of photosynthetic activity in combatting climate change, and other advantages to no-till agriculture like carbon sequestration, retaining soil moisture, and retaining  nutrient-rich topsoil. This interview offers a deep dive into themes related to soil health.

The Great Organic Food Fraud by Ian Parker November 8, 2021. In this important article from the New Yorker, we learn about the lack of close-scrutiny in the organics industry. Here, Parker explains that organic products may contain residues of conventional agriculture due to pesticide and herbicide drift and that testing for this type of contamination in organic products is uncommon. Further, Parker makes the claim that in purchasing organic produce, consumers are purchasing an assurance and a story about how the product was grown. Organic agriculture is not a complete fraud, of course, the conversion of a farm to organic production generally increases biodiversity, reduces energy consumption, and has benefits for the health of both humans and livestock. Here, Parker expounds on the nuances of organic certification and makes a compelling case for the existence of fraud within the organics industry. 

I tried to prove that small family farms are the future. I couldn’t do it. by Sarah Mock October 19, 2021. We featured an article about Sarah Mock’s work back in August. Here’s another that addresses the complexities of the commonly held hope that small family farms are our future. Mock set out to write a book that explored the risks present in small-scale agricultural endeavors and how to save the family farm. From her research, Mock found that she was unable to do this. This article explains Mock’s journey from her own family farm roots in Wyoming to her agricultural reporting and writing career. Despite growing interest in food and farming on the part of young people, Mock found that most of these new farms were economically unsustainable. The article tells the story of how the image of the bucolic family farm developed and became seared into the national imagination and asks us to envision alternate possibilities that oppose increasing industrialization but also diverge from the “yeoman myth” (n.p.). 

Catawba Sustainability Center is Developing a Program to Help Forest Farmers Cultivate and Market Medicinal Herbs by Casey Fabris October 9, 2021. Featuring the work Center Fellow, Adam Taylor, manager of the Catawba Sustainability Center, along with our own Katie Trozzo, Center Associate and Program Coordinator for the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition, this article highlights the pair’s efforts to develop a program that helps forest farmers cultivate and market medicinal herbs. The article discusses the purpose of a forest farmer herb network. According to the article, forest farming reduces the demand for wild-harvested herb which are a more finite resource. The program Taylor and Trozzo are developing is meant to serve those with a curiosity about forest farming to those who are planning to make forest farming their career. The article discusses the legacy of forest-grown products in central Appalachia and the premium paid for products that are certified forest-grown. 

The Future Farmers of France Are Tech Savvy, and Want Weekends Off by Liz Alderman October 7, 2021. From the New York Times business section, this article focuses on a massive problem facing France and many other rich countries in the West: farmers are aging out of agriculture and few young people are pursuing careers as farmers. This article discusses efforts in France to attract new farmers through innovations in technology and changes to the agricultural lifestyle. Here, Alderman discusses the reasons why technological innovations in agriculture have been slower to take hold in France—one is France’s regulations in agriculture and the fact that France subsidizes farms based on their size and scale, rather than their output. These tech-savvy future farmers also want French agriculture to begin to help combat climate change, a change backed by French President Emmanuel Macron and aligned with the European Union’s goal to eliminate planet-warming emissions by 2050. The article also describes the push-back these tech-savvy new farmers are facing from France’s powerful agricultural associations. 

Collaborative Effort to Raise Awareness of Soil Health by Max Esterhuizen September 29, 2021. This article from Virginia Tech news covers a project that our own Eric Bendfeldt, the associate director of the Center, has been involved with: the 4 The Soil campaign. According to the article: “The campaign promotes four simple yet critical principles that are vital to healthy soil: keep the soil covered, minimize soil disturbance, maximize living roots, and energize with diversity” (n.p.). Eric is helping to create a 4 The Soil podcast and we’ll feature more information about this important initiative in our October Listserv Update. 4 The Soil has active presence on social media and on the web, and encourages Virginians to take the “Yes, I am for the soil” pledge.

Belonging to the Earth by Amyrose Foll September 1, 2021. The power of traditional Native practices and foodways takes center stage in this article by Amyrose Foll (Abenaki/Penobscot), who is a writer, educator, and the founder of Virginia Free Farm. In this piece, Amyrose stresses the significance of seeking solutions for climate change and agricultural reform by breaking outside of the western settler-colonial mindset. Instead, there is wisdom and hope in turning toward the traditional practices of agroecology, seed saving, and biomimicry as movement toward food sovereignty. For Foll and others, these practices “are all done with intention to respect and honor the land which provides for our community. In return, she gives the abundance to feed our community...” (n.p.). The article also emphasizes the ways in which our systems of agriculture and ecology are entangled to give meaning to the foods we grow and eat. 

Maine’s Somali Bantus Are Reenvisioning American Farming by Katy Kelleher August, 2021. Maine is home to a large and vibrant Somali Bantu agriculture community and they take center stage in this article. The article explains how the Somali Bantu community arrived in and became established in communities surrounding Lewiston, Maine, and the community-run nonprofit that supports their agricultural endeavors. Little Jubba, as their farm is called, is designed to be a multigenerational community space where part of the land will be allocated for agriculture, some parcels for children to play in, and some areas of grass where the farmers can rest and relax. The article ties together the agrarian roots of both the Somali Bantu community and their adopted Maine and is accompanied by images of the farmers and their land. It also discusses the difficulties collectively-held farms face in the United States and contrasts this with other areas of the world where collective ownership is more common. 

They Ditched the Office for the Farm. And Stayed. by Krithika Varagur August 15, 2021. More young people from nonfarm backgrounds are seeking jobs in agriculture, according to this article. Similar to the uptick seen during the 2007-2009 recession, the economic and lifestyle conditions surrounding the pandemic have made more young people interested in farming or other agricultural careers. This article profiles a few young farmers who ditched other industries for farm life or agricultural jobs and discusses what the influx means for the agricultural industry where “only 8% of farm producers were under 35 in the 2017 USDA census” (n.p.). It also discusses the economics of farming where the margins are tight and 58% of all producers have a primary occupation other than farming and what that means for young and new farmers. 

Agriculture Reporter Sarah Mock Is Challenging the Narrative About Small Family Farms by Lynne Curry August 19, 2021. This article looks at Sarah Mock’s provocative new book FARM (And Other F Words): The Rise and Fall of the Small Family Farm in which she argues that the American small farm is not a working model, and is not socially, economically, nor environmentally sustainable. She advocates instead for a system she calls the ‘Big Team Farm.’ In this interview with Mock, Mock discusses her tagline “Not a cheerleader, not the enemy” (n.p.), the premise of her new book, the problems with the small farm dream, as well as some of the themes described in the book. 

No Soil. No Growing Seasons. Just Add Water and Technology. by Kim Severson July 6, 2021. Appalachia and AppHarvest, a startup hydroponic tomato-growing enterprise open this article as one example of an expanding new industry that grows produce without soil and without the need to attend to growing seasons, and with the help of celebrity investors like Martha Stewart and Justin Timberlake. According to the article, these hydroponic farms use advanced technologies to produce fruits and vegetables with specific flavors and textures. It also tells of those who oppose the astronomical growth of hydroponics, citing its use of large amounts of electricity and contested claims of improved nutrient density in crops grow via hydroponics. This story shows both sides of the debate and is worth reading to learn more about this growing industry with a large presence in Appalachia.

Hit Hard By Drought, Farmers Get Creative by Adam Minter June 29, 2021. Land managed using regenerative agriculture practices captures more rainwater than conventionally-managed land, according to this article from Bloomberg. Using a case example from Minnesota, the author describes the alternative practices of regenerative agriculture—including cover cropping with perennial grasses and managed grazing rather than raising cattle in feedlots. The article also discusses the repercussions of the intense drought and of climate change more generally—these include farmers choosing not to plant crops or culling their herds. The article touches on the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and the practices farmers have used to make up for the loss of topsoil that naturally captures rainwater and prevents erosion. Here, we learn of the ways regenerative agricultural practices can help farmers mitigate the effects of climate change by building resiliency.

What makes a “regenerative” egg better than the rest? By Eve Andrews June 10, 2021. This article helps disambiguate the term ‘regenerative’ and provides answers to two questions: 1) what is regenerative agriculture, and 2) is it better for the planet than conventional production practices? It touches on the capacity of soil to sequester carbon and parses “green living” from “greenwashing” (n.p.). Looking through the lens of a “regenerative” egg, we learn about the systems that would allow a producer to make that claim. It also covers the inconsistencies of the term and others like it, including “sustainable” and “cage-free.” The article concludes with an affirmation that attempting a dietary change to support regenerative and alternative agriculture is a meaningful one, and indicates that a key part of what needs to change in the agriculture industry will not be reflected in labels: a reduction in food loss and food waste and limiting one’s carbon footprint by eating less meat.

Will regenerative agriculture change how we grocery shop? By Bridget Shirvell March 4, 2021. This article provides an overview of regenerative agriculture and distinguishes it from organic production. Shirvell also relates the benefits of regenerative agriculture to the climate crisis and discusses how to identify products produced using regenerative agriculture in the grocery store. This article does not, however, acknowledge the Whiteness of regenerative agriculture—an earlier article from Civil Eats that we featured in January does this well. The two articles offer a complementary glimpse of regenerative agriculture’s benefits and drawbacks.

Agroecologist Alexa White connects the dots between biodiversity, food, and climate January 25, 2021. Here’s a quick bio from World Wildlife Magazine on agroecologist, Alexa White, winner of the WWF’s 2020 Conservation Leadership Award. According to the bio, White’s work “explores the relationship between international governance, agriculture, food security, and food sovereignty” (n.p.) and emphasizes the “power differentials that influence policy” (n.p.) as communicated by farmers and policy-makers. The piece also explains how she’ll use the funding she received from WWF to travel to Jamaica and Hawaii to study small-scale coffee farms—two places hit hard by climate change. This is a quick read, and worth checking out to learn more about an up-and-coming agroecologist who is sure to influence food systems thought and learning. 

Does Regenerative Agriculture Have a Race Problem? By Gosia Wozniacka January 5, 2021. This article summarizes the ways in which the movement toward regenerative or alternative agricultural systems replicates issues present within earlier movements in that it encapsulates “enduring whiteness, unacknowledged use of ancestral farming practices, and singular focus on the environment while eschewing social justice” (n.p.). Here, Wozniacka briefly reviews the history of regenerative agriculture in the U.S., from Native American practices to the Rodale Institute and the popular documentary Kiss the Ground. Further, the article examines Indigenous land management practices and exposes the ways that the regenerative agriculture movement has “diluted and weakened the traditional approach to land management” (n.p.) while simultaneously borrowing from the traditions of Black agricultural communities without offering due recognition. The article closes with some suggestions for ways the regenerative agriculture movement can reverse these trends and practice diversity, inclusion, and deference for BIPOC traditions.

 

Dairy Farmers in the Netherlands Are Up in Arms Over Emission Cuts by Claire Moses August 20, 2022. A disagreement between Dutch dairy farmers and the Dutch Government and climate activists is at the center of this article from the New York Times. The government and climate activists, recognizing that the Dutch agricultural industry is the largest emitter of nitrogen in the country, have created a plan to reduce nitrogen emissions by 50 percent by 2030, in part by asking farmers to cut livestock numbers and reduce the size of their farms. The plan provides an allotment of 25 billion euros (around $26 billion) to help farmers transition their practices to be more environmentally sustainable. Farmers are frustrated by the prospect of losing their livelihoods and Dutch citizens are concerned about losing a part of the Dutch identity as a major milk and cheese producer, with grazing cows dotting the landscape. This piece discusses the ins and outs of the disagreement and the ways that farmers are reacting in protest.

Industrial Hemp as a Crop for a Sustainable Agriculture by Kristine Ely, Swarup Podder, Matthew Reiss, and John Fike 2022. This book chapter, by students and faculty from the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences and the School of Architecture and Design here at Virginia Tech, explores the role of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) as a sustainable crop to be used in many industrial and consumer products. The chapter discusses the need for enhanced research on sustainable hemp production systems in the West as well as the potential hemp has for diverse uses across the value chain.

Companies’ Climate Promises Face a Wild Card: Farmers by Julie Creswell ‘Big Food’ companies like PepsiCo, Cargill, Walmart, and others have pledged to expand regenerative agriculture and find more sustainable sources for their ingredients. These ‘Big Food’ companies have promised that “at least 70 million acres, or roughly 18 percent of the nation’s total cropland, an area about the size of Nevada, will be operated using regenerative agriculture techniques by 2030” (n.p.). To do this, these companies have offered incentives to farmers to change their cultivation practices. Farmers, however, wonder if these incentives are enough to cover the higher costs of adopting practices like cover cropping and are concerned about potential declines in yields that would result in lost income. This article notes that “[the current agricultural system is] not working for the farmer, not working for the supply chain and not working for the consumer” (n.p.) and asks who should be responsible for the costs of converting the system into a more sustainable one. 

Report: The Politics of Protein overseen by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) April 2022. In this important report from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), we find that ownership over animal production has concentrated significantly and that consumption of meat and fish has nearly doubled in the past 50 years. The report also explains the growing share of the market devoted to plant-based meat and dairy substitutes and lab-grown meats. Taking climate change, antibiotic resistance, and zoonotic disease into the context, this report examines the growing public awareness of the problems and dilemmas associated with animal production systems. Rich in helpful graphics, this report presents the conflicting claims and political pitfalls associated with contested animal production globally and provides recommendations for how to move forward toward a more sustainable food system.

A Regenerative Grazing Revolution Is Taking Root in the Mid-Atlantic by Lisa Held March 30, 2022. This article explores regenerative grazing as a solution to agriculturally induced climate change. The Dairy Grazing Project is organized to help small dairy farms transition to regenerative grazing. The project aims to recruit at least 40 dairies who will subsequently acquire the Regenerative Organic Certification to sell through Origin Milk—a small milk brand engaged in the Regenerative Organic Certified supply chain. The project is currently developing among the farms along the Chesapeake Bay watershed since many advocates and scientists see converting conventional dairies and commodity cropland to regenerative pasture-based farms as a vital solution to the decades of pollution from farm and urban runoff. 

Science Says You Can Swap Your Fertilizer for Black-Eyed Peas by Lindsay Campbell January 25, 2022. This article from Modern Farmer celebrates the legacy of George Washington Carver and his famous scientific study of legumes and their impact on soil health. In the report, black-eyed peas, a southern leguminous staple commonly cooked on New Year’s for good luck, are highlighted for their nitrogen-producing abilities. In recent research of black-eyed peas conducted at the University of California, Riverside, they found that despite the modern farming methods utilized in growing the crops, it still maintained its ability to attract nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The study replicated Dr. Carver’s research in the 20th century, and the experiment yielded similar results. Dr. Carver encouraged the cultivation of legumes as cover crops and as nitrogen replenishing sources. He advocated for leguminous crop rotation, and in contemporary agriculture, and his recommendations are still relevant.

Off Season ‘Cover’ Crops Expand as U.S. Growers Eye Low Carbon Future by Karl Plume January 4, 2022. This article from Reuters emphasises the economic potential of cover crops. The author posits that besides the primary purposes of cover crops being the restoration of soil, and the reduction in erosion, another integral benefit is their ability to pull climate-warming carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. In recent times, companies have found creative and innovative ways of measuring the amount of carbon trapped in roots and other plant matter left in the soil to give carbon credits. These carbon credits are then converted to money for the farmers. According to Plume, this practice shows how the agriculture industry is adapting as a result of climate change. Thus, it provides farmers with alternative income generation—getting paid for utilizing cover crops in limiting planet-warming emissions.

Tourism vs. CAFOs: A New Front in the Fight Against Industrial Animal Ag by Mallory Daily September 28, 2021. Land-use tensions between tourism and industrial agriculture take center stage int this article from Civil Eats. The article zeroes in on the Buffalo National River in Arkansas, along which a large confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) was bought out by the government to protect the river and the tourism it brings to the region. By “pitting the need to protect their waterways and natural areas for outdoor recreation against factory farms” (n.p.) rural communities across the nation are “[opening] the door for unlikely allies to join the fight for heavier regulations” (n.p.) which sometimes results in bipartisan support for environmental protection and regulation of animal agriculture in sensitive areas. This article outlines the risks CAFOs pose to tourism and bodies of water, and the case for turning to recreation and tourism, rather than large scale agriculture, as an economic driver for rural communities.

Food production generates more than a third of manmade greenhouse gas emissions – a new framework tells us how much comes from crops, countries and regions by Xiaoming Xu and Atul Jain 2021. This article from The Conversation highlights a recently published study from two atmospheric scientists that shows that “the food system generates about 35% of total global man-made greenhouse gas emissions” (n.p.). Further, the study breaks this number down to show where the food systems greenhouse gas emissions are coming from: 57% from crops destined for livestock and pastures for grazing, 29% from plant-based food for human consumptions, and 14% from other products like cotton and rubber that don’t end up as animal feed or human food. This article also details which foods contribute the most greenhouse gasses (beef, milk, and pork for meat and dairy, and rice for plant-based foods). They also break down food systems emissions by country and region noting that China, Brazil, the U.S. and India are the biggest contributors from the production of animal sourced foods.

‘They rake in profits – everyone else suffers’: US workers lose out as big chicken gets bigger by Nina Lakhani August 11, 2021. In Arkansas, where Tyson Foods is based, the company has “generated dire consequences for its workers, farmers and the environment” (n.p.). This article is the result of a joint investigation by the Guardian and the Union of Concerned Scientists which found that Tyson Foods’ monopoly in Arkansas has allowed the company to manipulate contracts and has created unfavorable conditions for farmers and plant workers. Tyson Foods is the third-largest employer in the state. Findings of the investigation include: market dominance, farm consolidation and closure, employee benefit cuts, a points-based disciplinary system which pressures workers into obligatory overtime, outbreaks of COVID-19, misleading job advertisements, speed and output targets more important than worker welfare, and insect infestations in the plants. It also found air and water contamination near poultry growing houses that disproportionately impacts nearby Latino and Indigenous communities. This in-depth article also goes into the history of Tyson, offers infographics that show the consolidation of farms over time as well as the concentration of farms across Arkansas, and tells the stories of individual employees and towns affected by Tyson.

It’s Some of America’s Richest Farmland. But What Is It Without Water? by Somini Sengupta June 28, 2021. This article describes the ways drought is reshaping California agriculture. Here, Sengupta discusses the decisions a rice grower, a melon farmer, and an almond producer face as drought makes growing these crops nearly impossible. “Climate change is supercharging the [water] scarcity” according to Sengupta, who writes of the negative feedback loop that exists between drier soils and heat waves like those experienced in California and the Pacific Northwest over the past week. Roughly 10,000,000 acres of agricultural are predicted to go idle if the drought continues and no new water source is identified. This would be a major blow to the nation’s food supply, as California currently produces two-thirds of the U.S.’s fruits and nuts and a large share of the vegetables, the article says.

How Pesticides Are Harming Soil Ecosystems by Meg Wilcox June 4, 2021. Synthetic pesticides harm the natural soil ecosystem, according to this article from Civil Eats. This article touches on the benefits microorganisms and insects bring to the soil and to production agriculture, if the soil is managed to promote their existence. Here, Wilcox cites a new microanalysis conducted by researchers from the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, and the University of Maryland, telling us that in 70.5 percent of the cases reviewed, the researchers found that synthetic pesticides did indeed harm beneficial soil invertebrates. The article makes the case for pesticide reduction and notes that the possibilities of carbon sequestration in the soil decline as these soil invertebrates disappear from the land, referring to an “insect apocalypse” (n.p.). With sections on how soil invertebrates are ‘routinely ignored,’ and bringing pesticide reduction into regenerative agriculture, this article is thorough in its examination of the problem and its possible solution.

A history of groundbreaking reporting on the South's poultry industry by Olivia Paschal June 1, 2021. This article revisits an investigative report on the South’s poultry industry from 1989 and looks at more recent reporting on the poultry industry amidst the pandemic. The article notes the differences and similarities between the reports, noting “One thing that has changed is the demographic makeup of the South's poultry workforce — but the industry still relies on people with little economic or political power to produce the meat that earns it billions of dollars a year” (n.p.). This article gives an overview of the South’s poultry industry noting that the “the country's five largest poultry processing states, by number of workers, are in the region” (n.p.). It discusses the poor labor conditions associated with work in the poultry industry as well as the “Chicken Empires”—noting ever increasing concentration within the industry. The article explores the issues of labor and the pandemic deeply, as well as the safety issues and lack of worker protections within poultry farms and processing facilities. Last, we learn of the organizing efforts of activists rallying around better safety standards and protections for farmworkers.

To Simplify or Diversify? On Today’s Farms, That Is the Question. by Virginia Gewin May 13, 2021. A new study from researchers at the University of California at Berkeley compared simplification and diversification in agriculture to determine their impacts on climate change, biodiversity loss, and global food security, according to this article from Civil Eats. Following Gewin who summarizes the study here, the researchers leading the work compared simplification and diversification by looking at their responses and resilience to five significant challenges: “foodborne pathogens, drought, marginal lands, labor availability and land access and tenure” (n.p.). Gewin tells us that the researchers found that diversification led in every category. This is an excellent summary of a fascinating study and is well worth reading this week.

Is Agroecology Being Co-Opted by Big Ag? by Lisa Held April 20, 2020. This article discusses the rising popularity of agroecology over the past several years and its broadening definition and application. Advocates of agroecology are concerned about its co-optation “by those within the very system it sets out to change” (n.p.), according to this article. With quotes from Eric Holt-Giménez, a leading agroecologist formerly with Food First, and other experts, this article opens up the concerns of agroecologists in light of the rise of ‘junk agroecology’ that is used on large scale farms wherein the goal is that big agribusinesses can continue to turn a profit without any fundamental change in the unequitable socio-economic, political, and ecological relationships that form the basis of our current agrifood system. The article also highlights the relationship between agroecology and the U.N. Committee on World Food Security noting that a heated debate among committee members and advisors about the terminology and ideology that will underlie a forthcoming set of policy recommendations. Last, the article offers solutions and compromises that would keep agroecology from being entirely coopted by big ag but would still allow agroecological practices to proliferate where they can do good. It underscores the political realities governing our agrifood system and suggests that agroecology should receive at least as much political support as industrial agriculture.

A Huge New Chicken CAFO in West Virginia Has Stoked Community Resistance by Lisa Held April 7, 2021. The construction of two large scale poultry farms in Hardy County, West Virginia is at the center of this article, as is the community’s response to it. According to the article, the two poultry operations that will hous close to a million chickens is owned by a private equity firm in North Carolina, with the birds supplying Pilgrim’s Pride. Community members worry the giant poultry operations could erode the health and quality of life of individuals who live nearby. The article reviews poultry farming in West Virginia, as well as residents’ concerns about poultry farming in their state and county. Last, the article points to the way forward for concerned residents and quotes a resident comparing the poultry industry to the coal industry who notes that similar to coal, with poultry jobs pitted against the environment and health, and that communities are often divided on the issue.

Op-ed: The Peanut Industry Has a Monopoly Problem—but Farmers Are Pushing Back by Ron Knox January 15, 2021. Virginia marks the northern terminus of the ‘peanut belt’ and Virginia is famous for its peanuts so it felt apt to include this article this week. This article details the record-breaking rise in peanut consumption during and leading up to the pandemic with the tandem flatlining of peanut prices farmers receive. The article provides insight into the economics of the peanut industry, including the tax dollars that prop up the industry and the two mega-companies that purchase 80 percent of peanuts grown in the United States. Further, this article describes the organizing efforts of peanut farmers determined to break up the monopoly and get a fair price for their crop. Covered here is the story of the rise of the monopolized peanut industry as well as a solution proposed by organizers to undercut the monopoly and introduce a cooperative structure to the industry. This is an article about an important Virginia crop and is worth checking out.

Researchers Test Industrial Hemp as a Potential Feed Source for Cattle by Ag Daily March 15, 2022. Hemp as a potential cattle feed source is explored in this article. According to the authors, the movement to legalize marijuana across the country presents unique opportunities to explore the benefits of the hemp plant and its other by-products such as oils, seeds, and fibers. In light of that, researchers from Kansas State University are actively studying the potential to derive feed from the hemp plant. Veterinarian, Mike Kleinhenz, with Kansas State University, in an interview stated that depending on threshold, “the plant, Cannabis sativa, as defined by the USDA, has less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” and is considered industrial hemp. Speaking on the legalities of the study, Kleinhenz added that there is currently no legal precedent that industrialized hemp can be fed to animals. However, he and a team of scientists are studying industrial hemp as a potential feed source. Their study revealed that the hemp seeds are significantly high in protein and have an appreciable amino acid profile with high-fat content. Their study also found that the stalk of the plant had little nutritious value and that cattle did not find the plant particularly palatable. To circumvent that, the researchers had to grind down the plant and mix it with molasses to get the cattle to consume it. In conclusion, the findings provide helpful insights on the nutritional values of industrial help, thus, assisting livestock producers in deciding to incorporate industrial hemp into their feed ration. 

The Herbicide Dicamba was Supposed to Solve Farmers Weed Problems-Instead, its Making Farming Harder for Many of Them by Bart Elmore January 26, 2022. This recent news article from The Conversation looks at the challenges farmers are experiencing with the use of dicamba, an herbicide for weed control. According to the article, “In 2021, thousands of U.S. growers reported to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that dicamba sprayed by other farmers – sometimes up to a mile and a half away – damaged crops in their fields.” The EPA acknowledges that control measures required to curb such issues, such as creating buffer zones around fields, are not working as anticipated. However, tighter restrictions on use of dicamba are not likely to take place before the 2022 growing season starts due to complicated legal processes associated with its use and regulation. The dicamba dichotomy reveals a much larger issue of the dependency on petrochemicals that threatens the viability of the U.S. food system.

Design Your Farm Succession Plan First, Then Gift Farmland: Stop Good Gifts from Going Bad by Mark McLaughlin November 29, 2021. In this article, Mark McLaughlin, an associate with Farm Financial Strategies and co-owner of Farm Estate GPS in Ankeny, Iowa, highlights farm succession strategies for farm families. He suggests farmers gifting about 40% of the land to their heirs early on to reduce potential estate losses. The author further suggests farm families laying out some essential ground rules on “farm management, rental options, valuation methods, permissible owners, and buyout terms” prior to gifting the farm. The article provides much-needed information on navigating the question of who and how to pass on farmland. 

Family farms are struggling with two hidden challenges: health insurance and child care by Shoshanah Inwood, Andrea Rissing, & Florence Becot May 11, 2021. This article by researchers at The Ohio State University describes the dilemmas family farmers face in procuring health insurance for their families, and safe and reliable day care for their children. Following the story of Kat Becker, a Wisconsin farmer, the researchers summarize her dilemma this way: “She has had to make difficult choices over the years: keep her farm income low enough so her children can qualify for the state’s public health insurance, or expand the farm and buy expensive private insurance. To look after her three young children, she could hire a cheap but inexperienced babysitter, or spend a significant share of her income on child care and have peace of mind that the kids are safe from dangers on the farm.” This article describes two of the many barriers that young farmers face in the U.S. in vivid detail. They explain what happens when farmers get sick, and who is responsible for watching the kids on farms operated by younger folks. The authors also offer guidance on how the next generation of farmers could be supported by universal health insurance and affordable rural childcare.

Meet the Modern Farmer: Peculiar Pig Farm by Shelby Vittek May 8, 2021. This article tells of the traditions of a Black farming family in South Carolina and of the way one descendent of that family, Marvin Ross, “hopes to reclaim some of his family’s agricultural history” (n.p.). Here, we’re introduced to Ross and the ways he encountered agriculture during his youth and as he grew older, as well as some of the lessons Ross learned from his grandfather, a farmer. In homage to his family’s agricultural roots, Ross founded Peculiar Pig Farm. The article discusses the difficulties and discrimination Black farmers in the U.S. have faced and continue to grapple with. Vittek also writes of the ways Ross incorporates principles of regenerative agriculture as well as the traditional practices he learned from his grandfather that mirror those principles. 

Growing from Labor to Leisure: How Mindfulness Can Help Balance the Toil of Farm Life  by Quincy Gray McMichael May 18, 2021. This article serves as a reminder to farm families and individuals engaged in farming to adopt mindfulness as a way of balancing the arduous work of farming. The article highlights the essence of taking time off work, adopting leisure time for non-farm-related activities, and doing so with the mindset to first take care of the physical and mental health of farmers.

Op-ed: How Urban Agriculture Can Fight Racism in the Food System by Karen Washington July 10, 2020. In this article by food justice icon Karen Washington, we learn firsthand about the injustices Washington sees in her Bronx, New York community. She points out the systemic patterns of thought that label marginalized communities as ‘in need’ and sap their resources, wealth and power. Washington explains that changing the view of marginalized communities must begin with changing the food system to promote local ownership and encourage and enable communities to take back power through financial literacy and economic development. Washington discusses political barriers to this work as well as structures that operate outside of or in opposition to racial capitalism. This powerful read is not to be missed!

There Should Be Farmland in NYC Parks, and It Should Belong to Young Residents of Color by Melissa McCart June 25, 2020. This interview discusses the activist work of Amber Tamm Canty who is working to reclaim land in New York’s Central Park to create a working farm for Black and Brown people on the site of Seneca Village—a Black landholding that was claimed via eminent domain for the creation of Central Park. In two weeks, Tamm Canty had raised over $100,000 in a GoFundMe campaign toward this project. In this interview, Tamm Canty describes growing up in New York City, the need to recognize the indigenous peoples of the land, and the need to connect consumers with local produce. She also touches on the people who inspire her, the need to call in farming organizations that don’t adequately serve or that tokenize Black and Brown people, where she sees herself in five years, and what it means to be a farmer. This incredible activist is clearly on the rise and it’s worth getting introduced to her now through this article.

How to Make a Neighborhood Farm for an Entire Metropolis by Kim Severson August 9, 2021. Here we learn of a group of small-scale farmers, formerly farming rented land around Atlanta, who have banded together to buy 70 acres to be run as a worker-owned co-op with support from the Working Farms Fund. The Working Farms Fund is a program that purchases farmland at risk for development and leases it to farmers with the idea that the farmers can save enough to buy the land. The program also guarantees purchases from local institutions for the farmers from entities like schools and hospitals. This program, according to the article, aims to restore ‘agriculture of the middle’ bridging the gap between small farms and large industrialized farms.

Cooler, Cleaner Megacities, One Rooftop Garden at a Time by Marianne Dhenin July 8, 2021. Here, Marianne Dhenin writes for Yes! Magazine about green space and rooftop gardening in megacities like Cairo, Egypt and Dhaka, Bangladesh. Dhenin notes that these gardens and green spaces have effects on air quality and climate, and emphasizes the colonial and postcolonial trajectories of these megacities and others like them have led to their orientation around extraction and planning that has resulted in the destruction of greenspace. Complemented by images of the rooftop gardens, Dhenin explores the reasons these gardens and greenspaces can create cooler, cleaner cities and can enhance community health.

'I Wanted To Be On Land': A Conversation With Urban Farmer Kafi Dixon by Brenda Moran May 5, 2021. In this conversation with Boston urban farmer, Kafi Dixon, we learn about the Common Good Cooperative, an urban farm designed to serve women of color who are interested in learning about agriculture, entrepreneurship, food sovereignty, or who are simply looking to access green space. Here WBUR speaks with Dixon about the challenges of being a Black farmer in the U.S. and in Boston specifically, as well as the racial inequities and food apartheid present within Boston. This interview comes ahead of a forthcoming documentary film called “A Reckoning in Boston.”

Planting the Seed by Brenna Houck May 4, 2021. This article by Brenna Houck for Eater follows urban farmer, seed keeper, and member of the Tlingit Nation, Kirsten Kirby-Shoote. Here, Houck discusses Kirby-Shoote’s work promoting Indigenous food sovereignty and their approach to urban farming and cultivating indigenous foods in urban areas, as well of their goals for the future and ways to support their work, among other themes. The article also touches on exploitation and the rise of the conversation and publicity around Indigenous foods.

The Lipstick Queen of Farming by Christine Rucker 2021. In this article from The Bitter Southerner, Christine Rucker reports on Samantha Foxx, ‘the lipstick queen of farming.’ Foxx is a farmer in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where she operates Mother’s Finest Urban Farm. The article describes Foxx’s urban agriculture enterprise and the knowledge that sustains her and it. Rucker also notes the racism and marginalization Foxx has faced as a Black urban farmer in the South, backed by statistics showing the history of systemic discrimination against Black farmers as well as numbers reflecting the local context in Forsyth County where Winston-Salem is located. The article details how Foxx views this legacy and context, and how she resists and persists against the odds. 

How to Build Sustainable, Healthier, more Equitable Food Systems by Klaus Schwab October 20, 2021. “To build future food systems that are fit for purpose, we need to adopt a “platform for action” approach. Such an approach should enable stakeholders from various sectors and geographies to develop public-private collaborations that meet local needs, while collectively aligning and coming together to address global ones.” (Schwab, 2021, n. p). This sentiment features strongly in this article where the author advocates for collaborative private-public partnerships in countering the hurdles in the food system. While not agreeable to all, this article also highlights the need for innovation and entrepreneurship as effective ways of solving the wicked problems in the food system and promotion of a transformative systems change. 

Advice for Food Systems Governance Actors to Decide Whether and How to Engage With the Agri-Food and Beverage Industry to Address Malnutrition Within the Context of Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems by Vivica Kraak 2021. This commentary from Dr. Vivica Kraak of Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. In it, Dr. Kraak examines the role of public-private partnerships in addressing malnutrition and offers advice for stakeholders like governments, United Nations and civil society organizations who may be interested in engaging with agri-food and beverage industry actors to “motivate collective actions toward healthy sustainable diets” (p. 1). Dr. Kraak also provides guidance for these stakeholders in capitalizing on existing relationships with different levels of risk and trust. Last, Dr. Kraak urges stakeholders to prioritize accountability among corporate actors. With helpful diagrams and tables, Dr. Kraak’s article is a timely and important read to better understand the competing visions of what a healthy sustainable food system looks like and to gain an understanding of the ways stakeholders may engage with corporate actors to enact a healthy and sustainable food system.  

Boundary politics and the social imaginary for sustainable food systems by Kim Niewolny 2021. Here’s an article from Center Director, Dr. Kim Niewolny. In this essay, Dr. Kim Niewolny, who also serves as the current president of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society (AFHVS), writes in response to former AFHVS president Molly Anderson’s 2020 Presidential Address with focused on moving “beyond the boundaries” through a critical examination of the “insurmountable un-sustainability of the globalized food system” (n.p.). Here, Dr. Niewolny makes the case for prioritizing anti-racism and solidarity-building with social justice movements. As Niewolny argues, by “doing both, our priorities could shift toward critical research, education, and policy changes with a focus on uplifting the needs and concerns of those most vulnerable to the disruptions and inequities in the food system. This would also demand a redistribution of resources and decision-making power to communities most impacted by the historical and hegemonic race-gender-class politics of food access and availability. In this effort, it will prove crucial that those who benefit from pervasive systems of privilege (especially White privilege) to listen to and act in solidarity with civil society movements in the Global South and Global North who are actively re-imagining land, food, and environmental justice and liberation through such frameworks as agroecology, food sovereignty, and collective agency (see Agyeman and Alkon 2011; Daigle 2017; Holt Giménez et al. 2017; Penniman 2018; White 2018).” Niewolny closes with a call for a new epistemic imaginary and a message of hope.

Why Ken Meter Is on a Mission to Build Community Food Webs by Nancy Matsumoto May 7, 2021. In this piece, Matsumoto explains author Ken Meter’s thesis that our food system “systematically extracts wealth” (n.p.) from farmers and rural agricultural communities and divides the farmer from the consumer. Matsumoto also provides an introduction to ‘food webs,’ which Meter defines as “overlapping networks of grassroots leaders and organizations working to define their own food choices” (n.p.). This article contains excerpts from an interview Matsumoto conducted with Meter about his new book Building Community Food Webs. In the interview, Matsumoto and Meter discuss why now felt like the appropriate time to write about and publish this work, the ways in which the industrialized food system has siphoned wealth away from farming communities and how the numbers associated with that fact—in the amount of $4 trillion—could serve as a ‘wake up call’ to the general public, and the impossibility of industrial farming for the indefinite future—and how farmers may turn to local food webs as an alternative. 

How Food in the Commons Can Help to Address Inequity in US Food and Land Access by Molly Anderson (2021)In this commentary piece, Anderson remarks on the right to food and the ways it is and is not recognized in the United States. She discusses the U.S.’s problem of inequitable access to food and farmland and proposes food in the commons as a “civic ‘third way’” (n.p.). She provides examples of existing farmland held in the commons and commons that are designed to serve specific groups of people. Anderson also explains the barriers that prevent more food and land from being held in commons and the ways the U.S. might ready itself for more commons space.

Veganism Might Not Be the Most Sustainable Diet by Bob Holmes August 21, 2022. This article questions the claim that a planet without animal production for meat, milk, and eggs would allow humans to have a smaller environmental impact. Citing the work of scientists at Tufts University, UC Davis, Wageningen (Netherlands), University of Bonn (Germany), and others, this article shows that a world where people who choose to eat “a modest portion of meat a few times a week” (n.p.) could do so sustainably. These scientists do describe, however, the ways that animal production would have to change for this to be possible in an environmentally sustainable world.

Sustainable Agrifood Systems for a Post-Growth World by Steven McGreevy, Christoph D. Rupprecht, Daniel Niles, Armin Wiek, Michael Carolan, Giorgos Kallis,... and Masashi Tachikawa 2022. This article poses critical questions relevant to the current agrifood system. The post-growth concept, which according to the authors requires reconceptualizing human food systems to incorporate values such as sufficiency over efficiency, regeneration over extraction, distribution over accumulation, commons over private ownership, and care over control, is explored. Noteworthy is their analysis of the scholarship on degrowth, sustainability, and their application to post-growth agrifood education and research. Additionally, the paper calls for multilevel, multidimensional, and multifaceted approaches and strategies for achieving long-standing success. Conclusively, the authors build a case for reimagining the sustainability goals beyond those enshrined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, particularly for a sustainable agrifood system.

Black Elders Saved This Couple’s Mississippi Farm. Now They’re Harvesting Ancestral Techniques—and Tomatoes by Erica Hensley and Teresa Ervin-Springs August 3, 2022. This piece features Kevin and Teresa Springs, the owners of Kevin and Teresa’s Oasis (KTO) Farming in Mississippi, who are young black farmers unpacking their experiences to teach young farmers about sustainability, land regeneration, and the power of self-reliance. The authors speak to the deep emotional support that young farmers with limited farming experience need from their community elders and how their own community supported their transition from a corporate career to farming. The article also delves into the importance of cooperatives to the sustainability of Black farmers in the Mississippi. It is worth mentioning that as part of their ongoing work, KTO Farming is working to bridge the knowledge gap between Black elder farmers and the younger generation through their Southern Agrarian Training Center. 

Feed the Rich, Save the Planet? By Meghan McCarron July 6, 2022. The Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, located in Westchester County, NY, was founded by the Rockefeller family in 2004. The nonprofit center was originally designed to educate young people about food and farming, and eventually expanded its programming to include educational opportunities for beginning farmers interested in regenerative agriculture. and the on-site Blue Hill restaurant is featured here to magnify concerns regarding elitism, predominantly white leadership, and accountability among agricultural and food education centers like Stone Barns, as well as to identify a potentially problematic relationship between Stone Barns and Blue Hill. Stone Barns has begun to pivot toward a tighter relationship between the two entities on the premise that change “is only possible when it is led by deliciousness” (as was noted in an application for the Rockefeller Foundation Food System Vision Prize). This motto is emblematic of the familiar theory ‘trickle down’ where access to better and more sustainable food for the wealthy will eventually trickle down to those with fewer means. This important article introduces the dangers of nonprofits (especially well-resourced white-led nonprofits like Stone Barns) as leaders in food education and sustainable agriculture.

Human and social values in agroecology: A review by Rachel Bezner Kerr, Jeffrey Liebert, Moses Kansanga, and Daniel Kpienbaareh 2022. This article addresses the human and social values embedded in agroecological practices; many of which go unmentioned. The authors posit that agroecology addresses questions of equity and social justice in food systems, agroecological practices foster meaningful and dignified forms of food systems work, it also supports autonomy and well-being of food producers, and reshapes humanity’s ways of interacting with the ecosystem. Drawing upon diverse literature, the authors noted a gap in knowledge and limited research on the well-being, meaningfulness, or quality of work—especially for farm workers—on agroecological farms. Thus, they urge agroecology proponents to research further into these areas to address the knowledge gap since “there is considerable evidence that agroecology can improve social wellbeing, in part through increased food security and improved dietary diversity, which often contributes to culturally meaningful foodways.”

Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems: Comparing Contrasting and Contested Versions by Tim Benton and Helen Harwatt May 24, 2021. This timely article throws more light on the sustainability debate in agriculture by examining two unique versions of sustainability. The authors compare and contrast two commonly articulated versions of the interrelatedness of agriculture and food systems, and how food systems may become more sustainable. According to the authors, one version focuses on sparing land for nature, increasing the productivity of agricultural land, and minimizing environmental impacts. The second version focuses on scaling up nature-friendly farming while emphasizing demand-side changes in order to reduce the overall pressure on land. The authors posit that both versions of sustainable agriculture and food systems are primarily based on pragmatic assumptions that subsequently relate to power relationships and politics, particularly with respect to the primacy given to the role of the market. To achieve truly sustainable farming and food systems, they conclude that the assumptions guiding both versions of sustainability ought to be challenged.

Rethinking Food Culture Might Save Us by Jovida Ross, Shizue Roche Adachi, and Julie Quiroz  April 4, 2022. “U.S. food systems are fundamentally shaped by violent land grabs and plantation economies, growing into today’s mega-corporations that produce ecologically destructive and nutritionally empty food for a buck” (Ross, Adachi, & Quiroz, 2022, n.p.). This is an important article which centers the food system within the larger socio-economic and political frame characterized by systemic inequities and racial hierarchies that prioritize whiteness. The authors call for a reimagination of the American food culture from one that prioritizes exploitative gains, to one that values human dignity. They also advocate that we approach food work as cultural work, which affirms both individual and collective power to shape culture beyond consumption. The authors offer some vital suggestions: listening—giving generous attention while being open to learning something unexpected, engaging—being considerate as we connect with food cultural work, and activating—moving with awareness and purpose. 

LEAP to Jump Ahead with New $2.5 Million Roanoke Hub by Jeff Sturgeon January 20, 2022. The Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP), a nonprofit food organization located in Roanoke, Virginia, is the recipient of $2.5 million in pandemic-relief funds. As part of its infrastructural and logistical development plans, the nonprofit is looking to convert a building into a hub for all of its local food system programming. LEAP, with its mission to create an alternative food supply chain through local food producers as well as provide a conduit for consumers to access healthy local foods, received this fund through a decision by Roanoke staff, elected officials, and citizen volunteer in the city of Roanoke. 

West African Food System Resilience by De Steenhuijsen Piters, et al. 2021. Food system resiliency and the regionality of West Africa’s food system is presented in this research report published by Wageningen University. In the 185 page document, an extensive outline of the regionality and ecological characteristics, the economic and technological drivers, and leverage points for enhancing resilience of the food system are presented. The authors also highlight future possibilities for prospective researchers and civil society stakeholders interested in understanding the contemporary nature of the food system in West Africa’s sub-regions.

Farm Country Feeds America. But Just Try Buying Groceries There by Jack Healy November 5, 2019. This article tells the story of lack of market access and food insecurity in farm country through the lens of Great Scott!, a community-owned market in Winchester, Illinois as well as through the stories of a handful of other small-town stores. Here, Healy covers the closure of grocery stores in farm country as well as the difficulties and advantages of rural communities starting-up and operating their own markets to serve their communities. The article also chronicles the rise of dollar stores in rural communities and the problems associated with the influx of dollar stores in rural towns. This poignant article underscores the importance of community-owned markets in bolstering community pride and unity.

There’s No Such Thing as Ethical Grocery Shopping by Josephine Livingstone October 1, 2020. In this article, Livingstone discusses the new book by Benjamin Lorr titled The Secret Life of Groceries. According to the article, the book is premised upon the question of whether ethical grocery shopping is possible and answers with a well-explained ‘no.’ Lorr, as the article says, traces the supply chain and breaks apart labels like ‘organic,’ free-range,’ and the like. This fascinating article recounts stories from the book along with the author’s reactions to them and to its overall message. This article is worth reading to gain a better understanding of the value chain systems that feed some while marginalizing others.

Supporting Equitable Food Access During National Emergencies—The Promise of Online Grocery Shopping and Food Delivery Services by Pasquale E. Rummo, PhD, MPHMarie A. Bragg, PhDStella S. Yi, PhD, MPH March 27, 2020. The authors of this article describe the ways that food access is threatened during crises like the coronavirus pandemic, they detail the food access solutions already underway from public and private sectors, and they offer a list of public and private sector strategies that could serve to reduce food inequities during emergencies.

The Market of Virginia Tech helps provide healthy food to students in need by Albert Raboteau September 29, 2020. This article discusses the issue of food insecurity on college campuses, with attention paid to a study completed on the topic on Virginia Tech’s campus last year. Raboteau covers Virginia Tech’s efforts to mitigate student food insecurity and the receipt of a generous gift that allowed the Blacksburg campus to open ‘The Market of Virginia Tech,’ a free online ordering system which provides students in need with a week’s worth of fresh ingredients for healthy and satisfying meals. The article shares quotes from students who have experienced hunger and who have taken advantage of the new Market and it profiles the donors who made the market possible.

Why Do American Grocery Stores Still Have an Ethnic Aisle? By Priya Krishna August 10, 2021. In this article by Priya Krishna for the New York Times, Krishna investigates why grocery stores in the U.S. still have an anachronistic ethnic or international foods aisle. One of the people Krishna talked to for the article, Chira Agarwal of Brooklyn Delhi noted “I buy Finnish crackers. Why are they not in the ethnic aisle? . . . An Asian rice cracker would be in the ethnic aisle.” An important question indeed. Krishna describes the reasons getting rid of the ethnic or international aisle is difficult and potentially unpopular with some shoppers—the aisle is often used as a catchall for foods from nonwhite cultures and is used by many White customers to try new foods they haven’t been exposed to before and some purveyors don’t want “dilute the foods’ identity in the effort to sell to a wide audience” (n.p.). However, some retailers, especially those in areas with increasingly diverse or international populations, have been moving toward incorporating foods formerly found in the ethnic aisle into the rest of the store or have compromised by making the ethnic aisle more diverse and with more items from minority owned companies. 

Revealed: The True Extent of America’s Food Monopolies, and Who Pays the Price by Nina Lakhani, Aliya Uteuova, and Alvin Chang July 14, 2021. There are some worrisome statistics folded into this report from an investigation of the monopolies within the U.S. food system. According to the article, and detailed with a creative infographic that sets the scene, a small number of large transnational companies control every element of the food system from seed to processed product. The authors remind us that this also has implications for food workers; “those who harvest, pack and sell us our food have the least power: at least half of the 10 lowest-paid jobs are in the food industry” (n.p.). They also tell us that the situation is worsening with mergers and acquisitions happening all the time, as well as growing political power for these mega-corporations that comes along with economic power. With photos and infographics throughout, this article gives a broad oversight into the frightening reality of the monopolization of the U.S. food system.

A Century After the Tulsa Race Massacre, a Grocery Store Opens to Serve the Community by Kristi Eaton May 28, 2021. This article chronicles a 16,000 square foot independently owned grocery store in Tulsa, Oklahoma which opened recently, a century after the race massacre that occurred there. The article describes the ways the market meets the needs of the community, the racial disparities in the demographics of the city, and the ways supermarkets serve as community assets. The article includes quotes from Tulsa City Council member, Vanessa Hall-Harper, Allison Karpyn, co-director of the Center for Research in Education and Social Policy at the University of Delaware, and Allison Cohen, senior director of programs at WhyHunger to draw perspective on these themes.

Your Diet Is Cooking the Planet by Annie Lowrey April 6, 2021. This article connects the foods we eat with changes in our planet’s climate. While the article’s author acknowledges the corporate practices that will need to change in order to curb climate change, they focus on individual consumer behaviors noting that for most, diet is the number one source of an individual’s climate emissions. The article’s two take-home points are to stem food waste at the household level and to eat less meat. Here, the waste that results from our food system and consumer habits is described in detail and the author offers suggestions for how to reduce individual food waste. The author also highlights reasons to cut meat out of the diet, pointing to factors such as deforestation, erosion of biodiversity, and the water required to raise animals for meat. Beef goes under the microscope in this article, where it is charged with producing “roughly eight times more greenhouse -gas emissions than farmed fish or poultry” (n.p.). The article also covers the contradictions, nuances, and idiosyncrasies associated with individual food choices.

Will regenerative agriculture change how we grocery shop? By Bridget Shirvell March 4, 2021. This article provides an overview of regenerative agriculture and distinguishes it from organic production. Shirvell also relates the benefits of regenerative agriculture to the climate crisis and discusses how to identify products produced using regenerative agriculture in the grocery store. This article does not, however, acknowledge the Whiteness of regenerative agriculture—an earlier article from Civil Eats that we featured in January does this well. The two articles offer a complementary glimpse of regenerative agriculture’s benefits and drawbacks.

 

‘It's Going To Be Catastrophic’: Schools Brace for Crisis Over Meal Programs by Lauren Camera May 26, 2022. Supply chain disruptions over the course have affected all of us, and school food systems are not an exception. This article describes the difficulties school food programs are facing. School nutrition programs are going without bids from food distributors, essential items are out of stock, insufficient amounts of food are being delivered to schools, and food and nutrition service employees find themselves rushing to the nearest grocery store and dipping into their emergency fund to meet the needs of their students. The importance of the nutrition waivers granted at the outset of the pandemic also plays in here—the waivers have allowed school districts more

The banks collapsed in 2008 – and our food system is about to do the same by George Monbiot May 19, 2022. “For the past few years, scientists have been frantically sounding an alarm that governments refuse to hear: the global food system is beginning to look like the global financial system in the run-up to 2008.” (Monbiot, 2022, n. p). In this piece, the author likens the imminent collapse of the food system to the financial crisis of 2008 and states that internal frailties, coupled with environmental and political disruptions are culpable.  

Special Report on the Food Price Crisis: Another Perfect Storm? by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) May 2022. In this special report released earlier this month by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES), the food systems experts at IPES examine the factors that have resulted in the current food price crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The report details the “underlying rigidities, weaknesses, and flaws in global food systems” (p. 4) which, according to the experts, includes food import dependencies and declining dietary diversity globally as well as over-specialized production in certain regions, diversion of food crops to biofuels, and farmers’ reliance on synthetic fertilizers which limits the food systems capacity to be nimble or pivot to food production practices better suited to a specific political or environmental context. The report also cites market failure and speculation, along with the realities of political and racial conflict, climate change, poverty, and food insecurity which limits people’s capacity weather shocks to the system. The report lays out specific actions that governments can take to create a more resilient food system and avoid a future price crisis. 

Opinion: How land — and the way we use it — is at the center of the climate crisis by Judith Schwartz September 30, 2020. In this article, Schwartz asks “what if we regarded land, and how we treat it, as central to climate solutions?” (n.p.) and references her recently published book, The Reindeer Chronicles, and Other Inspiring Stories of Working with Nature to Heal the Earth (2020) and explains that working with nature rather than against nature could help us heal our relationship with the land and allow us to exercise the ‘tremendous agency’ that exits in humans’ relationship to land to curb the changing climate. She explains that her book holds stories of ‘earth repair’ from all over the world and shares pieces of some of the stories in this article. This article points to a new imaginary that reshapes our relationship with land and climate change mitigation.

OPINION: We Can No Longer Pretend Climate Change Doesn’t Exist by Megan Brown September 20, 2021. A sixth generation California rancher, Megan Brown writes of the losses she has experienced in recent years due to climate change. She recounts stories of out of control wildfires, droughts and plagues of grasshoppers that have ravaged her ranch and forced her to cull cattle or watch them suffer and die. Through her story, Brown forces the reader to accept the realities of climate change and the ways agriculture must change and adapt as a result of it.

For Climate Solutions, Listen to Indigenous Women by Grace Lynch October 5, 2021. The U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) is coming up on October 31st. In anticipation, Grace Lynch examines specific, local solutions to climate change for Yes! Magazine. According to Lynch, this is where meaningful change originates. In an effort to support Indigenous women and women of color participating in climate change activism and preserving their homes and communities, Lynch created the podcast As She Rises with Wonder Media Network. In Lynch’s words: “Along the way, I expected to find organizations to support or ways to take action. What I didn’t expect to find was that my entire understanding of the climate crisis was wrong” (n.p.). The article captures the need to hear from Indigenous women and women of color to learn to reframe the climate crisis and to engage in “reorienting and reapproaching one’s relationship to the Earth” (n.p.). Survival and resilience are key themes in this article, as captured in this quote from Colette Pichon Battle, executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy: “If we want to know how to survive, what is coming, we’re going to have to talk to the survivors. And I’m excited that those survivors are Native American, African American. There’s an acknowledgement that has to come in order for us to survive. And it is that the strongest, most knowledgeable people are the ones that our capitalist society values the least. But if we’re going to survive this climate crisis, we’re going to have to value them the most” (n.p.).

Can the iconic Georgia peach keep growing in a warming South? by Sarah Gibbens September 28, 2021. This article examines the Georgia peach, which, like all peaches, requires cold winter temperatures to produce fruit each spring—a growing challenge in a changing climate. According to the article, winter temperatures in Georgia have risen by five degrees Fahrenheit since 1960, a trend that is expected to continue as the earth warms. This article from National Geographic is complete with images that depict Georgian’s fascination with peaches, including photos from the Georgia Peach Festival which takes place each year in Fort Valley, Georgia as well as photos of peach production and processing, and the researchers exploring the Georgia peach’s viability in a changing climate. The authors also explain the research efforts currently underway to protect the future of the Georgia peach—for example, examining peach DNA to identify a new variety that may require fewer ‘chill hours’ to produce fruit.

Growing Uncertainty in the Central Valley by Anna Weiner September 15, 2021. As California’s climate dries, agriculture and food systems are getting national attention as the region that produces most of America’s food—the Central Valley—becomes less able to do so. At the same time, the pandemic has affected agricultural systems in the Central valley disproportionately impacted farmworkers, as it has in most of the country, causing a labor crisis. In this article from the New Yorker, Anna Weiner notes the inherent unsustainability of California agriculture, supply-chain issues amidst the pandemic, and the impacts of climate change on the land.

Cooler, Cleaner Megacities, One Rooftop Garden at a Time by Marianne Dhenin July 8, 2021. Here, Marianne Dhenin writes for Yes! Magazine about green space and rooftop gardening in megacities like Cairo, Egypt and Dhaka, Bangladesh. Dhenin notes that these gardens and green spaces have effects on air quality and climate, and emphasizes the colonial and postcolonial trajectories of these megacities and others like them have led to their orientation around extraction and planning that has resulted in the destruction of greenspace. Complemented by images of the rooftop gardens, Dhenin explores the reasons these gardens and greenspaces can create cooler, cleaner cities and can enhance community health.

It’s Some of America’s Richest Farmland. But What Is It Without Water? by Somini Sengupta June 28, 2021. This article describes the ways drought is reshaping California agriculture. Here, Sengupta discusses the decisions a rice grower, a melon farmer, and an almond producer face as drought makes growing these crops nearly impossible. “Climate change is supercharging the [water] scarcity” according to Sengupta, who writes of the negative feedback loop that exists between drier soils and heat waves like those experienced in California and the Pacific Northwest over the past week. Roughly 10,000,000 acres of agricultural are predicted to go idle if the drought continues and no new water source is identified. This would be a major blow to the nation’s food supply, as California currently produces two-thirds of the U.S.’s fruits and nuts and a large share of the vegetables, the article says.

Salad will survive climate change. But at what cost? By Eve Andrews June 16, 2021. “How can we democratize salad?” asks this article from Grist. In it, Eve Andrews explores the split among environmentalists who, on one side, advocate for a more plant-based diet, and on the other, claim that resource-intensive production, like that required for a year-round supply of salad greens. The article reviews the history salad—which has existed since Roman times, according to the article—and the oxymoron of industrially produced mesclun mix. It’s important to “balance nutritive value with widespread access” (n.p.) as nutrient deficiencies worldwide remain high and the world does not produce enough fruits and vegetables for all to fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables, as is recommended in the national dietary guidelines in Canada. This is a thorough article examining the origins and current realities of salad green production as we know it, with all of its controversies and conundrums exposed.

Your Diet Is Cooking the Planet by Annie Lowrey April 6, 2021. This article connects the foods we eat with changes in our planet’s climate. While the article’s author acknowledges the corporate practices that will need to change in order to curb climate change, they focus on individual consumer behaviors noting that for most, diet is the number one source of an individual’s climate emissions. The article’s two take-home points are to stem food waste at the household level and to eat less meat. Here, the waste that results from our food system and consumer habits is described in detail and the author offers suggestions for how to reduce individual food waste. The author also highlights reasons to cut meat out of the diet, pointing to factors such as deforestation, erosion of biodiversity, and the water required to raise animals for meat. Beef goes under the microscope in this article, where it is charged with producing “roughly eight times more greenhouse -gas emissions than farmed fish or poultry” (n.p.). The article also covers the contradictions, nuances, and idiosyncrasies associated with individual food choices.

Taking the Temperature by Eater Staff March 24, 2021. This series of articles on food systems and climate change came out this week and is worth a look. The summarizing statement notes that while it might feel like too much to bear, amongst the pandemic and the racism we’ve borne witness to over the past year, climate change must not be overlooked as one our biggest existential challenges. The introduction to the series notes, “As dramatically as climate change stands to literally remap the planet, no effects will be more profound than those on ecology — which is to say, in large part, our food system” (n.p.). Articles contained in the series include “A Truffle Abundance at the End of the World,” “Dying Planet or Not, Americans Won’t Stop Eating Beef,” “Tainted Leaves” (on the link between climate change and foodborne illness), “Extreme Weather is Wreaking Havoc on Olive Oil Production,” “We’re All Learning to Love Jellyfish Now, Thanks to Climate Change,” and “Warmer Temperatures Could Mean More Grapes for Midwest Winemakers—but Also More Bad Weather.”

A Clarion Call to Environmental Consciousness by Heather McTeer Toney February 10, 2021. In this article, Toney, a climate activist addresses the ways Black people “encounter and address climate and environmental injustice” in the U.S. She links this to intergenerational trauma as well as ancestral knowledge. In this beautifully written article, Toney asserts: “No, our mothers did not raise fools, and this one simple phrase serves as a clarion call to environmental consciousness that invokes both an expectation of excellence and survival, as well as a reminder of the respect owed to the ancestors who suffered so that we may thrive” (n.p.). She reflects on Black people’s ability to survive and adapt and Black communities’ tenacity and grit in the face of abject inequality and predisposition to being victims of climate change, as she writes: “As temperatures rise and vector borne diseases spread, our communities are at risk of being disproportionately impacted simply because over half our nation’s Black population live in the warmest part of the country: the South” (n.p.). She links ancestral knowledge with Black communities’ capacity to learn, adapt, teach, and thrive in the face of hardship. She also advocates for Black folks’ inclusion in decisions related to climate change, asking: “All of the facts, history, and stories beg the question: Why aren’t African Americans sought after, let alone better engaged in conversations about climate solutions?” (n.p.). This is a thought-provoking and important article and we highly recommend it as a must-read.

The Women Who Beat the Desert/Las Mujeres que le Ganaron al Desierto by Isabela Ponce February 7, 2021. This article is in Spanish but Google Translate does a good job with it if you want to read it in English. The article tells the story of a group of women faming high in the Jubones desert in southern Ecuador. This is the story of climate change in the desert—the climate is becoming even hotter and drier than it was when the women at the center of this story were growing up. The article tells explains how these farmers have managed to irrigate their land and grow crops in the Andes, despite the arid and changing climate. Ponce also discusses the politics of water and irrigation in such a place. 

Agroecologist Alexa White connects the dots between biodiversity, food, and climate January 25, 2021. Here’s a quick bio from World Wildlife Magazine on agroecologist, Alexa White, winner of the WWF’s 2020 Conservation Leadership Award. According to the bio, White’s work “explores the relationship between international governance, agriculture, food security, and food sovereignty” (n.p.) and emphasizes the “power differentials that influence policy” (n.p.) as communicated by farmers and policy-makers. The piece also explains how she’ll use the funding she received from WWF to travel to Jamaica and Hawaii to study small-scale coffee farms—two places hit hard by climate change. This is a quick read, and worth checking out to learn more about an up-and-coming agroecologist who is sure to influence food systems thought and learning.

Two Biden Priorities, Climate and Inequality, Meet on Black-Owned Farms by Hiroko Tabuchi and Nadja Popovich January 31, 2021. The Biden administration’s aims to tackle both racial inequality and climate change will converge on Black-owned farms, according to this article. Incorporating the story of a Black peanut farmer in southwest Georgia, and quotes from change-makers including the leader of the Southeastern African-American Farmers Organic Network, the article covers underrepresented stories of Black agricultural communities and traces their history from Emancipation through the Jim Crow era and into the present day, noting the oppression and racism they have faced including from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the article Tabuchi and Popovich discuss the Biden administration’s plan to upend these discouraging trend to face both inequality and climate change head-on through assistance programs directed toward Black farmers and programs like ‘carbon banking’ that would reward farmers for sequestering carbon in the soil.

Reasons for Hope on Climate Change in 2021 by Matthew Hoffman January 12, 2021. We could always use a little more hope when it comes to climate change. This article enumerates a few reasons to be hopeful in 2021. Before doing so, however, Hoffman recalls the fires, cyclones, and other catastrophic events of 2020. Hoffman notes the element of hope inherent to uncertainty and looks to science and politics to offer reasons to be hopeful. Next, he offers a list detailing the traction gaining around healing our planet and suggests that ‘rejecting despair’ will be essential to carving a path forward.

As North Carolina warms, one farm is turning to a tropical crop: Taro by Lina Tran July 5, 2022. This article highlights the potential for crop diversification using the Taro crop. Chris Smith, the founder of the nonprofit Utopian Seed Project, whose mission is to introduce the taro crop to the Southeast is working with farmers, customers, and chefs to cultivate taro. He is also working to create a viable market for it, particularly in North Carolina. Center fellow Michael Carter Jr. is one of the Utopian Seed Project partners and has been experimenting with taro for its leaves, popular among African immigrants. The article further discusses the nutritional and economic value of taro; from root to leaf, the entire plant is edible, though it needs to be cooked first due to its high oxalic acid content. To Chris Smith, cultivating taro can help diversify the food system and make the food system more resilient to climate change. 

The Environmental Limits of Eating Local: What We Still Misunderstand About Climate Change and Local Food by Kenny Torella June 6, 2022. This article discusses the limitations of the notion surrounding ‘eating local’ as opposed to eating food produced from afar. In their study, the author found that the main determinant of any given food’s environmental footprint is not necessarily how far it had to travel to get on a plate, but the kind of food, particularly, whether or not it came from an animal. He noted that the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from animal production far outweighs that generated by fruit, nuts, vegetable, and grains production. He concludes by cautioning that in tackling the biggest environmental challenges, there is the need to rethink the personal and political relationship to meat and not just an issue of distance to farms.

Op-ed: Climate Change Is Bringing Agriculture to the Arctic. Let’s Prioritize Food Sovereignty by Mindy Jewell Price May 11, 2022. This article discusses the imminent impacts of climate change and weather conditions in the Arctic and what it means for agriculture. According to the article, the warming of the arctic regions offers huge potential for agricultural production. Consequently, the intergovernmental Arctic Council is exploring technological innovations to expand Arctic food production and new ventures in aquaculture. They note, however, that the broad governmental commitment to the expansion of arctic agricultural development may inadvertently result in perpetuating the dominant model of corporate, industrialized agriculture. The authors thus advocate for a shift towards agroecology as a movement to help protect Indigenous foodways. 

Climate Change Will Transform How We Live, But These Tech and Policy Experts See Reason for Optimism by Robert Lempert and Elisabeth Gilmore April 18, 2022. In this article, the various efforts to both adapt to and mitigate climate change are advanced.  According to the authors, in the last five years, several transformations have substantially developed to counter the status quo with regard to how humanity lives with nature and our ecology. For instance, they propose a more deliberate approach in infrastructural development, housing, and community development. They conclude that doing more to disrupt the status quo with proven solutions can help smooth the transformations and create a better future in the process.

Is it Possible to Heal The Damage We have Already Done to the Earth by Scott Denning April 18, 2022. “Sometimes it may seem that humans have altered the Earth beyond repair. But our planet is an incredible system in which energy, water, carbon and so much else flows and nurtures life” (Denning, 2022, n. p). That notwithstanding, humans have wreaked havoc on the Earth, especially through greenhouse gas emissions and the burning of carbon for fuel, which needs to be reversed. To the authors, the only way to avoid making things worse is to stop burning carbon for fuel. That means societies need to work quickly to build an energy system that can help everyone live well without the need to burn carbon. They thus suggest a shift to electricity made from solar, wind, and geothermal power, which is cheaper and cleaner. A move towards electric cars and trains, electric heating and cooking, and electric factories would go a long way to slowing the level of damage that humans have caused.

COVID-19 and the Food System

Op-ed: We Can Build a Better Food System Through Mutual Aid by Antonio Roman-Alcalá June 26, 2020. According to this article, mutual aid could be crucial to developing a more just and equitable food system. Here, Roman-Alcalá describes mutual aid as ‘inherently politicized,’ grassroots, and interested in long term solutions over short term fixes. As Roman-Alcalá put it, “mutual aid efforts operate from the assumption that only the fundamental transformation of society can truly meet those needs, and aid is mobilized in service of that larger goal” (n.p). Here, mutual aid is described as establishing “reciprocal relations of solidarity” (n.p.). Additionally, in this article, Roman-Alcalá provides examples of successful mutual aid projects related to the food system and the ways that mutual aid can help construct a more sustainable, just and equitable food system if it is able to resist bureaucratization or usurpation by dominant charity organizations.

If You Still Don't Get Why COVID-19 Hit Black People Harder, Read This by Amanda Balagur June 20, 2020. This is a story from Dr. Jessica B. Harris, a writer and culinary historian, as told to journalist Amanda Balagur. In it, Harris explains, in detail, the ways that three comorbidities (asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure) are caused by systemic injustices. In doing so, she effectively links heightened coronavirus morbidity and mortality in Black communities to systemic racism. In this interview, Harris also discusses activism and cautions against ‘performative activism,’ she describes the reflective pause that coronavirus has forced us all to take, and she talks about having gratitude for both essential workers and for enslaved ancestors and about the ‘original sin’ that is shared across the nations of the Americas and the civil unrest that exists because of it. This interview is broad in scope and sheds light on the systemic violence that causes coronavirus to wreak havoc in Black communities in profound way.

Unequally vulnerable: a food justice approach to racial disparities in COVID-19 cases by Alison Hope Alkon et al. 2020. In this article, Alkon and colleagues describe the disproportionate rates of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality in communities of color from a food justice lens. They relate the common claim that underlying health conditions are responsible for the increased infection and death rates among people of color to racial capitalism which determines how people access food and what foods they access. The authors briefly examine the structural conditions that affect food consumption and in addition to looking at diet disparities due to racial capitalism, they also point to disparities and injustices in labor conditions due to the same that may have an impact on coronavirus cases and outcomes

The Case for Letting the Restaurant Industry Die by Helen Rosner May 22, 2020. This article features an interview with Tunde Wey, a chef and activist artist based in New Orleans who holds a “radical vision of a more equitable culinary world” (n.p). In the interview, Wey answers questions about his views on the restaurant industry, its shortcomings, and its potential to rise from the coronavirus crisis with renewed modicum of social and economic justice. In the interview, Wey discusses his activism and his views on the restaurant industry, as well as a vision for a more just food service industry that more adequately addresses the structural inequalities it is premised upon.

In the Face of COVID-19, State Legislators Push for Federal Support of Local Food Systems by Lisa Held May 18, 2020. Here, Held discusses the work of the State Innovation Exchange’s (SiX) agriculture coalition. The coalition is oriented toward “advancing state-level policies that strengthen small farms and local food economies” (n.p.) She notes a recent letter the legislators wrote to urge the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to prioritize relief for small and mid-sized farms via the CARES Act. In this article, the author catches up with five legislators in the SiX network to learn about their work in strengthening local food systems.

People of Color are at Greater Risk of COVID-19. Systemic Racism in the Food System Plays a Role by Nadra Nittle May 5, 2020. Nittle explains how systemic racism is intertwined with the racialized morbidity and mortality rates of coronavirus. According to the article, data shows that Black people make up roughly 34 percent of coronavirus deaths despite representing only 13.4 percent of the population. This article discusses social determinants of health, including injustices in the food system and explores the way food, class, and race intersect in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus Is Creating a Food Security Crisis in Indian Country by The Civil Eats Editors April 20, 2020. Interviewees describe the ways centuries of oppression have left the Navajo Nation with severely limited resources, including many households without running water or electricity. The limited resources not only make lockdown conditions significantly more challenging, but also mean that the virus is taking hold in these communities more easily with a higher mortality rate with Navajo Nation’s coronavirus per capita mortality rate coming in just after New York and New Jersey’s. 

The global pandemic has spawned new forms of activism – and they’re flourishing by Erica Chenoweth et al. April 20, 2020. The authors of this article have compiled an extensive list of expressions of solidarity and activism. They credit the pandemic as a generative force for the creation of new tools and strategies that citizens may use to demonstrate discontent and lobby for change. 

Southpaw: Thrown a curve, collective stands in by Matt Dhillon April 19, 2020. This article from the Roanoke Times features a new local group calling themselves the Future Economy Collective. The group is dedicating themselves to mutual aid and community building. In the article, the group’s organizers thoughtfully reflect on the need for this kind of initiative and the state of the U.S. economic and social structures.

Code Switch podcast episode Why The Coronavirus Is Hitting Black Communities Hardest April 10, 2020. In this podcast, Marry Harris, host of Slate’s daily news podcast ‘What’s Next’ speaks with healthcare reporter Akilah Johnson to learn about the reasons why black Americans are being disproportionately impacted by coronavirus and why referring to COVID-19 as a “great equalizer” is, in fact, fallacious.

Coronavirus and Human Value by Angela Glover Blackwell and Michael McAfee 2020. Here Blackwell and McAfee call out the existence of a ‘hierarchy of human value’ premised upon legacies of enslavement, genocide, and colonization. Using examples from the coronavirus response, they tie this hierarchy of human value to our current moment to show the destruction caused by valuing certain groups over others.

Wash Your Hands by Dori Midnight n.d.. A poem by a self-described community-based intuitive healer, Dori Midnight. Midnight unpacks the compassion in a simple act of this time: that of washing our hands.

Why Don’t We Know Who the Coronavirus Victims Are? By Dr. Ibram X. Kendi April 1, 2020. In this article, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi draws upon accounts of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 as a metaphor for coronavirus. This article was a precursor to more recent concerns over racial data that have emerged since Kendi’s article was published (for example here, here, and here)—as such, it’s certainly worth a look.

Haymarket Books Online Teach-In: How to Beat Coronavirus Capitalism with Naomi Klein, Astra Taylor, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and a musical performance by Lia Rose March 26, 2020. In this hour-and-thirty minute teach-in, three authors, Naomi Klein, Astra Taylor, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor discuss the ‘pandemic of capitalism’ given the rampant ‘coronavirus illness.’ The authors also spend significant time discussing resistance to coronavirus capitalism and the challenges imposed by the need for physical distance, as well as the political and social distance that is constraining social movements. 

Social Justice in a time of Social Distancing from the Design Studio for Social Intervention by Kenneth Bailey and Lori Lobenstine March 13, 2020. This article by Kenneth Bailey and Lori Lobenstine describes the way that coronavirus is exacerbating our proclivity to individualism. This timely article provides insight into ‘the current arrangements of individuality’ as well as into what we might do to resist the impulse to individuate and to remake coronavirus as a call for collective action and collective healing.

Mutual Aid May Be Last Year’s Most Enduring Legacy by Luz Cruz May 27, 2021. In this article from Eater in partnership with Civil Eats, the author reflects on their year working in a free store in Minneapolis following the killing of George Floyd. The author expands on food insecurity, legacies of racism, and the benefits of mutual aid as: direct action, self-organization, determination, egalitarianism, and social transformation. Noting the differences between mutual aid and charity, Cruz says: “Mutual aid at its essence gives communities the opportunity to self-determine and organize in the ways that allow everyone to live a dignified life. Unlike charity, which tends to involve a one-way dynamic — as organizations enter neighborhoods dictating their own agendas — mutual aid is reciprocal, inherently political, self-organized, and egalitarian. It often involves direct action and is rooted in a desire for social transformation” (n.p.). Here, we learn about a direct action in the form of a free store in Minneapolis and the difference it has made for marginalized communities coping with the pandemic on top of systemic racism.

A Survival Center Tries to Survive the Pandemic by Oliver Whang February 16, 2021. Harlan County, Kentucky is one of the most food insecure and impoverished in the U.S., according to this article. Here, Oliver Whang reports on the efforts of Bobby Simpson, a Harlan County-native whose mutual aid efforts in the county date back to the 1970s. He addresses food insecurity and poverty in the county by operating a Survival Center that distributes food and other items to residents in need with no bureaucratic oversight. Because of the lack of bureaucracy, the Survival Center operates on a principle of trust and Bobby Simpson and his late wife have served as “good neighbors for the whole county” (n.p.), as Whang put it. This article captures the state of affairs for Harlan County and the Cranks Creek Survival Center in the context of the pandemic.

Beyond Big Meat by Ted Genoways August 24, 2020. This article highlights the disruptions in the American food production system that result from the Covid-19 pandemic. Focusing on meat production, Genoways highlights the impossible-to- navigate bottleneck caused by slow-downs or closures at meat packing plants leading to mass euthanization of livestock. The article highlights the evolution of large-scale meat production, the backlash against it, as well as its vulnerabilities and fragility in the face of a global pandemic. Genoways concludes his article by underscoring the need for a massive meat production reform in the United States and by imagining what that type of innovation could entail.

Virginia Cooperative Extension helps get food from the field to the table during COVID-19 by Devon Johnson and Max Esterhuizen August 12, 2020. Here, the work of our very own Eric Bendfeldt, Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation Associate Director, Kim Niewolny, Center Director, and French Price, Center Fellow is featured. This article highlights the Virginia MarketMaker website, “a multistate effort to connect growers with the suppliers and markets they need to successfully produce and sell crops” (n.p.) as well as the work of the Center amidst the pandemic. Read this article to learn more about the our team’s efforts to improve and strengthen the Virginia food system!

The lives upended around a $20 cheeseburger by Jessica Contrera July 7, 2020. This fascinating article offers a broad tour of the food system by following the origins of a $20 burger from the conception of the steer in Kansas to a burger on the dining room table of the man that ordered it in Washington D.C. Along the way, we’re introduced to all of the food systems workers who work on the ranches, in the meatpacking plant, for the meat distributor, in the restaurant where the burger is assembled, and for the delivery app that gets the burger to the consumer. Contrera takes space to describe the human and financial impacts of the pandemic along every step of the way. This is a captivating look at the function and dysfunction of our food system in light of the coronavirus pandemic and is not to be missed!

As School Meal Programs Go Broke, a Renewed Call for Universal Free Lunch by Lisa Held June 29, 2020. In this article, Held discusses the difficulty school districts face in providing meals to students both while they’ve stayed home in the spring and summer and moving forward into the fall, whether they’ll be in school or staying home. This article discusses the nuances and financial dysfunctionalities of school nutrition programs and describes the reasons why solvency has become exceedingly difficult for school food programs in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. In the article, Held suggests policy solutions that could help schools meet demand and would help to tackle some of the systemic inequities that make financial solvency so elusive for school nutrition programs.

Food Service Workers Are on the Brink of a Mental Health Crisis. These Efforts are Helping. By Kayla Stewart May 26, 2020. This article discusses the worrisome realities for many food service workers facing mental health crisis. Stewart artfully weaves firsthand stories with data that show that bar and restaurant workers are especially at risk for mental illness including, and especially, substance use disorder. Stewart also notes the barriers that exist to accessing care. This article shares stories of food service workers as well as the story of a program that exists to help food service workers access care and support one another.

Table For None: Tom Colicchio Explains What Restaurants Need To Survive from Fresh Air (interview by Terri Gross). May 7, 2020. In this episode of Fresh Air with Terri Gross, restauranteur Tom Colicchio breaks down the possibilities for the survival of restaurants amid this pandemic. He describes a vision of restaurants as community food sites and explains the potential role of restaurants in averting the impending crises in the food supply chain. He also discusses the increasing food waste resulting from the pandemic, as well as the impact of coronavirus on farmers.

A Wendy’s With No Burgers as Meat Production Is Hit by David Yaffe-Bellany and Michael Corkery May 5, 2020. Yaffe-Bellany and Corkery discuss the ways the meat industry’s production shutdown is beginning to impact consumers. They note the shortage will likely peak around Memorial Day and that the shortages consumers are seeing now are just the beginning of a bigger problem. 

Op-Ed: Everything wrong with our food system has been made worse by the pandemic by Margot J. Pollans May 4, 2020. In her op-ed, Pollans points out several ‘cruel ironies’ exposed by the coronavirus pandemic. Pollans emphasizes the existence of a false dichotomy between the interests of food consumers and food systems workers.  She also notes the irony of the specific breakdowns in the supply chains for example “While farmers dump produce that was destined for restaurants and schools, food banks fight to keep up with increased need” (n.p.). 

Trump Declares Meat Supply ‘Critical,’ Aiming to Reopen Plants by Ana Swanson and David Yaffe-Bellany April 28, 2020. In this article from the New York Times, the authors describe Trump’s order to reopen or keep open meat processing plants to stem an impending protein shortage in the United States.

Critical Food and Farm Rules Have Been Rolled Back Amid Pandemic by Gosia Wozniacka April 14, 2020. This article by Gosia Wozniacka is alarming. In it, she points out the coronavirus-induced shortfalls in state and federal food safety assurances. Wozniacka also details the environmental regulations that have been relaxed during the pandemic and the ways the food industry might take nefarious advantage of the lapse.

How COVID-19 may disrupt food supply chains in developing countries by Tom Reardon, Marc Bellemare and David Zilberman February 2, 2020. This  article examines the relationship between economic development, urbanization, and globalization and other factors on the strength and resilience of food supply chains, with particular emphasis on projected disparities within COVID-19 responses and lockdowns between poor and rich countries.

We all (still) Quit: What Happened After Fast Food Workers Walked Out? by Cindy Lange-Kubick December 10, 2021. Civil Eats article spotlights the workers at a Burger King in Lincoln, Nebraska, who started the “Great Resignation” revolution. According to a labor economist who was interviewed, the phenomena at the Lincoln Burger King has been a long standing occurrence of disregard by employers for the welfare of their employees. The Covid-19 pandemic was the breaking point for some; propelling workers at the Burger King in Lincoln to push back and walk out. According to Jim Begley, director of the William Brennan Institute for Labor Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha, “the phenomena that played out at the Lincoln Burger King, and in recent strikes at John Deere and Kellogg’s, has backdrop that predates the pandemic.”  The article concludes with a poignant reminder that food system workers are essential and are demanding changes for better wages and working conditions. 

No Veggies, No Buns, Few Forks: Schools Scramble to Feed Students Amid Shortages by Madeleine Ngo September 27, 2021. This article describes the way supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic are affecting school cafeterias. These supply chain woes include labor shortages impacting food distributors and manufacturers. The article highlights the struggles of a few specific schools, including examples from Missouri, Kansas, Texas, Minnesota, Alaska, and Richmond, Virginia, where hot lunches were replaced by “grab and go” meals this year. The supply chain disruptions have led school officials in many districts to begin shopping at big box stores to supplement what they are getting through their normal channels, but often the products purchased there don’t meet the federal nutrition guidelines schools are required to follow, with higher levels of sodium and fat than what the schools would typically purchase.

A year later, food workers still experience waves of Covid-19 by Leah Douglas April 6, 2021. Here, Douglas recalls the pandemic of early 2021 and its impact of meat processing facilities. According to the article, there have been more than 1,800 outbreaks at food production plants with 90,000 food and farm workers contracting the virus. Douglas reports that two-thirds of those cases have occurred at meatpacking plants and nearly thirty percent of meatpacking plant workers have been infected by the virus. They also note that public knowledge of this issue declined significantly after the initial publicity about it waned, despite continuing concerns. The article describes the dangerous conditions inside meatpacking plants that predated the pandemic, and the continuing safety concerns in light of COVID-19. Also noted is the lack of disclosure from public health departments as well as the private meatpacking entities who often decline to reveal numbers and details concerning these outbreaks. This comprehensive article reviews the recent history of meatpacking plants in the time of the pandemic, gives firsthand accounts of what it has been like to be a meatpacking worker over the course of the last year, offers predictions and tentative solutions for moving forward, and provides a map that shows the epicenters of the outbreaks across the U.S.

What grows from a pandemic? Toward an abolitionist agroecology by Maywa Montenegro de Wit 2020. Here, Montenegro de Wit examines the pandemic-induced value-chain breakdowns from an agroecology perspective. The crux of the author’s argument is founded in abolition—the author connects abolition and agroecology suggesting that “agroecologists can mobilize lessons from abolition, a strategy premised on dismantling exploitative systems through growing relationships and institutions that affirm life” (n.p.) in order to strengthen agricultural systems and make them more resilient to shocks and disruptions such as those induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The article makes reference to Cedric Robinson’s racial capitalism, linking it to the context of the pandemic and the recent uprisings and connecting it to the fragility of our agri-food system. Part 1 of the article is centered around the following questions: “How are agrarian transitions and changing interfaces between ‘wild’ and ‘domesticated’ landscapes helping pathogens spill over into human populations? In what ways does industrial animal agriculture elevate risk for further outbreaks?” (n.p.). Part 2 looks at the recent breakdowns in the food system, while part 3 delves into how agroecologists might effectively intervene to stem the current crisis. 

Voices from the Frontlines of America’s Food Supply produced by Mark Josephson and Gabriel Sanchez for the New York Times January 5, 2021. This series of vignettes highlights the experiences of 11 food systems workers from across the U.S. The stories feature a former farmworker, a commercial fisherman, a farmer, a meatpacking plant processor, and a long-haul trucker, among others. These are firsthand accounts of what it’s like to work on the frontline of America’s food supply amidst the pandemic.

Grocery Store Shortages Are Back. Here Are Some of The Reasons Why by Joe Hernandez January 12, 2022. This article discusses the current food shortages in most food outlets. The author noted that the shortages are mainly due to supply chain backlogs and highlights some factors that have exacerbated the issue. Citing the new omicron virus of the Covid- 19 variant as a likely reason for the food shortage, the author noted that the record number of infections particularly among grocery store workers made it nearly impossible for stores to keep their shelves stocked. The mass resignation and labor shortage are also a reason for the empty shelves, he states. Additionally, climate change and its impacts are another cause of the food shortage. Last, Hernandez highlights a shortage in shipping and trucker personnel for ground transportation of grocery food and supplies as a major stressor for the food supply chain.

Finding Strength in Sofrito in Puerto Rico by Von Diaz October 26, 2020. Here, Diaz discusses life in Puerto Rico during the annual hurricane season, made worse by climate change, and amidst the coronavirus pandemic. In this article, Diaz notes Puerto Rico’s poverty rate (the highest in the nation) and the toll the coronavirus has taken on the island, and in particular, on the food security of its residents. Diaz extolls the virtues of the island’s most famous dishes and notes their origins in the traditional foodways of Spanish, African and Indigenous peoples. The article also covers the food relief efforts being spearheaded by famous chef, Jose Andrés and others. This thorough article covers themes of food security, food sovereignty and resilience in Puerto Rico and is an uplifting read. 

Food Insecurity in the U.S. by the Numbers by Christianna Silva September 27, 2020. Here, we learn about the pandemic’s influence on food insecurity in the U.S. The article breaks down food insecurity by the numbers, noting that one in four families have experienced food insecurity this year and that children and Black families are disproportionately affected by food insecurity. The article covers SNAP benefits during the pandemic and also points to rising food insecurity globally as a result of the pandemic. This is a thorough article that highlights the rise of food insecurity resulting from COVID-19 and also links to several other relevant articles that tell more personal stories about hunger and the pandemic.

Why Giving Food Stamps to the Rich Is Not a Terrible Idea by Ginia Bellafante September 18, 2020. In this article, Bellafante covers the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) going to all families with children who attend public schools in New York City. According to the author, “pandemic EBT benefit is the most progressive measure to come out of recovery efforts” (n.p.). She explains the nature of the benefit and why it goes to wealthy families, as well as to families that desperately need it. She also encourages wealthy families to spend the benefit funds and then donate the same amount to food pantries to further bolster food security in the city. In a quote from Joel Berg, chief executive of Hunger Free America, we see that “The important message here is that government has a far greater capacity to help than charity” (n.p.). This article underscores the importance of government assistance and the strength of government programs in combating food insecurity.

Cuba’s Economy Was Hurting. The Pandemic Brought a Food Crisis. by Ed Augustin & Frances Robles September 20, 2020. This article covers food insecurity and coronavirus response in Cuba. The authors discuss the hit Cuba has taken as the U.S. government has imposed stricter sanctions on the country’s trade and as coronavirus has blocked tourists from entering Cuba. The article details the ways the Cuban government’s response to controlling the coronavirus pandemic within its borders has been largely effective but has been coupled with increased food insecurity and long lines for expensive food sold in dollars, a currency that Cubans do not earn and is accessible only to those with close contacts abroad. The authors also explain the ways this has contributed to increasing income inequality in the country. This is an important read about a country that has been successful in controlling the virus but where the virus has put its economy into a tailspin.

PHOTOS: Brazilian Farmers Hatch a Plan to Send Healthy Food to The Favelas by Patrícia Monteiro May 24, 2020. In this photo essay Monteiro chronicles the impacts of the coronavirus crisis on Brazil’s favelas, poor urban neighborhoods that are typically densely populated and under-resourced. Monteiro captured images of food deliveries in favelas where hunger is a mounting threat alongside COVID-19. This article captures the work of local farmers who had lost their markets as a result of the pandemic and who are rerouting their produce to serve people living in the favelas. The deliveries are subsidized by wealthier customers who purchased shares in community supported agriculture.

The Farm to Food Bank Movement Aims to Rescue Small-Scale Farming and Feed the Hungry by Lynne Curry May 14, 2020. In her article, Curry highlights projects designed to link small farmers with food banks. She describes the current failures in the conventional food system and details the logistics of the connections. She also touches on established farm-to-food bank programs that predate the pandemic and describes what efforts might look like moving forward.

As Hunger Spreads with Pandemic, Government Takes Timid Steps by Lola Fadulu May 13, 2020. Fadulu explains the ‘too little, too late’ approach of the U.S. government in helping to curb increasing rates of hunger. She describes the government’s foot dragging on addressing hunger, noting that it has failed to expand school meal programs and SNAP benefits in substantial enough ways to avoid furthering the crisis. She also warns that many of the measures taken have been temporary and are set to expire next month, inviting the potential for an exponential increase in hunger. 

U.N. Warns Number Of People Starving To Death Could Double Amid Pandemic by H.J. Mai May 5, 2020. This article recounts the U.N. humanitarian chief’s warning that coronavirus’s economic toll could result in double the hunger and hunger-related deaths this year. The humanitarian chief calls for increased cooperation and increased aid from wealthy nations, noting that without this, the situation could turn dire.

COVID-19 and the crisis in food systems: Symptoms, causes, and potential solutions Communiqué by IPES-Food April 2020. This communiqué from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems highlights the ways that our industrial food system has contributed to the existence of COVID-19 (i.e. through the destruction of nature) and the ways the pandemic is exposing the weaknesses inherent to the system (e.g. food shortages and supply chain issues).

‘Instead of Coronavirus, the Hunger Will Kill Us.’ A Global Food Crisis Looms by Abdi Latif Dahir April 22, 2020. This article points out the strain imposed by coronavirus on countries already in crisis. Dahir cites a recent UN report that projects that coronavirus threatens over a quarter of a billion people with starvation if action is not taken to stop this humanitarian crisis.

What More States Allowing SNAP Recipients to Buy Food Online Means for Food Security by Nicole Rasul April 13, 2020. This article  highlights the difficulties SNAP recipients face in the current crisis because, in most states, SNAP funds can only be redeemed in person and can’t be used online. According to the article, an increasing number of states are joining a Department of Agriculture pilot program that will allow recipients to use SNAP dollars online in an effort to alleviate some of the stressors associated with purchasing food during this pandemic. 

Ensuring Food Security in the Era of COVID-19 by Thanawat Tiensin, Agnes Kalibata, and Martin Cole April 1, 2020. Explores the possibility of pandemic-related food crises and the potential of much higher rates of food insecurity, similar to those of the Great Recession.

Feeding Low-Income Children during the Covid-19 Pandemic by Caroline G. Dunn, et al. March 30, 2020. This article describes the benefits of school feeding programs to underscore the gravity of their loss as schools stay closed during the pandemic. The authors offer strategies that school districts could use to ensure children are well fed during the crisis and offer specific policy guidelines for policymakers to make feeding programs possible as the pandemic continues.

Supporting Equitable Food Access During National Emergencies—The Promise of Online Grocery Shopping and Food Delivery Services by Pasquale E. Rummo, PhD, MPHMarie A. Bragg, PhDStella S. Yi, PhD, MPH March 27, 2020. The authors of this article describe the ways that food access is threatened during crises like the coronavirus pandemic, they detail the food access solutions already underway from public and private sectors, and they offer a list of public and private sector strategies that could serve to reduce food inequities during emergencies.

Vast Expansion in Aid Kept Food Insecurity From Growing Last Year by Jason DeParle September 8, 2021. Rates of food insecurity remained the same from 2019 to 2020, according to data released on Wednesday by the USDA. This article explains why, as well as how surprising the numbers are. Food insecurity impacted 10.5 percent of American households last year, a number unchanged from the previous year, but food insecurity did rise among Black families and Southern families, “with 21.7 percent of Black households experiencing food insecurity, compared with 7.1 percent of white households. That is a gap of 14.6 percentage points, up from 11.2 points in 2019, before the pandemic struck” (n.p.). This is because Black households were more affected by job losses and school closings than white households in 2020, according to this article. The article attributes the unchanged rates of food insecurity to the expansion of aid in 2020, included both the stimulus checks and expanded unemployment benefits. The article also discusses the state of poverty in the U.S., the falling rates of food insecurity across 2020 as aid efforts expanded, and the vital role that schools play in reducing food insecurity. 

Pandemic Brings Highest Global Hunger Rate in 12 Years by Chuck Abbott July 12, 2021. This article provides statistics on global hunger in light of the coronavirus pandemic. In it, Abbott notes that “nearly one of every 10 people is undernourished” (n.p.), noting that this is a massive rise from pre-pandemic numbers, with 118 million more people going hungry in 2020 than in the previous year. The UN estimates that around 768 million people were hungry in 2020. This rise is attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, but follows a three-year trend in rising global hunger rates that can also be attributed to conflict and climate, with the pandemic exacerbating the situation in 2020.

The State of Hunger During COVID-19 in the U.S. by Victoria Bouloubasis June 11, 2021. This article opens with the story of a family on the Virginia-Kentucky line that struggles with food insecurity. Here, we learn about the rise in food prices in 2020, along with the struggles that food insecure families face. Bouloubasis cites Feeding America in stating that “an estimated 45 million people, including 15 million children, were food insecure in 2020” (n.p.) and notes that those numbers are only projected to decrease slightly in 2021. There has been an “unprecedented” (n.p.) rise in hunger as a result of the pandemic, according to this article. There is also a “disproportionate burden placed on marginalized groups” (n.p.), as Bouloubasis explains, “The hunger crisis grows from cracked foundations: Food insecurity affects historically marginalized people at a much higher rate.” (n.p.). The article also provides an overview of aid such as SNAP benefits and the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), as well as community-based aid.

Op-ed: How the Pandemic Made it Harder For Immigrants to Access Food by Megan Carney and Teresa Mares April 29, 2021. As Carney and Mares explain in this article, the pandemic has made it harder for immigrants to access food because of fears about accessing public services and because of overburdened private programs that aim to enhance food access. With firsthand accounts from immigrants, this article touches on the “economic, political, social, environmental, and health dimensions of food insecurity” (n.p.) following the research areas of the two authors. The authors explain the status of food insecure immigrant communities prior to the pandemic and explain the reasons why rates of food insecurity have risen so significantly during the pandemic, and especially the ways that heightened food insecurity impacts immigrants in the U.S. 

The pandemic recession has pushed a further 9.8 million Americans into food insecurity by Craig Gunderson March 19, 2021. In this article, Gunderson writes of the rise in food insecurity due to job losses and other hardships imposed by the pandemic. Gunderson studies trends in food security, tracking the rise in food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic in comparison with other major economic recessions. They use modeling to report and project the numbers of food insecure people during 2019 and 2020 and into 2021. They note that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the relative resilience of the American food supply chain has averted a larger crisis, though a great number of people still struggle with food insecurity. Key to the author’s findings is that food the number of food insecure people is projected to drop in 2021, which is unlike the effects of the Great Recession when rates of food insecurity didn’t drop for several years.

With Emergency SNAP Benefits Ending, A ‘Hunger Cliff’ Looms by Bridget Huber April 13, 2022. As several states cut back on their national public health emergency funds including the reduction of SNAP benefits, this article from the Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN) calls attention to the impacts on various low-income families. Several anti-hunger advocates are concerned about families approaching a “hunger cliff”, particularly with the increasing cost of food and fuel. Recent census data shows an increased number of food-insecure households thus preempting a major strain on the already understaffed existing food banks. 

Food Insecurity and Mental Health in Virginia by Rachel Nelson, Sarah Misyak, and Elena Serrano 2022. This recently published report from Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program shares timely findings from a study conducted to assess the physical and mental health of mothers experiencing food insecurity in Virginia. For this study, a food security and mental health survey was developed by researchers at Virginia Tech and George Mason University. There were 1028 responses to the survey between August 9, 2021 and October 27, 2021. The study showed that, overall, respondents consistently reported worse mental health than the US average across all measures of mental health and illness. Specifically, over half of respondents reported experiencing high levels of stress with the prevalence of symptoms of both anxiety and depression above the average for the US population. These preliminary findings highlight the need for further investigation into the relationship between food insecurity and mental health outcomes, especially focusing on the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With a Fortifying Soup, Haitians Share Their Pride in Independence by Priya Krishna December 29, 2020. In this excellent article, Krishna recounts a Haitian Independence Day ritual centered around soup joumou, an “aromatic, orange-yellow squash soup” According to Mr. Jean Simon, a Haitian emigrant living in New York City, the annual ritual “is a reminder that even though we are not home, we have something to hold onto our culture and bring all of us back together, . . . We can invite all the people to understand our culture and what the day means to us.” The article reviews the history surrounding Haiti’s independence and the significance of African and colonial foodways. The article discusses the ways soup joumou is made, how and where the holiday is celebrated in the United States, and how the tradition can safely carry-on despite the coronavirus pandemic. Krishna also offers an accompanying recipe for soup. 

For a Daughter of Immigrants, American Soil Offers Plenty to Forage by Vanessa Hua November 11, 2020. In this essay, Hua discusses the significance of foraging for food amidst the pandemic through beautiful prose. Hua places the practice in historical context and explains its contemporary role in society. As Hua put it, “Foraging felt like empowerment and self-sufficiency — a form of resourceful thrift familiar to me as the daughter of Chinese immigrants, and a small measure of control when so much has felt out of control” (n.p.). This is a wonderful story of one family’s experience with foraging for food and is well worth reading.

Post-coronavirus, how can we achieve food justice? By Sarah Wild September 15, 2020. In this blog post from Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine, Wild recounts conversations with five food systems experts about the top priority for achieving food justice. Their answers include reflections on how coronavirus “shocked the food system” and the need for a more resilient food system that can withstand future shocks, the role of government in the creation of a just food system, the need to give food producers more power and agency, consumers’ responsibility in producing and procuring healthy food in more localized systems, and the affordability of healthy food juxtaposed with the need to pay food producers a living wage. This broad ranging piece highlights the thoughts of food systems experts across the US and Europe and promotes deep thought on what we would need to create a just food system moving forward. 

COVID-19 Relief Package Must Recognize Food Is Fundamental by Allison Johnson & Yvette Cabrera September 15, 2020. In this piece, Johnson and Cabrera detail the ways in which the coronavirus pandemic has destabilized our food system, from production to consumption by jeopardizing farmworker safety and by exacerbating conditions contributing to food insecurity. The authors admonish political figures who have done little to address the dire situation and recommend increasing and adding flexibility to SNAP benefits to benefit those experiencing food insecurity—“[building] on what works,” as the authors say. Further, the authors argue that legislators must pass the Food Supply Protection Act, describing how and why doing so would protect workers. They detail what has and has not been done in Washington and urge Congress to pay attention and act appropriately to combat food security and build food justice in meaningful and effective ways. 

Organic Food as a Human Right: Rio de Janeiro Favelas Organize for Food Sovereignty During Covid-19 by Sophie-Anne Monplaisir July 20, 2020. In this article, Monplaisir provides a brief overview of Brazilian agriculture and the limited access poor Brazilians have to fresh produce and unprocessed or minimally processed foods. She dives into two projects that have sought to reverse this by promoting food security, education, agroecology and food sovereignty in Rio’s favelas in light of COVID-19. Activists and community organizers quoted in the article provide further insight into the plight of those that live in Rio’s favelas in accessing fresh and healthy produce and the disconnect between Brazil’s booming agriculture industry and the food security of its citizens. This article provides insight into innovative projects emerging from the favelas and is worth a look!

The COVID-19 Pandemic and Puerto Rico’s Food Sovereignty by Luis Alexis Rodríguez-Cruz n.d.. This piece by Luis Alexis Rodriguez-Cruz emphasizes the impact of COVID-19 on Puerto Rican farmers and fisherfolks. Rodriguez-Cruz highlights the precarity of Puerto Rican supply chains as food is funneled through a single port and the supply chain itself is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, as are farmers and fisherfolks. Here, Rodriguez-Cruz identifies the difficulties and inequities Puerto Rican farmers and fisherfolks face and asks the reader to imagine a Puerto Rican food sovereignty that would protect the local supply chain and adequately value local production.

‘The sun is hot and you can’t breathe in a mask’ - life as an undocumented farmworker by Gabriel Thompson May 28, 2020. This article offers a firsthand account of what it’s like to be an undocumented farmworker working in the United States during the coronavirus crisis. In it, a farmworker, given the pseudonym Roberto Valdez, describes the experience of trying to protect himself from coronavirus as he harvests crops in the desert southwest. This article highlights the precarities and injustices farmworkers face, as well as the pride they feel as they fulfill the duties of their vital work.

Op-ed: Migrant Farmworkers, Native Ranchers in Border States Hit Hardest by COVID-19 by Gary Nabhan May 22, 2020. Here, Nabhan details the working and living conditions that make migrant farmworkers and Native ranchers particularly susceptible to COVID-19. He reminds us that “Navajo Nation farming, herding, and ranching families are being hit by COVID-19 at rates double their contribution to the overall population in the Southwest” (n.p.) and explains the language barriers and other obstacles that migrant farmworkers face in protecting themselves and accessing care if they do fall ill. In his article, Nabhan sets this tragic scene with compassionate prose, making this thoughtful and well-researched article a must-read.

‘Our Food System Is Very Much Modeled on Plantation Economics,’ a CounterSpin interview with Ricardo Salvador on the coronavirus food crisis (interview by Janine Jackson) May 13, 2020. In this interview with Ricardo Salvador of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Salvador and Jackson discuss the ways the food system is responding to the current crisis (i.e. by dumping milk and plowing vegetables under). Salvador explains the way the food system is set up and how it came to be that food would be wasted to this degree. They also discuss the vulnerable status of food workers during this time and draw connections between our contemporary food system and legacies of plantation agriculture. Last, the interview closes with a call to action toward food systems reform.

The Sickness in Our Food Supply by Michael Pollan May 12, 2020. In this piece, Pollan discusses the vulnerabilities and inequities inherent to our industrialized food system. He explains the disconnect between retail and institutional food markets and details the relevant history of the American food system that has contributed to the current reality. He also reveals the injustices faced by food systems workers deemed ‘essential’ during this time. He connects the present disruptions to diet and notes the politicization of our plates. Pollan ties many pieces of the current crisis together to form a compelling plea for food systems reform.

Sowing Seeds of Hope During COVID-19 by Bonnie Newman Davis April 28, 2020. This article follows the work of Duron Chavis, a Richmond food justice advocate who has received national recognition for his efforts. After losing his job at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden due to COVID-19, Chavis immediately devoted himself to grassroots activism launching a Facebook fundraiser to support Resiliency Gardens. This article describes Chavis’s work and fundraising efforts, shares his story, and includes a poem written by Chavis.

‘Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste’: The Covid-19 pandemic and the opportunity for food sovereignty by Walden Bello April, 2020. In this paper, Bello highlights how the food systems chaos spurred by the coronavirus pandemic demonstrates the precariousness of and danger inherent to the global industrial food and agriculture complex. Bello’s work leads to the recommendation that this crisis should inspire a “strategic transformation of the global food production system along lines designed to bring about food self-sufficiency and food sovereignty” (p. 3). 

The farmworkers putting food on America's tables are facing their own coronavirus crisis by Catherine E. Shoichet April 11, 2020. CNN covered the unique challenges farmworkers face during the pandemic. With direct quotes from farmworkers and farmworker organizers and advocates, this article details lapses in safety and farmworker protections, as well as the seeming inevitability of a devastating outbreak of COVID-19 among farmworker communities.  

Forged in the Fire: Lessons for the Current Crisis by Highland Center co-executive directors Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson and Allyn Maxfield-Steele April 3, 2020. This piece relates the lessons learned from last year’s devastating arson attack on the Highlander Center main office to the current COVID-19 crisis. 

The Moment for Food Sovereignty is Now by Katie Brimm April 2, 2020. Brimm chronicles the rise of ‘victory gardening’ in the US in response to coronavirus. She gains insight from seed suppliers, food systems educators, and food sovereignty activists to weave together a narrative that demonstrates the heft of the moment. 

Farmworkers Are in the Coronavirus Crosshairs by Gosia Wozniacka March 25, 2020. Wozniacka describes the difficulties farmworkers face in accessing information about coronavirus and protecting themselves from getting sick. As the title suggests, this article examines the myriad complicating factors that make life during this pandemic particularly vulnerable for farmworkers.

Unique Indigenous Maya food system blends cropping techniques in Guatemala by Sandra Cuffe December 15, 2021. In this article, the Cuffe features members of the Maya Ch’orti’ Indigenous communities in Guatemala and their traditional agroforestry system and intercropping techniques. According to Yon Fernández de Larrinoa, chief of the FAO’s Indigenous Peoples Unit and co-coordinator of the Global-Hub, indigenous food systems such as that of the Maya Ch’ortis hold lessons for global food systems transformation. As part of an eight-part series showcasing Indigenous food systems, this article also illustrates how the effects of climate change and natural resource exploitation threatens Maya Ch’orti’ lands and their food system, empathizing the ongoing importance of protecting Indigenous land for food sovereignty.

Maine just voted to become the nation’s first ‘right to food’ state. What does that mean? by Taylor Telford November 3, 2021. Mainers have voted for an amendment to their constitution that makes them the first ‘right to food’ state in the U.S. According to this article, the amendment, which passed during Tuesday’s election, gives Mainers the “natural, inherent and unalienable right” to produce and consume food of their own choosing. The referendum was designed to grant local communities more agency within the food supply chain and oppose the consolidation, concentration, and growing power of food supply corporations in the U.S. This amendment is one that embodies the notion of food sovereignty on a statewide scale and the hope of the amendment’s creators is that it expands to a nationwide scale as more states adopt similar legislation, with Maine paving the way. The article also reviews the recent history of food sovereignty-related legislation in the state. 

After a Fraught History, Some Tribes Finally Have the Power to Rethink ‘Commodity Foods’ by Andi Murphy November 1, 2021. Commodity foods evokes nostalgia for some and a form of violence for others in Indigenous communities in what is now the United States. This article covers the way that Indigenous artists have used their mediums to point out the legacies of harm commodity foods have wreaked on Native culture. Here, Murphy explains the complex history of commodity foods and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) and the impacts they have had on Indigenous communities. The commodity foods are so ubiquitous in Native communities that they are tied to family memories and are associated with care and comfort. On the other hand, they are emblematic of colonization and violence. The article goes into the changes that have been made since 1989 with the beginning of a tribal representation in the program’s leadership through the National Association of Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations (NAFDPIR). Now, NAFDPIR, the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, Native Food and Nutrition Resource Alliance, along with the Intertribal Agriculture Council are banding together to seek more opportunities for Indigenous people and changes for the FDPIR in the 2023 Farm Bill.

From Insecurity to Sovereignty: A Vision for Food Justice by A-dae Romero Briones October 20, 2021. This article emerged from a partnership between Nonprofit Quarterly and First Nations Development Institute. The article begins with an explanation of storytelling and how it shapes out imaginaries, often from the perspective of the colonizer. Here, the author encourages us to question the narrative surrounding Thanksgiving and the problematic myths it contains. Romero Briones also encourages us to consider the Thanksgiving story a story of American food insecurity—one in which colonizers (i.e., white settlers) are food insecure and “the Indians” come to their rescue. The article likens the Thanksgiving story to the story of American food systems including the overwhelmingly short-term and unsustainable solutions to food insecurity. Here, we’re asked to reimagine these narratives from the Wampanoag perspective and reconsider solutions to food insecurity, especially in Indigenous communities, within the framework of food sovereignty. This article is extraordinarily powerful and reemphasizes the importance of perspective and the influence of narrative. As the author notes, “It is through telling and listening and retelling the complete, uncensored stories of our human experience that we become empowered to change the patterns of how we order the world, all that supports us in the world, and who develops the narratives that become our collective ‘history’ (n.p.). 

Op-ed: The Pandemic Didn’t ‘End Hunger’—It Exposed Systemic Racism Instead by Ashanté Reese October 7,  2021. Here, Ashanté Reese, author of the widely acclaimed book Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C. (2019), addresses the topic of food insecurity in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. While we at the Center have featured many articles on this theme since April of 2020, this one hits a bit different. Reese’s article takes issue with the media coverage of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Economic Research Service 2020 Household Food Security Report released last month and notes that despite articles claiming that the overall percentage of food insecure households has held at 10.5 percent since 2019, this is not the case for Black, non-Hispanic households, where rates of food insecurity rose from 19.1 percent in 2019 to 21.7 percent in 2020, with even more of a rise in Black households in the South. As Reese notes has been true for decades, the pandemic revealed that “Food insecurity is not simply a money problem. It is also a racism problem” (n.p.). This article also discusses social welfare programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the mutual aid efforts aimed at curbing food insecurity in Black and brown communities. 

New Study Highlights Traditional Foods as Foundational to the Health and Well-Being of Indigenous People by Amylark Lorwood January 2022. In this Food Tank article, a study conducted by the University of Ottawa, the Assembly of First Nations, and the Université de Montréal reveals that traditional foods serve a pivotal role in the health and well-being of First Nations people. According to the article, First Nations refers to the indigenous groups and communities living on reservations in Canada who are not Métis or Inuit, and comprise of roughly 510, 000 people in 643 First Nations communities across Canada. Because First Nation people have traditionally accessed food by hunting, fishing, and gathering, current climate change, and developmental activities including industrial mining, forestry, and destructive agricultural practices threaten their traditional food systems. The study found that, for First Nation societies, food held immense cultural, nutritional, and spiritual value which is slowly diminishing with modern development. The authors conclude by advocating for a reduction in activities that threaten the livelihood and existence of First Nation communities. 

What grows from a pandemic? Toward an abolitionist agroecology by Maywa Montenegro de Wit 2020. Here, Montenegro de Wit examines the pandemic-induced value-chain breakdowns from an agroecology perspective. The crux of the author’s argument is founded in abolition—the author connects abolition and agroecology suggesting that “agroecologists can mobilize lessons from abolition, a strategy premised on dismantling exploitative systems through growing relationships and institutions that affirm life” (n.p.) in order to strengthen agricultural systems and make them more resilient to shocks and disruptions such as those induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The article makes reference to Cedric Robinson’s racial capitalism, linking it to the context of the pandemic and the recent uprisings and connecting it to the fragility of our agri-food system. Part one of the article is centered around the following questions: “How are agrarian transitions and changing interfaces between ‘wild’ and ‘domesticated’ landscapes helping pathogens spill over into human populations? In what ways does industrial animal agriculture elevate risk for further outbreaks?” (n.p.). Part two looks at the recent breakdowns in the food system, while part three delves into how agroecologists might effectively intervene to stem the current crisis. 

What Does Agriculture Have to do With Zoonotic Diseases? By Lindsay Campbell October 19, 2020. Zoonotic diseases are those that can be passed between animals and humans. This article breaks down the question of agriculture’s role in the proliferation and transmission of zoonotic diseases. Here we learn about the role of deforestation for agricultural land use and the incidence of pandemics like COVID-19. The author also writes of the role of farms located near forests where wild and domesticated animals may mix in increasing the incidence of zoonotic disease transmission. Intensive agriculture where animals are kept in cramped conditions and the overuse of antibiotics are also cited as a cause.

A Deep Divide on COVID, and Masks, in Farm Country by Jenny Splitter October 5, 2020. This article discusses the politicization of COVID-19 in agricultural communities that results in division and polarization. The author builds on stories from a rural agriculture teacher, a nurse with AgriSafe (a national agricultural health organization), a therapist and researcher on farmer mental health and a few farmers to demonstrate the prevalence of anti-mask sentiments and general distrust in public health information that pervade in farm country. Here, we learn about coronavirus surges in rural areas and rural communities’ divided response to the spiking caseload. We also hear from rural agricultural community members who feel the isolation imposed by social distancing measures is worse than the effects of the virus itself. This article captures nuance and emotion and is absolutely worth reading to understand more about the political divide in this country.

Virus’s Unseen Hot Zone: The American Farm by Laura Reiley and Ruth Reinhard September 24, 2020. This article describes the ways the large-scale growers who hire migrant farmworkers “flouted public health guidelines to limit testing and obscure coronavirus outbreaks” (n.p.). The article describes a sort of cover-up scheme on the part of growers to hide the reality that coronavirus cases were exploding as a result of their production systems and the inability of workers to take time off if they are sick and the impossibility of social distancing on many farms. According to the article, growers did this by encouraging workers to hide positive diagnoses and by limiting access to testing. This article highlights the lack of worker protections and the failure of growers to act in accordance with public health guidelines to curb the spread of the virus. 

The Pandemic Is Exposing the Rotten Core of Our Industrial Food System by Joseph Bullington August 14, 2020. Here’s another article on the fragility of the industrial food system and the resurgence of local foodways amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Though we’ve seen a few articles like it, we wanted to share this one because of its vivid depiction of the shortcomings of industrial agriculture and the possibilities embedded within local food systems. As the author wrote, “As the pandemic has shaken the rickety scaffolding of industrial agriculture, it has woken many of us to the fragility of this system — and our dependence on it” (n.p.). As a counterpoint, he offers examples of initiatives based in mutual aid, food sovereignty, and community organizing and with them, hope for an alternative future. If you need a small dose of optimism among the doom-and-gloom, this article is for you!

The Scramble to Pluck 24 Billion Cherries in Eight Weeks by Brooke Jarvis August 12, 2020. This is a beautifully written article that follows the cherry from farm to market with emphasis on how the supply chain has been forced to shift and adapt during the coronavirus pandemic. As the article notes, “People who had regularly been called illegal suddenly found themselves rebranded as essential” (n.p.). Jarvis underlines the essentiality of farmworkers during the coronavirus pandemic as immigration enforcement procedures were relaxed in response to the impending dual crises of the pandemic and the potential loss of farmworkers to harvest crops (due to illness, fear of infection, and immigration enforcement). Here, Jarvis recounts the stories of two cherry orchards and a single farmworker to communicate the difficulties presented by the crisis and the particularities (and vulnerabilities) of the annual cherry harvest.

In Mexico City, the coronavirus is bringing back Aztec-era ‘floating gardens’ by Amanda Gokee July 5, 2020. Here’s an uplifting article from Grist about farmers in Mexico City who continue to use ancient farming practices to cultivate Mexico City’s chinampas or floating gardens. In this article, Gokee discusses the changes in demand that the chinamperos (chinampa farmers) are seeing due to COVID-19. Here, with quotes collected from interviews with chinamperos, we learn about the ways they are using a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model to offset their losses from the lack of restaurant and institutional sales during COVID-19. This article is a welcome pick-me-up and is worth reading to learn about a unique indigenous production style and a lesson of adaptation and resilience in the face of volatile markets and a global pandemic.

Why meatpacking plants have become coronavirus hot spots by Nicole Narea May 19, 2020. This article explains the specific working conditions that make coronavirus so transmissible among meatpacking plant workers. According to the article, conditions that make it nearly impossible to maintain a safe social distance “create a perfect storm for coronavirus transmission” (n.p.). The author also notes the conditions outside of the workplace, such as crowded living conditions and commutes via public transit that increase the likelihood of meatpacking workers contracting the virus. As the article points out, despite the impending shortage of meat in grocery stores, “the most vulnerable members of the supply chain in terms of livelihood and health are the farmers and the factory workers, not the consumers or grocery stores” (n.p).

Op-ed: Growing an Appreciation for the Hands That Feed Us by Mas Masumoto May 6, 2020. In this piece, Masumoto reflects on the solitary nature of farming and draws on commentary from renown food systems figures to discuss the current moment. This piece features reflections and lessons from Chef José Andrés, author Michael Pollan, chef Alice Waters, and others. 

A Global Mask Shortage May Leave Farmers and Farm Workers Exposed to Toxic Pesticides by Melanie Bateman April 27, 2020. Farmers and farmworkers may have to forego vital protection from pesticide-induced respiratory illnesses because of the surging demand for personal protective equipement (PPE) caused by coronavirus.

The Coronavirus Pandemic is Pushing Dairy Farmers to the Brink by Siena Chrisman April 8, 2020. In this article, Chrisman describes the dairy industry as it tries to adapt and re-strategize with the market’s unanticipated expansions and contractions due to COVID-19.

Community Supported Agriculture Is Surging Amid the Pandemic by Hannah Ricker and Mara Kardas-Nelson April 9, 2020. Ricker and Kardas-Nelson recount how pandemic-fueled food anxiety is breathing life back into the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model.

Will the CSA Boom Survive Beyond the Pandemic? by Bridget Shirvell March 10, 2021. This article describes the boom in demand that CSA farmers saw last year as a result of the pandemic and the continuation of that trend as farmers prep for the coming season. Here, the author briefly discusses the history of CSAs in the United States, linking their emergence to southern Black farmers’ “Clientele Membership Clubs.” The article provides examples of a few farmers’ responses to the boom, their experiences within the last year, and their feelings about the new interest in CSA membership and the need to educate their new consumers.

America’s Salad Bowl Becomes Fertile Ground for Covid-19 by Miriam Jordan January 22, 2021. Yuma County in Arizona abuts the Mexican border and is known as ‘America’s salad bowl’ due to its winter production of lettuce, broccoli, and other leafy greens. According to the article, Yuma County has reported more coronavirus cases per capita than any other region of the U.S. This is at least partially due to the influx of winter residents including farmworkers and snowbirds that arrive each winter. The article explains the factors that make coronavirus transmission so high in Yuma County and details the special risks inherent to farm labor amidst the pandemic, as well as the unsuccessful measures the Arizona government has taken to get the pandemic under control.

How ‘Fairy Tale’ Farms Are Ruining Hudson Valley Agriculture by Elizabeth G. Dunn June 9, 2022. Though this article focuses on New York’s Hudson Valley, it references an issue common to agricultural communities that exist in close proximity to major cities. The Hudson Valley, the article explains, was inundated by city-dwellers at the start of the pandemic and farmers in the area were (and continue to be) squeezed out of the land and housing market. The Hudson Valley is also a hub for new and beginning farmers. These farmers often rely on leasing land to start their farm businesses, and they have found that leasing from incomers who don’t have an understanding of or background in agriculture can be challenging. Be sure to check out this article to learn more about the tension rising between new and established farmers, and newcomers from the city—a reality that is arising all over as workplaces move to a virtual setting and pandemic precautions drive folks out of the cities. The article also includes beautiful images of farms and farmers working the land in the Hudson Valley.

Five Reasons to Try Foodscaping Your Lawn July 1, 2020. This blogpost outlines reasons to explore foodscaping your lawn amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

With Schools Closed, Their Gardens Take on a New Role by Tove Danovitch May 20, 2020. This article discusses the innovative strategies school gardens are using to maintain growth and productivity during this strange time. Danovitch provides some general background on school gardening and discusses the ways school gardens can be used as diverse learning sites. As the article explains, many gardens have pivoted away from planting a mix of different produce for learning and have turned instead to production gardening similar to other urban agriculture sites with the goal of giving food to local families or food pantries. 

Most Farmers in the Great Plains Don’t Grow Fruits and Vegetables. The Pandemic is Changing That by Daphne Miller May 12, 2020. This article describes a new trend in large-scale production agriculture systems devoted mainly to corn and soy. The trend is to devote an acre or two of land to a ‘chaos garden’ by planting a mix of plants producing edible crops rather than a traditional cover crop. Typically, the fruits and vegetables harvested from the chaos garden are donated to a local food bank though some farmers sell the produce locally, contributing fresh produce to the local food system. According to the article, the popularity of chaos gardens has grown exponentially this year, likely in response to the breakdown of supply chains due to the pandemic.

Food Supply Anxiety Brings Back Victory Gardens By Tejal Rao March 25, 2020. This article draws the parallels between World War II victory gardens and the many people taking to gardening during the Coronavirus pandemic.

When her son died, a woman turned to gardening. Now, she feeds her entire community by Alejandra Marquez Janse and Amy Isackson May 22, 2022. This is a story of loss, love, and community connecting through food. Jenna Fournel of Alexandria, VA lost her eight-year-old son Oli to a sudden illness in 2019. Fournel, with her son Leal and husband, expanded the garden Oli and Leal had tended before Oli’s passing. The family found that keeping busy through gardening helped them to process the grief. Oli used to grow and sell flowers to raise money for a local animal shelter. Now, the family sets up a small farm stand full of produce for anyone to take. The COVID-19 pandemic began shortly after the project took off—Fournel reflects in the article that the farm stand reducing feelings of isolation because it became a natural outdoor gathering space for the community.

Commentary: To Fight Climate Change, Learn from Our COVID-19 Response by Brooke Smith October 1, 2020. Here’s an article from a prescient seventeen-year-old resident of Floyd County, Virginia. Smith draws parallels between the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis. Smith warns of the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis and the ease with which Appalachians might ignore the warning signs noting that neither has yet impacted this region as severely as it has others. She writes of the similar forms of misinformation that surround both crises and notes another similarity: “COVID-19 and climate change share a painful reality: Once the problem is evident, it’s too late for it to be solved” (n.p.). She closes with this important message: “Through the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve witnessed a disappointing truth about climate justice and any other issue that requires collective sacrifice. If attitudes in America remain the same, we don’t stand a chance. And our future is on the line” (n.p.).

Climate change and COVID-19: reinforcing Indigenous food systems by Carol Zavaleta- Cortijo et al. September 1, 2020. In this short commentary from the Lancet Planetary Health, scholars explore the intersection between Covid-19, climate change, and the viability of indigenous foodways. They draw on examples of indigenous responses to the pandemic from the Canadian Arctic, Uganda, and the Peruvian Amazon. The scholars describe the implications of climate change within indigenous food systems and assert that “there is a vital window of opportunity to support Indigenous populations who face the double and syndemic burden of compound and cascading socioecological hazards, such as climate change and pandemics, by prioritising the protection of key Indigenous food sources (e.g., tropical forests, Arctic ecosystems), by reinforcing and supporting the importance of Indigenous knowledge systems, by improving access to culturally safe health resources, and by and safeguarding access and rights to land and natural resources of Indigenous populations” (p. 2). This article highlights the importance of indigenous foodways and their potential for resilience if the threat of climate change is properly mitigated.

Halt destruction of nature or suffer even worse pandemics, say world’s top scientists by Damian Carrington April 27, 2020. Here, Carrington explains that coronavirus is likely an early indicator of more pandemics to come as humans continue to put forth policies that allow the ‘root cause’ of pandemics to proliferate: “the rampant destruction of the natural world.” Though the article doesn’t necessarily emphasize agriculture as the culprit, industrial agriculture is named as among the contributors that put humans in closer proximity to increasingly displaced animals from which zoonotic diseases originate and spread. The experts quoted note that well it may seem ‘politically expedient’ to allow for ‘business as usual’ to continue, in the long run, pandemics are costly and potentially politically ruinous. The experts emphasize the need for a ‘one health’ approach that recognized the health of all living beings to be interconnected.


Equity and Justice

The Chronic Stress of Being Black in the U.S. Makes People More Vulnerable to COVID-19 and Other Diseases by April Thames June 23, 2020. Written by a clinical neuropsychologist, this article breaks down the biological mechanisms that increase the morbidity and mortality associated with coronavirus among Black people. The author draws on medical research to explain the ways social stressors like racism and discrimination are linked to “poor health, inflammation, and premature biological aging” (n.p.) contributing to the disproportionate rates of coronavirus illness and death among Black people. The author inserts her curiosities that extend beyond clinic research and into questions of why “social inequities and injustices persist” (n.p.). This article provides a scientific explanation of the physiological impacts of racism and discrimination and may be useful in convincing those who discount the widespread impacts of racial oppression.

If You Still Don't Get Why COVID-19 Hit Black People Harder, Read This by Amanda Balagur June 20, 2020. This is a story from Dr. Jessica B. Harris, a writer and culinary historian, as told to journalist Amanda Balagur. In it, Harris explains, in detail, the ways that three comorbidities (asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure) are caused by systemic injustices. In doing so, she effectively links heightened coronavirus morbidity and mortality in Black communities to systemic racism. In this interview, Harris also discusses activism and cautions against ‘performative activism,’ she describes the reflective pause that coronavirus has forced us all to take, and she talks about having gratitude for both essential workers and for enslaved ancestors and about the ‘original sin’ that is shared across the nations of the Americas and the civil unrest that exists because of it. This interview is broad in scope and sheds light on the systemic violence that causes coronavirus to wreak havoc in Black communities in profound ways.

Unequally vulnerable: a food justice approach to racial disparities in COVID-19 cases by Alison Hope Alkon et al. 2020. In this article, Alkon and colleagues describe the disproportionate rates of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality in communities of color from a food justice lens. They relate the common claim that underlying health conditions are responsible for the increased infection and death rates among people of color to racial capitalism which determines how people access food and what foods they access. The authors briefly examine the structural conditions that affect food consumption and in addition to looking at diet disparities due to racial capitalism, they also point to disparities and injustices in labor conditions due to the same that may have an impact on coronavirus cases and outcomes.

What Indian Country Remembers About Survival by Jade Begay May 11, 2020. In this article, Begay who is of Diné and Tesuque Pueblo of New Mexico descent, talks about ‘blood memory’ or the “embodied remembrance passed down from generation to generation” (n.p.) among Native Americans. She describes the anxiety and distrust inscribed by their ancestral trauma and the need to ‘indigenize’ community care in the face of COVID-19. She discusses the ways this community care might look in Native communities and poses questions communities might ask themselves to ensure their own care and wellbeing. Begay also describes the disparities that make Native communities particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and its associated economic turmoil. The article references and provides examples from a few different indigenous groups across the western United States. This is an important topic and the beautiful writing in this article is not to be missed!

People of Color are at Greater Risk of COVID-19. Systemic Racism in the Food System Plays a Role by Nadra Nittle May 5, 2020. Here, Nittle explains how systemic racism is intertwined with the racialized morbidity and mortality rates of coronavirus. According to the article, data shows that Black people make up roughly 34 percent of coronavirus deaths despite representing only 13.4 percent of the population. This article discusses social determinants of health, including injustices in the food system and explores the way food, class, and race intersect in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Code Switch podcast episode Why The Coronavirus Is Hitting Black Communities Hardest April 10, 2020. In this podcast, Mary Harris, host of Slate’s daily news podcast ‘What’s Next’ speaks with healthcare reporter Akilah Johnson to learn about the reasons why black Americans are being disproportionately impacted by coronavirus and why referring to COVID-19 as a “great equalizer” is, in fact, fallacious.

Coronavirus and Human Value by Angela Glover Blackwell and Michael McAfee n.d. Here Blackwell and McAfee call out the existence of a ‘hierarchy of human value’ premised upon legacies of enslavement, genocide, and colonization. Using examples from the coronavirus response, they tie this hierarchy of human value to our current moment to show the destruction caused by valuing certain groups over others. In closing their piece, the authors call for governments to protect and serve the most marginalized among us and prioritize their care, noting that valuing all groups equally—and, in doing so, prioritizing and treating those with greatest disadvantage and need—will ultimately go further to protect everyone from the virus.

Op-ed: COVID Took More Than Native Lives. It Also Took Our Foodways. by Ruth Hopkins June 17, 2021. The importance of passing on indigenous foodways is at the crux of this article. The author, whose father was of the Oceti Sakowin (Dakota/Lakota Sioux), learned the ancestral foodways as she grew up but realizes that many of her peers did not have the same education. In this article, Hopkins reflects on the lost knowledge, specifically in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, writing, “in addition to being a plague of historic proportions for Native Nations, the COVID-19 pandemic will also undoubtedly result in lost information about how to gather, raise, and prepare food” (n.p.). Hopkins reflects on the ways the pandemic has impacted Native communities—especially Native elders and with this impact, the diminished possibility of passing along language and foodways to the next generation.

Loss Runs Like a River Through My Life by Malkia Devich-Cyril June 16, 2021. In this poetic piece, Malkia Devich-Cyril examines the complex phenomenon of Black grief as a symptom of racial capitalism, and in light of the pandemic and last year’s racial uprising. Devich-Cyril writes: “As the pandemic heightened the overlapping crises of resurgent white nationalism, unfettered police violence, and the discriminatory distribution of climate disaster impacts, it also split open a vein deep in our collective body politic to reveal a truth Black folks have been living with for generations: Grief is endemic to the Black experience in America, and the effects of living inside a shared context of grief, one in which loss is not simply an experience but a mechanism of racial disadvantage, are often disregarded” (n.p.). They write about how that profound experience of grief can also serve to shorten Black lives. This piece discusses the racial disparities in the COVID-19 death count as well as other manifestations of Black and Brown oppression like lack of access to computer technology—essential to the shared experience of bereavement during the pandemic, as well as to collective organizing. Devich-Cyril also discusses how ‘collective bereavement’ is transformed and mobilized into ‘collective action.’

The Thanksgiving Myth Gets a Deeper Look This Year by Brett Anderson November 17, 2020. This article examines the Thanksgiving holiday through a critical lens informed by the recent racial uprisings as well as by the pandemic’s disproportionate death toll in communities of color. The author of the article, with help from Native and non-Native scholars and activists quoted in the article, calls for a reimagining of Thanksgiving. This article recounts the dispossession, genocide and erasure that undergird the Thanksgiving holiday and compellingly calls for change.

Research Brief: Identifying and Countering White Supremacy Culture in Food Systems by Alison Conrad, MPP September, 2020. This research brief shares insight into research driven by the question: “How does white supremacy culture play out in the food insecurity and food access space in the United States?” (p. 1). The brief encourages readers to “understand how white supremacy culture narratives function to center whiteness across the food system” (p. 1). Here, the author provides definitions for key terms such as ‘whiteness,’ ‘white supremacy culture,’ and ‘racial equity.’ She examines the narratives that undergird these themes: individualism, neoliberalism, paternalism, and universalism and follows and unpacks white supremacy culture narratives in the food system, providing examples of each before introducing strategies to adopt a more antiracist stance in food systems practice and food policy work. This is an important brief and is not to be missed!

For Black Jam Makers, the Power Is in Preserving by Kim Severson August 18, 2020. This is a great article about the White supremacy embedded within the craft food movement. The article reflects on the ways the craft food movement centers Whiteness to the exclusion of people of color. By profiling craft food makers of color and including excerpts of interviews with them, the article highlights the ways in which people of color are shut out of the craft food movement and the boundary breaking work craft food makers are engaged in. The article also examines the history of craft food and Black food ways, highlighting where they intersect and where they have diverged historically and contemporarily.

Should the Dietary Guidelines Help Fight Systemic Racism? by Gosia Wozniacka July 28, 2020. In her latest article for Civil Eats, Wozniacka tackles the topic of the new federal dietary guidelines for 2020-2025 set to be published later this year. She covers the work of advocates for more inclusive guidelines who call for a more significant evolution from the previous set of guidelines, demanding that the new guidelines “address the systemic impacts of racism on nutrition, including food insecurity, the lack of access to healthy foods, and the needs of people with chronic diseases” (n.p.) and that they be culturally relevant for a diverse spectrum of audiences. The article also provides examples of how the federal government could do more to adapt the guidelines to accommodate a BIPOC audience.

Michael Twitty: Hunger Is A Form Of Violence We Must Address by Amanda Balagur June 15, 2020. Here’s an interview with Michael Twitty in which he discusses African diaspora food and the politics of its foodways, hunger in Black and Brown communities and the ways it manifests as social violence, as well as the widespread, long term impacts of food insecurity in Black, Brown and poor White communities. He advocates for food education and for people to grow their own food. Twitty also discusses activism and collective action. This is a powerful interview with a Black food icon and is not to be missed!

Race and Food are Intertwined. Here’s How We Can Do Better by Hannah Wallace October 20, 2017. This article captures elements of a speech given by Ricardo Salvador, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and director of UCS’s Food and Environment Program. In it, Salvador offers a reminder of the insidious nature of the institutional racism pervasive within our food system and asks, “Is it possible to create a new food system that does not rely on exploitation?” (n.p.). Salvador makes the case for food systems reform by recounting several committed actions that we must take to create change. These committed actions appear in a bulleted list in this article and are absolutely worth reviewing, along with the entire message. This piece, though it’s from 2017, is a definite must-read for our current political climate.

 

An Annotated Bibliography on Structural Racism Present in the U.S. Food System, Eighth Edition by Rachel Kelly, Kimberly Carr, Rich Pirog, Anel Guel, Jane Henderson, Kyeesha Wilcox, Taylor Wimberg, Vanessa García Polanco, Daniel Babayode, Kelsey Watson, and Emettra Nelson 2021. This comprehensive annotated bibliography is a resource for those looking for information on the ways that structural racism presents in the U.S. food system. The bibliography contains both peer reviewed articles and gray literature that span in scope, including national, regional, and local perspectives. This eighth edition of the bibliography includes entries related to the way the COVID- 19 pandemic exacerbated existing racial disparities related to the U.S. food system and includes 385 sources for further learning.

Lost in the Brine by Miin Chan March 1, 2021. In this article, Chan recognizes the Whitewashing of fermented foods, noting “I’ve watched as many of the once-ridiculed ferments of my childhood have been declared not just acceptable, but trendy by white people eager to fetishize and commoditize them” (n.p.). The fermented products she mentions include kombucha, miso, sauerkraut and kimchi, and tepache. Chan writes of the overrepresentation of White producers in the market of fermented goods, writing “the fermentation industry in the West (meaning North America, the U.K., Europe, and Australasia) is dominated by mostly white fermenters, who often sell whitewashed BIPOC ferments and associated white-gaze narratives about these foods to mainly white consumers” (n.p.). This article contains commentary on sharing cultures as being mostly beneficial to White culture before launching into the history of fermented foods in the West. Chan recommends “looking more closely at the problems within our community: namely, cultural appropriation, the tailoring of certain ferments to suit white tastes, and the gatekeeping that disproportionately benefits (and is exercised by) white members of the industry” (n.p.), notes the barriers BIPOC fermenters face in introducing new products to the market, and advocates that the fermentation community become a model for the promotion of social justice within the food system. This is a long read but well worth the time if you’re interested in fermentation and food justice.

McDonald’s, Food Justice, and the Problem with Black Capitalism by Rae Gomes January 31, 2022. In this article, Dr. Marcia Chatelain, a professor of history and African American studies at Georgetown University, delves into her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America”, which explores civil rights history, Black capitalism, and the exploitative nature of franchising. Using both her lens as a historian, and her upbringing in Chicago, “Chatelain describes the way McDonald’s has rooted itself in Black American life, with sometimes fatal consequences.” Dr. Chatelain describes the consequences of that relationship because of the unhealthy linkages between fast food and diet-related illnesses such as obesity, heart disease, and more. She also goes on to state, “Community-based solutions, in which success is not predicated on scale, but on sustainable transformation, are key.” Additionally, she notes that when talking about race and food justice, the connotation is frequently the “consuming body” and this neglects the “working body.” Hence, a paramount way of centering the food justice needs of Black communities is to contextualize the role of Black and Brown agricultural workers to ensuring healthy foods.

Returning the ‘three sisters’ – corn, beans and squash – to Native American farms nourishes people, land and cultures by Christina Gish Hill November 20, 2020. This article emerged from a question the author had about “why Native farming practices had declined and what benefits could emerge from bringing them back” (n.p.). The article highlights Indigenous agriculture, the displacement and disenfranchisement that led to the loss of Native agriculture, and projects designed to revive Indigenous seeds and agricultural practices. 

Black Land Matters. But Is Crowdfunding Enough? by Nadra Nittle November 17, 2021. This article from Civil Eats covers the crowdfunding efforts of several Black aspiring farmers, labeling the income resourced via crowdfunding as a form of reparations. The article remarks on the history of inequity and dispossession that has resulted in the removal of Black farmers from the land. Here, the author also asks if crowdfunding goes far enough and questions whether it does anything to reverse the ‘pervasive inequities’ associated with Black land loss and the racial conditions in this country more generally—she does this by comparing Black crowdfunding for land to crowdfunding for healthcare costs that, though immediately impactful for the beneficiaries, ultimately fail to reverse the inequities embedded within the healthcare system. The article comments on ways to reconnect Black people with the land that might also reverse the dispossession that has occurred over the past several centuries and offers some potential solutions.

At the Nation’s Largest Student Farm Organization, a Reckoning on Race by Leah Douglas September 8, 2020. Here’s a highly nuanced article that provides insight into legacies of racism within the National FFA Organization, formerly known as Future Farmers of America. The article provides accounts of the experiences of members of color within the organization and describes a few of the organization’s racial blunders and its attempts to right them. Douglas also gives a comprehensive picture of the history of the organization as well as its merger with New Farmers of America, its Black counterpart under separate-but-equal. This is an important article on a major agricultural organization’s continued privileging of Whiteness, as well as its attempts to remain relevant and to navigate a complex political climate.

Fire Drill by Gilda Di Carli August 19, 2020. This article covers the environmental injustices wreaked by the annual sugarcane harvest. As the author describes, “before harvesting, leaves around the cane are ignited and burnt off like newspaper, revealing the sugar-rich stalks, which are about 70 percent water. This decades-old practice fills the air with smoke, soot, and ash. The result is the kind of particulate matter pollution that has been linked to a litany of adverse health effects — including, most recently, a heightened risk of dying from COVID-19” (n.p.). The article, which includes photos of the burning cane fields and the ash the fires leave behind, describes the damaging health effects that impact the predominantly Black community of Belle Glade, Florida. This is a story of the quest for environmental justice and the marginalization of a Black community by the sugar industry and is absolutely worth reading.

Meet One Farmer Who Left His Tech Job To Transform Northern Virginia's Agroscape by Tonya Mosley and Allison Hagan August 10, 2020. This interview with Chris Newman of Syvanaqua Farms tells the story of a man who left a career in tech to farm in Northern Virginia. His farm is mission-driven, seeing himself first as a water and land protector and a farmer second. In this interview, Newman discusses the transition from tech to agriculture, the practices he uses on his farm, and the ancestral knowledge that shapes his worldview being of both Black and Piscataway heritage. The discussion also highlights farm profitability for beginning farmers, indigenous land management, and Black and Indigenous preconceptions of agriculture, and issues within the food system and food value chain more generally, including issues of access and privilege.

Young farmers and farmers of color have been shut out of federal assistance during the pandemic by Laura Reiley July 16, 2020. Young farmers and farmers of color, who are more likely to be farming on smaller acreages and more likely to be marketing directly to consumers are disproportionately impacted by the economic downturn associated with coronavirus, according to this article. In her article, Reiley notes the difficulties young farmers and farmers of color face in accessing the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, a program designed to keep mostly larger-scale growers afloat during the pandemic. This article explains the barriers young farmers and farmers of color face in accessing federal assistance, as well as the added labor and other costs they are experiencing in an effort to adapt and keep their farms going. The article closes with a message of hope from a young farmer named Roberto Meza. Meza noted the pandemic “has been a great teacher” (n.p.). He then went on to explain that the pandemic has “illuminated what is wrong with the current paradigm; the inconsistencies are laid bare and we can see where we need to redirect resources. People want to pay attention to where their food comes from—they don’t take it for granted anymore” (n.p.).

We Can’t Talk About Farming Without Talking About Race by Danielle Dorsey June 24, 2020. In this interview with Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm, Penniman describes the ways she has worked to heal her relationship with land that go “beyond slavery, sharecropping, and land-based oppression” to reconnect with her African ancestry and African land and agricultural traditions. As Penniman put it, “There are countless examples of how Black agrarians have revolutionized the way we connect to the earth and to each other” (n.p.). Penniman also discusses the anti-racist and healing work of Soul Fire Farm and how she works to promote anti-racist practice within food systems. She talks about the disparity between predominantly White landowners and predominantly Black and Brown farmworkers as well as food apartheid that keeps Black and Brown people struggling with food insecurity. Penniman also touches on the global pandemic and the current ‘global chaos’ in her interview, noting the connections with her ancestors that give her strength, persistence, and optimism.

Soul Fire Farm Helps the Marginalized Grow Their Own Food by Lindsey Campbell June 7, 2020. This article covers an initiative of Soul Fire Farm called ‘Soul Fire in the City.’ The initiative strives to support “people of color who struggle with a lack of access to fresh food, or have been impacted by mass incarceration” (n.p) by providing the means to start a backyard garden free of charge. The initiative has recently grown in response to the pandemic. The article also discusses the systemic racism that has contributed to people of color becoming increasingly disconnected from their food system over the past century. According to the article, “the initiative seeks to reconnect people of color with growing their own food, as the number of black farmers has dwindled over the years” (n.p).

We Don't Farm Because It’s Trendy; We Farm as Resistance, for Healing and Sovereignty by Ashley Gripper May 27, 2020. This essay follows the roots of Black-led organizations in agriculture. Gripper explains her growing connections with Black agricultural resilience and resistance and describes the danger Black communities face in losing control of their own narratives and, specifically, in the co-optation of the urban agriculture narrative “by white liberals and academics” (n.p.). Gripper traces the history of Black communities’ ties to land and to agricultural production from the end of the Civil War through the present and describes contemporary resistance movements that advocate for land sovereignty.

Subsistence in the Plantationocene: dooryard gardens, agrobiodiversity, and the subaltern economies of slavery by Judith A. Carney April 10, 2020. Carney’s recently published article from the Journal of Peasant Studies explores the concept of the ‘plantationocene’ (or the “epochal transformative institution” (p. 2) of monoculture reliant on enslaved labor at a massive scale) in the context of the subaltern and alternative food production that occurred in tandem plantation agriculture as expressions of Black resistance and liberation. Here Carney uses the realities of subaltern production which she terms ‘bio-cultural refugia’ and the ancestral and innovative agroecological knowledges that accompanies this production system as a source of imagination of a food production system that is both bio-diverse and more just than both historical and contemporary plantation agriculture.

Her Family Owned Slaves. How Can She Make Amends? by Kim Severson July 4, 2021. This article shares the story of a White woman, Stacie Marshall, who was set to inherit 300 acres when she found out her family had once owned seven people. It tells of her effort to do the right thing, and her effort to find out what doing the right thing would mean in this context. She had wanted to start her own farm as the first woman farmer in her family and this article centers around her questions: “Should the descendants of people who kept others enslaved be held responsible for that wrong? What can they do to make things right? And what will it cost?” (n.p.).

The CSA’s Roots in Black History by Shelby Vittek May 17, 2021. The Community Supported Agriculture model has its roots in Black history, despite decades of whitewashing, according to this article from Modern Farmer. This article traces the histories—whitewashed and Black—of the CSA model, noting the work of Booker T. Whatley who established a CSA model for Black farmers in the 1960s and 70s—long before two New England farms—one white-owned and one member-owned—established their own CSA models. This article reviews the Black history and Black activist ideals that inspired the CSA model to evolve among Black farmers in the 60s and 70s. It also discusses the discrimination Black farmers faced from financial institutions that helped to push ‘clientele membership clubs’ into being. Vittek also lays out a future that includes Black farmers in the CSA model, citing the work of the Black Farmers Collective in Seattle, as well as that of a small farmer—Travis Cleaver—who operates Cleav’s Family Market in Central Kentucky.

The Black Farmer Movement Battling History to Return to the Land by Molly Schwartz April 28, 2021. With quotes from prominent Black farmers like Leah Penniman, this article and associated podcast episode tell the story of the farmers who are working through histories of racism and oppression to inspire a return to the land among Black people in the United States. The article and podcast note the success of Black-owned farms that have recently sprung up and detail the history of how Black people have been disenfranchised and dispossessed throughout the history of the United States. They also touch on the political campaign to reclaim Black farmland such as the Black Farmers Act introduced by Cory Booker in 2020.

The next generation of Black farmers by Anoa Changa April 13, 2021This article profiles three Black farmers and provides insight into their relationship to their vocation. It also reflects on the systemic racism that has led to a decline in the number of Black farmers in the United States, as well as on the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act and the Justice for Black Farmers Act which provide financial assistance and loan forgiveness to farmers of color in the United States who have been subjected to discriminatory practices. The article includes three interviews with Black farmers in Georgia. The author noted the following similarities across all three interviews: “All three challenged traditional notions of productivity and value, adopting a more holistic approach to their craft. But they also explored the expansive opportunity in innovating and living a joyful existence as farmers” (n.p.). The interviews in this article have been transformed into narratives and are incredibly reflective and thoughtful glimpses into the perspectives of three Black farmers in the south.

Returning to his roots: Award-winning Carter brings Africulture to Orange County farm by Morgan Edwards March 26, 2021. This article is about Michael Carter Jr., a Center fellow and Virginia food systems changemaker. Here, we learn more about Michael Carter Jr., his life, his influences, and his aspirations. This article also discusses Africulture—“an organic agriculture practice based around growing African vegetables and crops” (n.p.). Here, Morgan explains that Carter’s aspires to make Africulture more mainstream and “to create a teaching farm that educates visitors on the numerous achievements of African American farmers and inventors” (n.p.). Here we learn all about Carter’s life and experiences, from Caroline County, Virginia to Ghana in West Africa, and then to Orange County, Virginia. The article covers the disparities in equity that Black farmers in this country face: quoting Michael Carter Jr. “Africulture focuses on this problem because we hold workshops, training, and counseling on racial equity and understanding. You have to put it in terms that people can understand. For me, I like to engage individuals who might be ignorant, because the best way to treat someone who is ignorant is to give them knowledge” (n.p.). Also mentioned are the rising age of farmers and the barriers that new farmers face, like access to land, as well as the difficulties imposed by the COVD-19 pandemic. This is a broad ranging article and an important one to learn about a rising leader in Virginia’s agriculture and racial equity scenes.

From the Soil Up by Beth Ward March 23, 2021. Two women working “to heal themselves, the land, and their communities” (n.p.) through agriculture are the focus of this story from Beth Ward of the Bitter Southerner. Keisha Cameron is founder of High Hog Farm in August, Georgia, while Brandy Hall runs Shades of Green Permaculture in Atlanta. The women’s stories interconnected when Cameron signed up for one of Hall’s permaculture design courses in 2013. Through permaculture, “Tending to her land at High Hog became transcendent work, a kind of sacred restoration that gave Cameron a true sense of belonging”—this article contains the story of that transcendent work including reclaiming ancestral knowledge and grappling with the intergenerational trauma inflicted by chattel slavery, as well as shedding the “culturally instilled shame about what it means to be a land-based worker” (n.p.)—according to Cameron, this is more than ‘reconciliation’ and is instead a project of ‘restoration.’ Pairing Cameron’s story with that of Hall, we learn about the origins of permaculture and the ways that white folks have coopted practices from communities of color to fold them into oversimplified ways of producing food and fiber, as Hall put it: “permaculture is a word created by white men to over-simplify and make palatable what Indigenous people have always known, so it can be received by modernized, post-industrial, capitalist ears. There’s so much more that’s needed than permaculture if we are to truly find our way back to the Big Story and the deep knowing that it’s all alive, interconnected, and intelligent” (n.p.). The article also examines the impact of COVID-19 on both women’s businesses and outlook as well as the impacts of denying people of color access to nature and the work that Hall’s team has done to try to address this.

6 Agricultural Practices, Innovations, and Inventions for Which We Have Black Agriculturalists and Activists to Thank by Melissa Gallanter, RD February 22, 2021. As its title suggests, this article recognizes the contributions of Black agriculturalists and activists to agriculture in the United States. The article links community land trusts, community supported agriculture, crop rotation and cover crops, the food justice movement, rice farming, and other inventions in the agricultural and food industries to Black leadership. The article recognizes the knowledge contributed by enslaved Africans and African Americans, as well as the programs of the Black Panthers, Tuskegee University, and individuals such as Fannie Lou Hamer and W.E.B. Du Bois, among others.

Does Regenerative Agriculture Have a Race Problem? By Gosia Wozniacka January 5, 2021. This article summarizes the ways in which the movement toward regenerative or alternative agricultural systems replicates issues present within earlier movements in that it encapsulates “enduring whiteness, unacknowledged use of ancestral farming practices, and singular focus on the environment while eschewing social justice” (n.p.). Here, Wozniacka briefly reviews the history of regenerative agriculture in the U.S., from Native American practices to the Rodale Institute and the popular documentary Kiss the Ground. Further, the article examines Indigenous land management practices and exposes the ways that the regenerative agriculture movement has “diluted and weakened the traditional approach to land management” (n.p.) while simultaneously borrowing from the traditions of Black agricultural communities without offering due recognition. The article closes with some suggestions for ways the regenerative agriculture movement can reverse these trends and practice diversity, inclusion, and deference for BIPOC traditions.

Black Farmers in Arkansas Still Seek Justice a Century After the Elaine Massacre by Wesley Brown July 27, 2022. This Civil Eats piece provides a historical account of the Elaine Massacre of 1919 when a shooting incident turned into mob violence at a meeting of the Progressive Farmers and Household Union, a Black-led group aimed at improving living conditions for Black farmers and communities in Arkansas. The deadliest racial conflict in Arkansas and one of the bloodiest in U.S. history. The article provides a window into the economic and social impacts of the massacre on the lives of the residents in Elaine through the story of the Flenaugh family, a farming family in the Mississippi River Delta whose land dwindled from 30,000 acres within a vibrant Black farming community to just 400 acres due to theft, intimidation, violence, and fraudulent property records. The piece explores legacies of land theft in Arkansas and delves into the potentiality of reparations to families who had lost farmlands and their lives during the massacre, along with larger themes like reconnecting Black families to farming and land, and advancing racial justice nationwide.

The Virginia Black Farmer Directory by Briana Stevenson March, 2022. This is a timely news item on a project spearheaded by the Local Food Hub's Grower Outreach and Diversity Coordinator Briana Stevenson aimed at centering Black farmers, their stories, and their businesses. The directory serves as a central location that connects Black farmers in Virginia with consumers as well as Black farmers to a variety of resources. Responding to the need for farmer visibility and the disconnect between Black farmers and consumers, the directory spotlights prominent farmers and their businesses. According to the article, the project was a collective effort initiated by the food justice interns at Cultivate Charlottesville and Michael Carter Jr. of Africulture and Carter Farms. To the initiators, this comes at a time when there is a call to give a voice to those who have been systemically oppressed in their relationship with food and land. 

Debt, Racism, and Fear of Displacement are Driving an Overlooked Public Health Crisis Among Black Farmers by Safiya Charles March 17, 2022. This article examines the public health crisis among Black farmers caused by persistent inequities in the U.S. agricultural space. Research suggests that the bulk emphasis of most U.S. studies on farming and mental or behavioral health and stress focuses on white farmers. Subsequently, this results in limited understanding and availability of resources centered on Black farmers’ mental and behavioral health. The article discusses the many factors that make it difficult for Black farmers and farmers, in general, to open up about their struggles to people they believe are outsiders. The author implores rural health advocates and researchers to take a deep dive into Black farmers’ mental and behavioral health issues because they have been neglected for a considerable period. 

The Next Generation of Black Agriculturalists: Inspired by History to Achieve Excellence by Bre Holbert February 19, 2022. In celebration of Black History Month, this article from the Ag Daily celebrates the works and paths laid by past Black agriculturalists, George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington while spotlighting new voices and leaders, such as Artha Jonassaint, a young agriculturalist and an FFA member. The author believes that the presence of Black agriculturalists and their vast contributions have sparked and sustained a generational interest in the youth to venture into agriculture. She proposes that Black History Month presents a unique opportunity to spotlight and uplift young Black agriculturalists like Artha, who are changing the normative narrative of Black youth in agricultural spaces. 

The New Lobster Wars: Inside the decades-long East Coast battle between fishers and the federal government over Mi'kmaw treaty rights by Zoe Heaps Tennant November 10, 2020. This long-read captures the story of Indigenous fishers in the Canadian Maritimes and their fight with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). According to the article, many Mi’kmaw fishers in Nova Scotia “assert that they have an inherent right to fish and make a livelihood outside Canadian regulations” as these rights were “enshrined in the treaties their nations negotiated with the Crown in the eighteenth century” (n.p.). Using the stories of a few Indigenous fishers and their catch to weave the narrative together, this article takes a tour through the history of Mi’kmaw and federal government relations—a relationship defined by surveillance and countersurveillance. It also outlines contemporary solutions to the long battle between the Mi’kmaw and the DFO. This is a long article but an important and captivating one and is worth reading to learn about food and fishery sovereignty in the Canadian Maritimes. 

The Food System: Concentration and Its Impacts by Mary K. Hendrickson, Philip H. Howard, Emily M. Miller and Douglas H. Constance 2020. This comprehensive report on the state of concentration in the food system examines the consequences of that concentration. Here, the authors pay particular attention to increasing concentration and consolidation and look at its impacts on economic and political power in the U.S. and globally. This article responds to the dire need for equity in our food system and attends to impacts on democracy, ecology, and community.

The Black Church Food Security Network Aims to Heal the Land and Heal the Soul by Amy Frykholm November 10, 2020. This is an interview with Heber Brown III, founder of the Black Church Food Security Network. We’re thrilled to feature this piece today because we’ve been following Brown’s work for a while now. According to the article, the Black Church Food Security Network aims to catalyze the strength of Black communities to improve health and well-being. In this interview, Brown discusses the founding of the Black Church Food Security Network, the reasons why he chose to set up a network rather than a food charity and the ways the Black Church Food Security Network has developed since its founding. Frykholm and Brown also discuss Brown’s background and his agricultural heritage, as well as the spirituality that guides his work. This is an excellent interview with a leader in Black food security and food sovereignty and is not to be missed.

A New Native Seed Cooperative Aims to Rebuild Indigenous Foodways by Ray Levy-Uyeda November 10, 2020. This article captures the Indigenous American tradition of saving seed and shares wisdom related to Indigenous seed saving and traditional knowledge sharing practices. This article discusses how the idea for a Native seed cooperative arose and what its role could be in facilitating the sharing of “information, knowledge, and traditional practices as well as seeds” (n.p.). The role of the cooperative in raising appreciation for saved seeds, ‘communal capacity,’ and the potential of seed sovereignty in healing intergenerational trauma forms the foundation of this article. 

'Secret Life Of Groceries' Shines A Light On Bounty's Dark Side by John Henning Schumann November 7, 2020. Here, we learn about the new book The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket through an interview with its author Benjamin Lorr. The interview covers the behind-the-scenes realities of food production and distribution in the U.S. In the interview, Lorr and Schumann examine the human and animal suffering that underlie our food supply, food insecurity, and the ways foods are categorized and labeled. They also trace the tenuous connections between knowing where food comes from and outcomes for laborers within the food system. This interview captures the nuances of food production and labor and is worth exploring.

Magic in the Dirt by Julia Turshen, photos and video by Brian Dawson October 30, 2020. This is a short piece interspersed with images and video. It highlights the sense of place associated with Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York, Spirit Farm, an indigenous regenerative farm in Gallup, NM, and Detroit Hives, a Black-led beekeeping collective in Detroit. The piece is meant to be ‘visually immersive’ and is part of the New York Times series ‘From Here’ which intends to “explore how communities are gathering in a time of unprecedented change” (n.p.). Reading as a series of short vignettes and poignant quotes, this piece is beautifully put together and is worth checking out.

Saving Caribou and Preserving Food Traditions Among Canada’s First Nations by David Moskowitz October 29, 2020. As the title suggests, this photo essay captures the story of First Nations foodways in Western Canada. This piece describes the ways First Nations peoples of West Moberly and Saulteau are caring for the caribou at the center of their food traditions in the northern end of the Rocky Mountains in northeastern British Columbia. The caribou population has been threatened in recent decades by commercial hunting, logging and mining. This article tells the story of the First Nations people’s fight to protect the caribou accompanied by a series of breathtaking images. This is a story of food sovereignty and cultural survival and is not to be missed. 

To Free Ourselves, We Must Feed Ourselves by Leah Penniman October 22, 2020. Leah Penniman’s recent essay for Harper’s Bazaar tells the origin story of Soul Fire Farm, defines food apartheid, and examines what healing would look like within the context of food systems. This short piece discusses the work of Soul Fire Farm in addressing the root causes of food injustice and food apartheid. Last Penniman closes with a message about the strength and resilience of her forebearers and the power their legacy imbued within her.

The Promise of Pawpaw by Rachel Wharton October 19, 2020. This article draws attention to the pawpaw, an elusive fruit native to North America which can usually only be found at farmers markets or on local online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook. Here, the pawpaw is held to be an emblem of resistance and self-sufficiency, tied to food insecurity both historic and contemporary. Wharton, the article’s author discusses pawpaw cultivation in urban areas as well as in rural areas with a nod to their role in food sovereignty, and particularly indigenous food sovereignty.

Art, With A Side Of Food Justice, At Institute for Contemporary Art At Virginia Commonwealth University by Chadd Scott October 15, 2020. In this story from Forbes, Scott details a project designed by Richmond, Virginia-based activist Duron Chavis. In this project, Chavis has created his ‘resiliency gardens’ in a vacant lot adjacent to the Institute for Contemporary Art in Richmond. The purpose of this effort is to highlight the issue of food security as well as the significance of Black and brown community spaces that are designed for and by Black and brown people. The resiliency gardens installation includes a wall with a mural featuring the message “Black Space Matters.” This article highlights activism in Richmond and is worth reading.

Food Justice: What is it and how can we fix it by Megan Woods October 6, 2020. This article highlights work of the Virginia Tech Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation in partnership with Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP) based in Roanoke. Here, Woods builds on quotes from community members and Center and LEAP staff to explore the meaning and implications of food deserts, themes of food justice, and mechanisms and strategies to break down barriers to food access and food security. The article highlights LEAP’s mobile market in combating food insecurity as well as the importance of listening and responding to community needs, rather than simply prescribing solutions.

There’s No Such Thing as Ethical Grocery Shopping by Josephine Livingstone October 1, 2020. In this article, Livingstone discusses the new book by Benjamin Lorr titled The Secret Life of Groceries. According to the article, the book is premised upon the question of whether ethical grocery shopping is possible and answers with a well-explained ‘no.’ Lorr, as the article says, traces the supply chain and breaks apart labels like ‘organic,’ free-range,’ and the like. This fascinating article recounts stories from the book along with the author’s reactions to them and to its overall message. This article is worth reading to gain a better understanding of the value chain systems that feed some while marginalizing others.

The Market of Virginia Tech helps provide healthy food to students in need by Albert Raboteau September 29, 2020. This article discusses the issue of food insecurity on college campuses, with attention paid to a study completed on the topic on Virginia Tech’s campus last year. Raboteau covers Virginia Tech’s efforts to mitigate student food insecurity and the receipt of a generous gift that allowed the Blacksburg campus to open ‘The Market of Virginia Tech,’ a free online ordering system which provides students in need with a week’s worth of fresh ingredients for healthy and satisfying meals. The article shares quotes from students who have experienced hunger and who have taken advantage of the new Market and it profiles the donors who made the market possible. 

Op-ed: How Patents Threaten Small Seed Companies by Kristina ‘Kiki’ Hubbard & Cathleen McCluskey September 11, 2020. This article covers the landscape of seed producers and intellectual property rights. The authors follow the common story of small seed companies being contacted by a multinational chemical company (whose subsidiary covers seed production) to assert their patents over germplasm with traits vaguely similar to those the small seed companies are producing. The article answers the question of why we should care about patents and how patenting germplasm threatens the seed production landscape for small scale farmers. In doing so, the authors link seed patents with issues of social justice and food (and seed) sovereignty.

Sean Sherman Is Decolonizing American Food by Brenna Houck September 1, 2020. This article is comprised of an interview with Sherman, in which he discusses the future of food and indigenous foodways, the challenges and opportunities presented by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as possibilities for Indigenous food sovereignty. This is another great article that highlights Sherman’s important work in promoting and strengthening Indigenous foodways and Indigenous food security.

In changing urban neighborhoods, new food offerings can set the table for gentrification by Joshua Sbicca, Alison Alkon, and Yuki Kato July 10, 2020. Here, food systems scholars discuss the ways that food can be a crucial signal within processes of gentrification. The authors list examples from cities across the US and “identify the ways that food and gentrification are linked” (n.p.). According to this article, food businesses are often the first businesses to begin to change in historically disinvested neighborhoods and within communities of color. As the authors note, gentrifying food businesses “prepare neighborhoods for development, because food is a ubiquitous commodity and cultural cue” (n.p.), shifting perceptions of culture and color of a neighborhood. The authors describe the disturbing ways that food businesses capitalize on the cultural histories of communities, for example by co-opting and transforming culturally significant foods, and they also note the irony, writing “food becomes both a marker of to whom the neighborhood now belongs, while also ironically acknowledging to whom it used to belong” (n.p.). This article provides a broad overview and explanation of the linkages between food and gentrification and is incredibly illuminating.

New Indigenous Food Lab Looks to Mend a Broken System by Lindsay Campbell June 28, 2020. This article highlights the work of Sean Sherman, an Oglala Lakota chef known as the ‘Sioux Chef.’ In the article, Campbell describes the Indigenous food lab Sherman is creating in Minneapolis, Minnesota which will house a restaurant featuring pre-colonial food as well as an Indigenous food education and training center. According to the article, the food lab aims to “allow Indigenous people to reclaim cultural food traditions that have been absent for multiple generations” (n.p.) and in doing so, fill a knowledge gap and allow Indigenous people to address food access concerns and combat chronic dietary-linked illness.

To Free Ourselves We Must Feed Ourselves by Leah Penniman 2020. This article is by Leah Penniman, and in it she describes what she calls their ‘sacred work’—to “end racism and injustice in the food system” (n.p.). In this article Penniman describes the food apartheid and the ways that the pandemic is exacerbating food insecurity in communities where Black and Brown people make their livelihoods. She suggests five major shifts that are needed to create a just and sustainable food system. These are: land redistribution, justice for farm workers, localized mutual aid, ecological humility, and universal food access with dignity. She notes these reforms are necessary to the creation of a just food system because of the essentiality of Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color within the currently unjust and unsustainable food system. As Penniman movingly wrote: “We are essential, not just our labor, but our lives. We hope that this becomes a moment of awakening to the truth that ‘to free ourselves, we must feed ourselves.’ All of us deserve this freedom” (n.p).

An Intergenerational Juneteenth Gathering Shows How the Black Food Sovereignty Discussion has Shifted by Nancy Matsumoto June 24, 2020. In this article, Masumoto captures the highlights of a discussion that happened last Friday on June 19th (Juneteenth) when over 20 Black food systems leaders congregated in an online forum for an “intergenerational, cross-cultural discussion about Black and Brown voices and the fight for justice in the food system” (n.p). Matsumoto uses quotes to note the rising awareness of the need for food justice as well as the years of work that Black and Brown people have already put in toward this end. She breaks the discussion into three themes and uses quotes to illustrate them. The themes she highlights are recasting colonialism, churches as resources, and the role of the black chef. She also points out that access to land was a recurring topic throughout the discussion. This important discussion is beautifully recast in this article and if you didn’t watch the discussion, it is absolutely worth catching up with this article.

Striving for Reparations: Land, Food, and Self-Determination in the North Philly Peace Park by Tagan Engel April 19, 2019. In this podcast from The Table Underground, host Tagan Engel speaks with Tommy Joshua Caison about the Peace Park he helped to create in North Philadelphia. In their conversation Engel and Caison discuss the meaning of human rights and radical love and skirt themes of self-determination and food sovereignty. This is an excellent example of a neighbor-driven project to assert food sovereignty and reclaim and repurpose a neglected community space to beautify and unify the neighborhood. It’s worth listening to the podcast, but if you don’t have time there’s a well written synopsis available on the website.

White Earth Food Sovereignty Initiative by Zachary Paige 2020. This article covers the food sovereignty initiative of the White Earth Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. In it, Paige, the initiative’s leader, describes the ways White Earth envisions food sovereignty, food access issues in the community, the partnerships they have established in the pursuit of food sovereignty, and the ways they exercise their own food sovereignty. He discusses food sovereignty as a healing practice. Paige discusses the Tribe’s investments in community gardening and farm-to-school initiatives, as well as the purchase of a food truck to “cook and distribute traditional healthy foods throughout the reservation” (n.p.). This article provides an example of the practice of food sovereignty in the United States and is absolutely worth a look.

 

Reconnecting to the Land by Gabrielle Reagan December 23, 2022. This piece from Gabrielle Reagan with the Syracuse Urban Food Forest Project dives into the story of Antonisha Owens, a farmer and owner of a beauty product salon in Syracuse’s West Side. Owens set out to grow her own ingredients for the beauty products she sells. This story underscores Owens’ reconnection with the land after her family was forced to abandon their agricultural livelihood in Alabama and move North due to economic factors, including discriminatory lending by the USDA. This is a story of reconnection and hard-fought freedom.

At One Alaskan Hospital, Indigenous Foods Are Part of the Healing Plan by Victoria Peterson November 4, 2021. The healing power of food takes center stage in this article from the New York Times. The article tells the story of an Alaskan hospital managed by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (the largest tribal-run health organization in the country, according to this article) which has managed to procure Indigenous foods to be served in its cafeteria to promote the healing, comfort, and cultural designed to collect donated Alaska Native foods and distribute them to hospitals around the state. The importance of connecting with the people a hospital serves is a key component of this article, noting that this connection can promote health and wellbeing. 

SNAP Tribal Food Sovereignty Act: Steps toward equitable food assistance programs by Bre Holbert October 7, 2021. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Tribal Food Sovereignty Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate in September, according to this article from AgDaily. The Act, introduced by Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), aims to “give tribal governments permission to apply the federal SNAP food assistance program in a manner conducive to their tribal society and government” (n.p.), a goal in alignment with enhanced food sovereignty. According to the article, the need to revise SNAP guidelines for tribal communities was obvious, as the typical organization asked tribal members to fit into guidelines that didn’t align with their lifestyle, which often differs from the lifestyle of those who are not tribal members or live outside the tribe. The article also notes that “almost all Indigenous tribes in the United States are classified as residing in food deserts” (n.p.) and discusses the food insecurity found within tribal communities. 

Wahpepah’s Kitchen Brings an Indigenous Menu Rooted in Personal History to the Bay Area by Becky Duffett September 28, 2021. Crystal Wahpepah was the first Indigenous chef to appear on the Food Network show Chopped. With the fame garnered there, along with a reputation for great food derived from a successful catering business, Wahpepah is now opening her own restaurant serving foods with native ingredients and inspired by Indigenous cuisine in the San Francisco Bay. Wahpepah, who is a displaced member of the Kickapoo tribe of Oklahoma, will feature Indigenous foods from across the country on her menu. This article discusses the significance of this opening to the large inter- tribal community in the Bay, many of whom are displaced as well. The San Francisco Bay area is the unceded ancestral homeland of the Ohlone tribe, and the only other Indigenous restaurant in the Bay is Café Ohlone.

Food Sovereignty and Rights-Based Approaches Strengthen Food Security and Nutrition Across the Globe: A Systematic Review by Devon Sampson, Marcela Cely-Santos, Barbara Gemmill- Herren, Nicholas Babin, Annelie Bernhart, Rachel Bezner Kerr, Jennifer Blesh, Evan Bowness, Mackenzie Feldman, André Luis Gonçalves, Dana James, Tanya Kerssen, Susanna Klassen, Alexander Wezel, and Hannah Wittman 2021. This article from the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems shows strong evidence that “food sovereignty and the right to food positively influence [food security and adequate nutrition] outcomes” (n.p.). The authors also found “a small number of documented cases suggest that narrow rights-based policies or interventions are insufficient to overcome larger structural barriers to realizing [food security and adequate nutrition], such as inequitable land policy or discrimination based on race, gender or class” (n.p.). The article defines food security and nutrition, citing the four pillars of food security and nutrition as communicated by the FAO in 1996 (i.e. availability, access, utilization, and stability). This research took the form of a systematic review which included peer reviewed and gray literature published between 1992 and 2018.

Growing food sovereignty on the shores of Lake Superior by Kip Dooley September 3, 2021. This article discusses the gardening projects that members of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa have taken on, along with volunteers, on a small island in Wisconsin. The article opens with a brief history of Madeline Island as the ancestral home of the Anishinaabe people and as a vacation community for the wealthy and goes on to discuss the Madeline Island Community Garden and its initiatives to encourage food sovereignty among members of the Chippewa Indigenous community as well as community volunteers. The article explains that Bad River members were forced to leave Madeline Island and move to a reservation on the mainland in 1854, but that in 2017, the Bad River tribe attained land sovereignty on the northern end of the island. The article defines ‘food sovereignty’ and describes what it means to members of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa—growing food not only for sustenance and subsistence, but also growing food that contributes to a celebratory feast, or as “beautiful hospitality cooking” (n.p.) that invites people to enjoy land and food in community. 

Op-ed: The Revolutionary Power of Food by Robert Egger July 2, 2021. This article looks at food and its relationship to revolution. Here, Egger reviews the connections between food and the abolition movement in England, Mahatma Gandhi’s effort to liberate India from English colonial rule, the fight for Indigenous sovereignty in the early Americas, and the U.S. food justice movement. In detailing the U.S. food justice movement, Egger looks at the United Farmworkers, the Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast Program, D.C. Central Kitchen, and the Campus Kitchens Project. He also discusses the shortcomings of the U.S. food movement, noting the different factions of activists: “They fight for funds to continue their mission, each working in their own silo, on their own issue, with their own strategy. Each one is talking about food, versus using food to create an inter-generational political alliance with food as its unifying ingredient, powered by the strength of millions of voters with a powerful hunger for change” (n.p.). Egger advocates for political organizing to enact larger scale food systems change.

Salt, Soil, & Supper: Food apartheid, continued by Xander Peters May 26, 2021. This is an excerpt from the May 26, 2021 issue of Scalawag's 'Salt, Soil, & Supper' newsletter. This installment contains a conversation between the article’s author, Xander Peters and Dr. Ashanté Reese—author of Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C. and co-editor of Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice. In the conversation, Reese explains why she chose to focus Black Food Geographies on D.C.’s Deanwood neighborhood, her research takeaways—including the ways that Black people meet their own needs despite systemic oppression, the ways that supermarkets may be anti-Black without being overtly racist, and the notion that we can’t rely on corporations to be a key stakeholder in our food system. Here, Reese also discusses the implications of food insecurity for those who lack access, the role of convenience in the American food system, and the language of ‘food apartheid.’

Salt, Soil, & Supper: Call it what it is—Food apartheid by Xander Peters May 19, 2021. This is an interview with Margee Green, the executive director of SPROUT NOLA and former candidate for the Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture position, and Amy Ndiaye, a student at a New Orleans high school and community gardener. The two discuss examine ‘food apartheid’ as a more appropriate term than ‘food desert,’ and discuss the work to end food apartheid, and how to approach food apartheid at a macro- and micro-level. The two interviewees jump into conversation with one another in describing the nature of ‘food desert’ and ‘food apartheid,’ agreeing that naming the problem is an important element of fixing it. This is an excerpt from Scalawag’s ‘Salt, Soil, & Supper’ newsletter.

Planting the Seed by Brenna Houck May 4, 2021. This article by Brenna Houck for Eater follows urban farmer, seed keeper, and member of the Tlingit Nation, Kirsten Kirby-Shoote. Here, Houck discusses Kirby-Shoote’s work promoting Indigenous food sovereignty and their approach to urban farming and cultivating indigenous foods in urban areas, as well of their goals for the future and ways to support their work, among other themes. The article also touches on exploitation and the rise of the conversation and publicity around Indigenous foods.

Food Apartheid: Racialized Access to Healthy Affordable Food by Nina Sevilla April 6, 2021. The term ‘food desert’ is defined and then broken down in this article by Nina Sevilla of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Here, Sevilla looks at the history and uses of thee term and suggests an alternative with slightly different connotations and framings: ‘food apartheid.’ According to the article, the term food desert should be retired for two reasons: 1) “It obscures the vibrant life and food systems in these communities” (n.p.), and 2) “It implies these areas are naturally occurring” (n.p.). Sevilla makes a compelling case for dropping the term ‘food desert’ and for beginning to think of areas impacted by food insecurity and injustices as a form of food apartheid. As Sevilla notes, “Language is important and using these terms [like food desert and food swamp] prevents us from naming and addressing the root causes and making systemic change” (n.p.). This article is full of linked resources to learn more and calls for us to engage in power analysis within the food system and match our language to that critical analysis. 

Linking food and feminisms: Learning from decolonial movements by Jessica Milgroom March 7, 2021. This blog post is part of the column, Agroecology in Motion: Nourishing Transformation. In it, Milgroom discusses feminisms in the context of people’s relationship with food, bringing in the lens of decoloniality to “reconstitute non-hierarchical relationships among people, between people and nature” (n.p.). Milgroom begins with a listing of different types of feminism and what unites them, i.e., their common “aim to confront patriarchal, structural inequality and systematic discrimination against non-male genders” (n.p.) and explains that she’ll use this common aim to interrogate foodways in this piece. As Milgroom explains, her post is intended to explore the intersections of feminisms within agroecology and food sovereignty, looking at how theories of decoloniality might help undo historical erasures and fortify contemporary feminist food movements. This post also offers resources for further reading.

The People Behind School Meals Are Pushing for Free Access for All by Meg Wilcox March 8, 2021. During the pandemic, many schools have been able to offer universal free school meals to students thanks to federal waivers, many, according to this article, would like to keep it that way. Here we learn that most industrialized countries globally already provide universal free lunch. Advocates argue that “free meals would support learning and improve attendance and classroom behavior while eliminating the burden of unpaid meal debt on families and school district budgets, and the costly, time-consuming meal application and verification process” (n.p.). This article describes the efforts of advocates as well as the difficulties imposed by our current system. It also reviews the history of free school meals in this country and provides information on the federal waivers that have granted free meals to all students during the pandemic. 

Op-ed: What the Farmers’ Revolution in India Says About Big Ag in the US and Worldwide by Indra Shekhar Singh March 1, 2021. Farmers in India face similar challenges to those faced by farmers in the U.S. four decades ago, according to this article. Here, Singh describes the context of the farmers’ protests in India as well as that of Indian agriculture, providing broad insight into India’s colonial history and its relationship to big agriculture. Singh explains the revolution thusly: “The farmers of Gandhi’s India are answering a call to arms to defend their motherland, their food system, and their dignity against a new wave of corporatization unleashed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government” (n.p.) and describes the farmers’ specific grievances and demands, as well as the constitutional breach that Modi used to pass the laws in question without consulting state governments or farmers. The article also reviews the history of farmers’ protests in the U.S. noting the similarities between the two and the ways the Indian protests have built on some of the U.S. farmers’ tactics, such as through the use of a ‘tractorcade.’

Virginia Communities Are Taking Food Justice Into Their Own Hands by Christina Lilly February 12, 2021. This article features the work and opinions of two Center partners, Duron Chavis of Happily Natural Day and Shantell Bingham of Cultivate Charlottesville. The article addresses issues of food insecurity, food sovereignty, food access, and food justice. Here, Lilly discusses Chavis’s and Bingham’s work in these areas, noting that they both promote urban and backyard gardening to promote food sovereignty in underserved neighborhoods. The article pays particular attention to the needs of children, many of whom rely on school meals.

The Seneca Nation Is Building Food Sovereignty, One Bison at a Time by Gabriel Pietrorazio January 14, 2021. Here, Pietrorazio details the ways the Seneca Nation in New York is responding to the pandemic and their efforts toward food sovereignty within the context of the pandemic.. Discussed in this article are the Nation’s farm, Gakwi:yo:h Farms, with the mission of “[increasing] the Nation’s food security and food sovereignty by promoting traditional agricultural practices and engaging with the community through food” (n.p.). Pietrorazio also provides insight into the Nation’s new food security and food sovereignty efforts that include the acquisition of 410 acres of land, raising cattle for meat, establishing a bison hear, tapping trees for maple syrup, leasing a dairy farm to expand land access, and creating a cannery for those who reside on the reservation to use for subsistence. The article discusses the Nation’s maple syrup production, their meat production and the lack of nearby processing facilities, as well as other challenges and innovations. 

Q&A: Organizing for Food Sovereignty in Eastern Kentucky by Rebecca Stern August 12, 2022. This piece is a Q&A with community leader Valerie Horn, who is the director of the Cowan Community Action Group, an action group in Eastern Kentucky whose mission is to create vibrant and healthy communities, particularly among rural Appalachians. As a community leader, Valerie believes in the efficacy of community partnerships and leveraging of resources in building healthy communities. When asked why she cared so much about food sovereignty for Appalachian families, Valerie states that despite the many challenges that confront the Appalachian community, there lie various strengths that can be cultivated through food. To her, gardening and food are powerful ways to grow a community. Food is not divisive but a unifier, food is a good thing and everyone needs healthy food. As a community, Valerie believes it is vital to go above and beyond the dialogue on food access to encompass food sovereignty. To that end, she is committed to removing stigma attached to food insecurity. She is committed to equality and leveling food access through programs like the Community Agricultural Nutritional Enterprises (CANE Kitchen), and the Summer Food Service Program which provides fresh food and vegetables to youth and the elderly in the community.

‘Fonio Just Grows Naturally’: Could Ancient Indigenous Crops Ensure Food Security for Africa by Kaamil Ahmed July 7, 2022. This article from the Guardian uplifts the potential of indigenous African grains to fight food insecurity on the continent. Fonio, one of these indigenous grains, grows quickly without the need for amendments and chemicals. It is well adapted to dry conditions and it’s also highly nutritious and tastes good, with an added bonus that it can be stored for longer than other grains. According to the author, the benefits of fonio and other indigenous food crops are being extensively explored. Academics and policymakers are calling for the grains to be embraced more widely across Africa to improve food security, noting that these grains are currently under- utilized and require more research, investment, and marketing. The article explains that the cultivation of native grains could enhance food sovereignty by reducing Africa’s reliance on imported wheat, rice, and corn. Those crops are staples in African diets but are more difficult to cultivate, requiring more labor and inputs, while also representing legacies of imperialism. This article explores indigenous African grains within the context of colonialism, the Green Revolution, and contemporary aid schemes. 

Op-ed: Climate Change Is Bringing Agriculture to the Arctic. Let’s Prioritize Food Sovereignty by Mindy Jewell Price May 11, 2022. This article discusses the imminent impacts of climate change and weather conditions in the Arctic and what it means for agriculture. According to the article, the warming of the arctic regions offers huge potential for agricultural production. Consequently, the intergovernmental Arctic Council is exploring technological innovations to expand Arctic food production and new ventures in aquaculture. They note, however, that the broad governmental commitment to the expansion of arctic agricultural development may inadvertently result in perpetuating the dominant model of corporate, industrialized agriculture. The authors thus advocate for a shift towards agroecology as a movement to help protect Indigenous foodways. 

Combining the Old and New: Aquaponics Opens the Door to Indigenous Food Security by Kayla Devault May 31, 2022. “Restoring Indigenous foodways is not just about restoring sovereignty and traditional practices. It’s also about celebrating the ancestors and taking care of a community of relatives.” (Devault, 2022, n. p). This piece celebrates the work of Malama Waimānalo, a nonprofit organization in Hawaii as they adopt aquaponics as a restorative medium to achieve food sovereignty among the indigenous community in Hawaii. The importance of culturally relevant food as a pivotal need among Indigenous cultures is highlighted and aquaponics is identified as a necessary intervention in attaining food sovereignty. In Hawaiian, Malama means “to take care of or protect,” and waimānalo, means “potable water.” Thus, the founders of the nonprofit sought to adopt and restore ancient methods (culturally grounded family-based backyard aquaponics) to revitalize the systems and also create a symbiotic relationship between water, plants, insects, humans, and other aquaculture.

California Salmon are at Risk of Extinction. A Plan to Save Them Stirs Hope and Controversy by Ian James, Szu Yu Chen, and Lorena Iñiguez Elebee April 7, 2022. This article covers the Shasta Dam set in the Sacramento River—a behemoth blocking Chinook salmon access to their egg laying habitat at the base of Mt. Shasta in northern California. Experts worry that, despite technological intervention (for example, the creation of a government-run fish hatchery), the Chinook are at risk of extinction due to climate change and warming waters flowing from the Shasta Dam. A new plan has been set in place to truck the fish around the dam to avoid the warm water. At the same time, members of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe (who were displaced by the creation of the dam, and to whom these salmon are sacred) have created a counter proposal. Tribe leaders imagine a future where salmon have a route to freely swim past the dam without having to be trucked back and forth—they would like to see the construction of a “swimway.” They have also proposed the reintroduction of salmon that were brought from the Sacramento River to New Zealand over 100 years ago—noting concerns that the hatchery-raised fish may not be as viable and fit for the wild. This article explores these options including the logistics as well as the politics that underlay each of them. It also contains a video to introduce some of the concerns of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and the technological interventions that put the fish at risk as well as the interventions put in place to save these fish.

The Land We Live On: Cultivating Connections Through Indigenous Ingredients at Wahpepah’s Kitchen by Elena Valeriote March 15, 2022. Peppered with images of the restaurant’s seed collection, its murals, and its food, along with photos of the people who created these, this piece from Good Food Job’s Stories series describes Wahpepah’s Kitchen, an Indigenous-led restaurant located on Ohlone land in Oakland California. The article presents chef Crystal Wahpepah’s commentary on her decisions: to open a Native American food restaurant in the Bay, to prominently feature the Indigenous seeds from which the restaurant’s ingredients are grown, and to commit to learning and preserving Native seeds and foodways. The article recounts the restaurant’s guiding objectives as well as its growth from a catering company into a restaurant. It also details the source and heritage of many of the ingredients featured on the menu.

How the Lebanese Diaspora Is Mobilizing Against Food Insecurity at Home by Marianne Dhenin September 8, 2020. This article outlines the food crisis threatening Lebanon and describes the efforts of aid organizations to mitigate food insecurity. The article, with quotes from World Food Programme experts working in the country as well as both local and international diaspora volunteers, details the crisis and provides historical context to the impending food shortage. This brief but comprehensive article provides a window into the food system of this small Middle Eastern country and profiles mutual aid projects designed to bolster food security and lessen food shortages among struggling residents. 

As School Meal Programs Go Broke, a Renewed Call for Universal Free Lunch by Lisa Held June 29, 2020. In this article, Held discusses the difficulty school districts face in providing meals to students both while they’ve stayed home in the spring and summer and moving forward into the fall, whether they’ll be in school or staying home. This article discusses the nuances and financial dysfunctionalities of school nutrition programs and describes the reasons why solvency has become exceedingly difficult for school food programs in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. In the article, Held suggests policy solutions that could help schools meet demand and would help to tackle some of the systemic inequities that make financial solvency so elusive for school nutrition programs.

Give Some, Take Some: How the Community Fridge Fights Food Insecurity by Dayna Evans June 17, 2020. This article describes the ‘community fridge’ movement where community members and/or activists install a commercial fridge in an urban neighborhood and keep it stocked with foods that are free for the taking. According to the article, some of these spaces and fridges have become refueling hubs for organizers in the Black Lives Matter movement. The article draws connections between the free fridges around the globe stating that their commonality and their credit to success in combating food insecurity “is that they attempt to do the work that more bureaucratic and structural systems like the government won’t and formal food pantries can’t do” (n.p.). The article discusses mutual aid, food safety and regulatory concerns, food insecurity, and activist organizing.

Farm Country Feeds America. But Just Try Buying Groceries There by Jack Healy November 5, 2019. This article tells the story of lack of market access and food insecurity in farm country through the lens of Great Scott!, a community-owned market in Winchester, Illinois as well as through the stories of a handful of other small-town stores. Here, Healy covers the closure of grocery stores in farm country as well as the difficulties and advantages of rural communities starting-up and operating their own markets to serve their communities. The article also chronicles the rise of dollar stores in rural communities and the problems associated with the influx of dollar stores in rural towns. This poignant article underscores the importance of community-owned markets in bolstering community pride and unity.

Delta Fresh Foods Is Bringing Food Security to Northern Mississippi by Nadra Nittle October 27, 2021. The Delta Fresh Foods Initiative is designed to combat food insecurity in Mississippi, a state with some of the nation’s most fertile soil and also some of the nation’s highest rates of poverty and food insecurity. In this article, we learn from Delta Fresh co-founder, Julian D. Miller about Delta Fresh’s programming and the importance of integrating young people into food systems advocacy work. Miller also reflects on the link between food justice and civil rights. In an interview, Miller discusses the origin story behind Delta Fresh, its goals and vision, its partnership with Tougaloo College, a historically Black college in Jackson, Mississippi, as well as the legacy of slavery and economic injustice that explains why Mississippi is so hard hit by poverty and food insecurity, despite its fertile soil.

Prescribing tomatoes and carrots could help some Americans eat better by Joanne Kennen September 16, 2021. This article highlights Local Food Hub in Charlottesville, Virginia and their ‘farmacy’ program that provides fresh produce to families in need. It also describes the mobile farmers market and produce prescription program run by our partner, the Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP) in Roanoke, Virginia. This Politico article discusses the difficulties programs like this face in getting off the ground due to the financial disincentives for hospitals and the ways that food and medicine have been separated from one another in the United States. It also explains how the disruptions to the food system stemming from the pandemic inspired many organizations to ramp up programming related to hunger, nutrition, and food security which has, in turn, created more interest in promoting access to healthy food.

There Is Enough Food, Just Not Enough Food Access by Mike De Socio August 10, 2021. This article from Yes! Magazine defines food insecurity as “the consistent lack of food on a household level” (n.p.) and discusses the role of the free fridge movement (where activists install a fridge in an underserved neighborhood and stock it with fresh food free for the taking) in combating food insecurity. Notably the article examines the damaging attitudes many folks have about people experiencing food insecurity—for example, that they only deserve leftovers. As the title suggests, the article centers on the problem of food accessibility over food scarcity, as the article notes, there is enough food produced worldwide to feed every human, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations—but food insecurity still exists because of problems with food access. This article looks at all of this through the work of community activist, Jammella Anderson of Albany, New York.

Can a first-ever Food Systems Summit help reduce rising hunger? By Thin Lei Win April 22, 2021. This article from The New Humanitarian covers the first world summit on food systems set to take place in September. The goal of the summit, according to the article, is to examine food insecurity, climate change, and conflict using the lens of food systems. The summit is set to take place alongside the UN General Assembly Meetings. This article lays out the tensions that underlie the summit, including those between the public, private and nonprofit sectors and fears of a takeover by big agribusiness, further compromising the food sovereignty of less affluent farming communities. The article also details the extent of global hunger and the ways a food systems approach to this summit may be able to impact the rising incidence of hunger worldwide. Here, Win explains shifting humanitarian responses to global hunger as well as critiques of the Summit and its motivations, goals, and intentions.

What Has Grown Will Grow Again by Yasaman Sheri and David Zilber March 2021. This is a short reflection piece from Yasaman Sheri, a design director and researcher, and David Zilber, a professional chef, fermenter, butcher and photographer. Here, the authors expound on the future of food and our constant need to technologize and complexify the food system, noting that “overdesigning the food system threatens to exacerbate its current troubles rather than getting to their root” (n.p.). They also examine the relationship between food and capital now and throughout history and claim “the problem of feeding a hungry planet is deeper than [technological solutions]—it is cultural, social, and economic” (n.p.). They discuss resiliency and lay a microscope over foods like diet soda and veggie burgers to argue for the revival of local food systems. They close with this powerful statement: “To meet the challenges of an unknowable future, let’s use what has worked reliably throughout human history, rather than bet the farm (pun intended) on yet-to-be invented technologies with yet-to-be resolved hidden costs” (n.p.).

It’s Time to Reinvent Food Banks, Says Expert Katie Martin by Liesl Schwabe March 21, 2021. This article reviews Katie S. Martin’s new book Reinventing Food Banks and Pantries: New Tools to End Hunger, published by Island Press this month. Relaying key messages from the book, this article emphasizes the failures of the emergency feeding system in the U.S. Quoting Martin regarding these failures, the article notes: “If we define hunger as a symptom of poverty caused by a broken system, and rooted in social inequalities, then the solution becomes quite different” (n.p.). This article provides insight into a new must-read book for those working in emergency food and breaks down key messages for the rest of us to learn from. This article also contains an interview with Martin where they discuss the impact of COVID-19 on hunger, the trauma of a ‘scarcity mentality’ and how the emergency food system can “meet people where they’re at” (n.p.), and reasons why food pantries to pair with universities to develop research and evaluation partnerships, among other themes. This thorough is worth reading to learn more about emergency food and how it can be made to be more effective and successful in feeding food insecure folks.

How a Queer and Trans Latinx Gardening Collective Is Working to Reverse Food Insecurity in Atlanta by Eva Reign March 8, 2020. Here is an article describing the work of Mariposas Rebeldes (translated as ‘rebel butterflies’ in English), a queer and trans Latinx activist gardening collective based in Atlanta. The group seeks alternatives to capitalism and explores themes of sustainability, with the goal of promoting food justice and combatting food insecurity in their home city. The group was recently awarded a grant from A Well Fed World and also relies on crowdfunding and donations to pursue their work. The article offers beautifully captured images of group members and describes the context of food insecurity and food justice in Atlanta. 

Winter Weather Crisis Is Also a Food Crisis by Jenny G. Zhang February 17, 2021. Here, Zhang links the recent Arctic blast with food insecurity, noting that loss of power is often accompanied by the loss of perishable food items and the loss of the ability to cook food for those relying on electric ranges. She also points out that winter weather can disrupt meal distribution for several days at a time increasing acute food insecurity. Zhang writes of the fragility of the supply chain as well as people’s reliance on mutual aid and community-based giving to be fed, relating this to the early days of the pandemic.

College Students Struggle to Enroll in SNAP—but Peer Support Programs Help by Lela Nargi February 16, 2021. College students lack access to government food assistance programs, according to this article. The article tells the story of America Lopez, a 33-year-old sociology major at Lehman College in the Bronx, her perceived ineligibility to enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) due to her student status, and her discovery of the City University of New York (CUNY) peer-to-peer navigation portal initiated by Swipe Out Hunger, a student hunger organization, that helped Lopez enroll in SNAP and receive food assistance. The article discusses the hang ups in SNAP that make students ineligible for benefits in many states as well as policy changes underway designed to expand eligibility.

Corporate concentration in the US food system makes food more expensive and less accessible for many Americans by Philip Howard and Mary Hendrickson February 8, 2021. This article discusses consolidation in the food system and offers specific examples from the industry. Alongside their discussion about consolidation, the authors trace the tandem rise in food insecurity in the U.S. They also place both food systems consolidation and food insecurity within the context of the pandemic and offer possible solutions toward a more equitable food system.

Small Ranchers, Big Problems by Catie Joyce Bulay January 25, 2021. This article describes the challenges small ranches face, including finding USDA-certified processing facilities for their meat—a major issue Virginia farmers and ranchers confront. Here, Bulay discusses a bill called the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption (PRIME) Act which would leave it up to states to regulate the retail sale of meat. The bill would allow states to “[expand] the exemption status of custom-exempt processing facilities” (n.p.). The author discusses the current regulations as well as the groups opposing the PRIME act, including National Pork Producers Council, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the North American Meat Institute which argue that the bill would jeopardize food safety. The bill would help small producers but has failed to pass Congress five times though its advocates continue to fight for its success.

There Is Enough Food, Just Not Enough Food Access by Mike De Socio August, 10. This article from Yes! Magazine defines food insecurity as “the consistent lack of food on a household level” (n.p.) and discusses the role of the free fridge movement (where activists install a fridge in an underserved neighborhood and stock it with fresh food free for the taking) in combating food insecurity. Notably the article examines the damaging attitudes many folks have about people experiencing food insecurity—for example, that they only deserve leftovers. As the title suggests, the article centers on the problem of food accessibility over food scarcity, as the article notes, there is enough food produced worldwide to feed every human, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations—but food insecurity still exists because of problems with food access. This article looks at all of this through the work of community activist, Jammella Anderson of Albany, New York.

War Raises Famine Fears as Russia Chokes Off Ukraine’s Farms and Exports by Mark Landler, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Erika Solomon, and Patricia Cohen May 24, 2022. Using food as a weapon is not a new tactic, but it is a new form of violence arising in Russia’s war in Ukraine. Here, Ukrainian grain production and export is at the center of the crisis, with 20 million tons of grain currently held in Ukraine. World leaders warn of forthcoming hunger and political unrest as another global ripple effect of the war. David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, a United Nations agency, referred to the situation as “absolutely critical,” with the warning: “We will have famines around the world” (n.p.). The article also states that Russia is hoarding food exports, with the intention of further complicating global shortages. The article makes reference not only to the difficulties associated with shipping and exporting grain, but also with farming in a warzone.* Worries about other countries beginning to hoard their food stocks, and about the droughts accompanying this already difficult situation, also feature here. According to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Union’s executive branch, “Global cooperation is the antidote to Russia’s blackmail” (n.p.).

With food prices climbing, the U.N. is warning of crippling global shortages by Robert Griffiths May 23, 2022. This article presents a report on the current hikes in global food prices at the just-ended World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Speaking at the forum, Kristalina Georgieva, the International Monetary Fund managing director shares her fears of a global food crisis in the wake of the war in Ukraine, climate change, and rising inflation. The report presents a critical outlook of current global trends likely to create food-related disasters in parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe. The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, who spoke at the forum, proposed a five-step plan to help confront the challenges. He suggests increasing supplies of food and fertilizers; social protection systems within countries; more access to international finance; further government help for smallholder food producers; and better funding for humanitarian operations to reduce famine and hunger.

The Tops in Buffalo's East Side was a lifeline. Residents wonder if it should reopen by Jaclyn Diaz May 21, 2022. The Tops grocery store in Buffalo’s East Side, the scene of a horrific mass shooting last week, served as core site in the community, according to this article. Bringing the store to the East Side was a community effort, and Tops was the only full-service grocery store in decades to serve an area of Buffalo that is otherwise a food desert. Tops Supermarket has announced that they plan to reopen the store as soon as possible. Some residents of the East Side are still reeling from the attack, feel it’s too soon to consider reopening the store, and wonder if they’d ever go back inside the store where 10 community members lost their lives. Others feel that it’s important to reopen to ensure quality food for the community and to send a message of resilience.

Sowing Seeds of Sustainability in Senegal by Zeke Barlow April 5, 2022. This article from Virginia Tech’s CALS Magazine highlights the work of professor and Extension specialist in Virginia Tech’s School of Plant and Environmental Sciences and one of our own Center Fellows, Dr. Ozzie Abaye. Dr. Ozzie (as she is known) has spent many years directing her research to find one crop that could help diversify the Senegalese diet. Through her research, she identified the mung bean as a potential diversifier. Mung beans have a great nutritional profile, the article explains, and diverse applications in the kitchen. This piece details the importance of Dr. Ozzie’s work and is interspersed with footage of the Senegalese context, mung bean workshops hosted by Virginia Cooperative Extension and 4-H in Senegal, and of Ozzie explaining her approach and ways her work has progressed over time. The article also discusses the close partnership the VT CALS community has had with Senegalese agriculturalists and the VT CALS students (both from Senegal and the US) that have advanced the work around mung beans in Senegal.

Where a Free Meal for Food-Insecure Families Is Just a Text Away by Gabriel J. Ware March 15, 2022. Bento, a pilot health-intervention program that uses text messages to connect food-insecure people and families to prepaid groceries and full-balance mealsis at the focus of this article. The Bento project provides eligible low-income individuals with free phones and unlimited texting plans. With the number of food- insecure households reaching 38.3 million in 2020 with a projected increase to 42 million, the system is ripe for merging technology in resolving the food insecurity issues. The program views the elimination of food insecurity as a component of preventive health care. Hence, the developers of the Bento text messaging software integrated online ordering platforms, such as Postmates, allowing clients to order meals and groceries. In the future, Adam Dole, co-founder of Bento says they plan to sell the program to the health care industry — especially health insurance companies — because they have the scale needed to improve the health of low-income, food-insecure populations as a whole. 

Higher Education Should Lead the Efforts to Reverse Structural Racism by Freeman A. Hrabowski III, Peter H. Henderson, and J. Kathleen Tracy October 24, 2020. This article underlines the ways that higher education fails Black students. In it, the authors examine their own institution, the University of Maryland at Baltimore County and the work this university has done to ensure there is no difference in the graduation rates of Black and White students. The authors assert that those working in higher education must engage in an effort to reverse structural racism because higher education is central to students seeking to fulfill the ‘American dream’: “We hold out to our students the promises of an enriched life and social mobility, and yet we often fall short in providing these to all who arrive on our campuses” (n.p.) This article describes a set of concrete steps UMBC has taken to ensure the success of all students and is worth reading for those working in higher education.

Anger Can Build a Better World by Myisha Cherry August 25, 2020. Here, Cherry writes about the generative power of anger in the context of Black Lives Matter protests. In this piece, Cherry lays out what forces fueled by anger offer to the protesters and to those whose lives they are protesting for. Quoting the poet Audre Lorde, Cherry notes that anger “can become a powerful source of energy serving progress” (n.p.) and in her essay depicts, in vivid detail, the energy serving progress derived from anger for Black Lives Matter.

Why are farmworkers joining the strike for Black lives? Shared roots by Alexandria Herr July 22, 2020. This article explores the reasons why farmworkers across the country walked off the job for eight minutes and 46 seconds on Monday in solidarity with the Strike for Black Lives. Here, the author describes the long history of solidarity between the United Farm Workers (UFW) union and racial justice advocates defending the dignity of Black life, including partnerships between Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez, as well as between the UFW and the Black Panther Party. Herr discusses the shared struggles of these groups of activists as well as the shared vulnerabilities of the groups they defend and fight for. 

There are many leaders of today’s protest movement – just like the civil rights movement by Sarah Silkey July 7, 2020. This article helps to deconstruct the fallacious ‘cultural memory’ surrounding the Civil Rights Movement that leads us to the belief that the civil rights movement was led entirely by a group of ‘charismatic men.’ To dispel this, Silkey points us to the women who helped to lead the movement and illuminates the patriarchal culture that elevated men to positions of recognition and power where women, despite having positions of leadership in some cases, were relegated to the backdrop. Silkey draws comparisons between the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s and the Black Lives Matter movement of today. She concludes that comparing today’s movement to the “romanticized cultural memory of charismatic leadership in the Civil Rights Movement” effectively devalues the work and leadership of contemporary activists as well as those who worked behind the scenes during the Civil Rights Movement. As she compellingly wrote “Social change – then and now – derives from a critical mass of local work throughout the nation. Those who cannot find leaders in this movement are not looking hard enough” (n.p.). This article is as informative as it is powerful as is most definitely worth reading. 

Juneteenth 2020 will be infused with energy of anti-racist uprisings by Amanda Holpuch June 17, 2020. Here, Holpuch recounts the history of Juneteenth in the US and discusses the impact that the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump presidency, and the uprisings against racial violence will have on the celebration and commemoration of Juneteenth. She describes the historical and contemporary context of Juneteenth and provides a specific contextualized example from Tulsa, Oklahoma where a Trump rally is scheduled to take place on Saturday. In discussing the complicated context of this year’s observance of Juneteenth, Holpuch reminds us that Juneteenth is both a day for celebration and one of mourning for the past and current injustices that Black people in the US face every day.

Dear Philanthropy: These Are the Fires of Anti-Black Racism by Will Cordery June 1, 2020. This is a powerful article. In it, Cordery recalls the mobilization of the philanthropic network about five years ago to support the Black Lives Matter movement and traces its shift from leaning on and supporting Black-led organizations to more paternalistic support in the form of funding White-led organizations that are thought to be benefiting Black communities. As Cordery put it, “the philanthropic commitment for Black-led movement work had largely unraveled” (n.p.). Cordery frames this shift as instrumental in the loss of support for building organized power in Black communities. In his article, Cordery calls for philanthropy to fund racial justice and makes specific demands related to what that means. He points to the White privilege that undermines philanthropy and clouds its vision when supporting racial justice work. The vision for philanthropy reform that Cordery outlines in this article is both radical and necessary.

Black-owned restaurants are seeing a surge of interest and support. Advocates say it’s a start. By Emily Heil June 4, 2020. Here, Heil highlights the growing interest in and consumer awareness of Black-owned businesses in the midst of protests and the coronavirus pandemic. She describes initiatives aimed at helping consumers identify and support black-owned restaurants and notes the criticism that patronage at Black-owned restaurants is not enough to end racism. Countering this criticism, Heil quotes Anela Malik, a food blogger and activist in Washington who told her “Until we have radical social change, this is a concrete way people can recognize injustice in society and do something about it today. . . . There should be space for people to do activism at all levels” (n.p). This article is nuanced and comprehensive and is absolutely worth reading to learn more about how to identify Black-owned businesses. 

The global pandemic has spawned new forms of activism – and they’re flourishing by Erica Chenoweth et al. April 20, 2020. The authors of this article have compiled an extensive list of expressions of solidarity and activism. They credit the pandemic as a generative force for the creation of new tools and strategies that citizens may use to demonstrate discontent and lobby for change. They also note the ways people exercise defiance by acting in opposition to precautions in order to express their freedom to gather and demonstrate. The article emphasizes, however, the myriad creative ways organizers have devised to come together while physically distancing.

Haymarket Books Online Teach-In How to Beat Coronavirus Capitalism with Naomi Klein, Astra Taylor, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and a musical performance by Lia Rose March 26, 2020. In this hour-and-thirty minute teach-in, three authors, Naomi Klein, Astra Taylor, and Keeanga- Yamahtta Taylor discuss the ‘pandemic of capitalism’ given the rampant ‘coronavirus illness.’ They touch upon ‘Trump’s disaster capitalism cabinet’ and the profiteering and economic exploitation occurring in response to the current crisis. The authors also spend significant time discussing resistance to coronavirus capitalism and the challenges imposed by the need for physical distance, as well as the political and social distance that is constraining social movements. The authors are joined by musician, Lia Rose, who contributed a performance of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’ to the teach-in.

Joy is the Justice We Give Ourselves by J. Drew Lanham July 7, 2021. In this poem, Lanham defines and describes joy in a diverse array of metaphors and images. It is about racial justice and Black joy, specifically. It speaks to current events, as well as historical events and is a beautiful and heart-wrenching piece.

Juneteenth Reminds Us That Reparations Are Due by Kevin L. Matthews II June 18, 2021. Last Saturday was Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. This article reminds us that racism has been prevalent in this country since its inception, and the end of the Civil War—though it marked the official end of slavery—also marked the rise of racist policies such as Black Codes and convict leasing that allowed for the continued extraction of unpaid labor from Black Americans. Here, Matthews makes the case for reparations by enumerating the costs of racism and states that making days like Juneteenth an official holiday doesn’t go far enough in countering the country’s White supremacist roots.

The Limits of Buying Black by Brittany Hutson May 24, 2021. This article lays out the limits of buying products from Black-owned businesses, noting: “For many business owners, seeing an upsurge of interest from new customers (and the boost in sales it has brought) take place alongside the repetitive, public devaluing of their humanity is bittersweet at best. And it has left many grappling with the implications of the shift” (n.p.). The article describes the influx in demand for goods from Black-owned businesses and the paradox Black business owners see in this uptick taking place in tandem with intense racism and police brutality. The article also discusses the investments large corporations have made in Black-owned business as well as the ‘broken system’ that had left many Black-business owners in dire conditions pre-pandemic and before the racial uprisings in 2021. According to this article, the movement to make purchases and investments has helped Black-owned businesses but long-term investment is still lacking. 

Could Price Parity, Supply Management Change the Game for BIPOC Farmers? By Ray Levy Uveda April 14, 2021. This article talks about the inequities of U.S. farmland ownership and looks at price parity—wherein farmers are paid more than the cost of production—as a means to achieve racial justice in agriculture. Noting the work of the coalition Disparity to Parity, the article touches on the harms of the industrial agricultural system that Disparity to Parity has pointed to in a recent series of essays. These harms include: “loss of Black-owned farmland, decreased profits for producers, numerous and untold environmental externalities, and crops that end up rotting in the fields” (n.p.). According to the coalition, on the road to achieving parity is supply management and parity pricing. The article goes into what happens currently in the neoliberal system as well as the racial justice that would be gained from promoting price parity and supply management.

The Activists Working to Remake the Food System by Ligaya Mishan February 19, 2021. Here, Mishan profiles the work of food systems activists for the New York Times. The article quotes food systems leader and executive director of HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture and Labor) Food Alliance as saying “Covid has illuminated for a broader public that we have a food system,” (n.p.) and pays attention to the limitations of our food system that have been exposed to the general public by the coronavirus pandemic. The article points out the work of the social reformers who warn of the dangerous influence of a food system directed by corporate profit. Mishan reviews the historical context of our broken food system and writes of the activists who engage in every facet of its functioning to try to repair and realign the food system in ways that would benefit more people. Activists mentioned include José Andrés, Karen Washington, Tunde Wey and Raj Patel. Many leading food justice organizations are mentioned in this article as well.

Donations to Black-Led Food and Land Organizations Shift from Charitable Giving to True Reparations by Ruth Terry February 18, 2021. Donations to Black-led groups can be considered as a form of reparations, according to this article from Yes! Magazine. Here, Terry imagines reparations in a more inclusive way than is typical, noting that within Black communities, “reparations have long been intertwined with the liberation of all Black people through food justice and land sovereignty” (n.p.) and she examines the relationship between reparations, self-determination, and land. Terry reviews the historical context of reparations and the “perpetual loop of injustice and inequity” (n.p.) that has trapped Black farmers’ and has resulted in significant land loss. She also mentions the way that Black folks in urban centers relate to land and the gentrification of urban agriculture movements. The article also provides examples of Black individuals who own or operate farms, rural and urban.

A Convergent Imagining by J. Drew Lanham 2021. This essay imagines a series of correspondences between Martin Luther King Jr. and Rachel Carson in the year 1964. In one letter, King invites Carson to the South Carolina Low Country to the Penn Center, a self-sufficiency center for the Gullah people there. King writes to Carson, “I’m hoping that we might congenially discuss what I trust will be our shared mission to make this world better for all beings—for every living thing. Our singing birds. Our fight for civil rights” (n.p.). King reflects on articles Carson has written and raises the issue of environmental injustices leveled against Black communities. In these imagined missives, Carson responds with compassion and acknowledgement writing, “No, I have not been denied the essential rights of humanity, and I understand the privilege that my skin renders, but I think we have some common ground, as the men in power in our nation have a way of suppressing freedom, which we must all recognize as untenable” (n.p.). Following the imagined correspondence, Lanham reflects on convergence as a force of confluence, asking “I wonder, if certain strangers had met, what would their coming together have meant? Circumstances dictate chance. Chance fosters possibilities. Could a conversation create its own momentum? Could separate suddenly become conglomerate with a greater mission?” (n.p.). He reflects on the convergence of the Civil Rights Movement and the environmentalist movement asking, ‘what if?’ and imagining the possibility therein.

A Black Lives Matter Founder on Building Modern Movements by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor January 18, 2021. In this book review, Taylor details the realities of systemic racism in the U.S. with specific attention given to the context of the pandemic as well as the recent election and transition of power. The article is a review of Alicia Garza’s book The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart. Garza is the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network and the originator of the ‘Black lives matter’ slogan. Taylor’s review gives insight into Garza’s background and experience as an organizer and offers a sense of the themes covered in the book. According to Taylor, a central question addressed in Garza’s new book is “how to move from engaging in protests and mobilization to acquiring the political power necessary to transform the conditions in poor and working-class Black communities” (n.p.). In reviewing Garza’s book, Taylor reflects on the inefficiencies and impossibilities embedded within our fraught political system and on how political organizing can help communities wield their power in more effective ways toward political change. Following a thorough discussion of political organizing and possibilities for transformation, Taylor ultimately enthusiastically recommends Garza’s new publication.

How Black Lives Matter Came to the Academy by Kristal Brent Zook January 30, 2021. This article discusses the nexus of the Black Lives Matter movement and academia through the lens of the hashtag #BlackInTheIvory. Following the story of Shardé Davis, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Connecticut, who originated the hashtag, Zook takes us through the lived experiences of racism, and oppression that Black folks encounter on college campuses across the U.S. In the article, we learn of Davis’s experience within the academy, moving through a system imbued with White privilege, racism and prejudice. The author also remarks on the growing pressure on faculty and administrators to address issues related to race in the classroom and on campus, noting the incremental changes spreading across the academy.

The Anti-Racist Farmers Market Toolkit from the Farmers Market Coalition 2022. This new resource was developed by a group of Black food systems leaders and market managers and aims to educate farmers market managers about how to apply the concepts of anti-racism within their markets. The hope behind the creation of the Toolkit is that, as market managers adopt and promote anti-racist practice and action, market experiences for BIPOC communities. The experiences of Black people and Black communities are centered within this resource.

Black Lives Matter Protests are Shaping How People Understand Racial Inequality by Jelani Ince and Zackary Dunivin March 30, 2022. In this article, sociologists, Jelani Ince and Zackary Dunivin explore the impact of street demonstrations in creating social change. They studied how street protests lay the foundation for changing the way people think. Highlighting the recent Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd, they conducted a large-scale quantitative analysis of news items, Google searches, Wikipedia page visits, and tweets from 2014 to 2020 to understand the movement’s 

Reflections on the World’s Largest and Longest Protest: Parity as the Unifying Call by Daljit Kaur Soni n.d. In this essay from Daljit K. Soni for the NGO Disparity to Parity, Soni organizes around the central thesis of parity as a ‘unifying call’ to achieve fairness for food producers. Parity, according to the essay, would mean price floors that are regularly adjusted for inflation. Soni’s comprehensive essay builds from the context of the Indian Farmers Revolution to make a case for parity within globalized food production systems and for the development of a global farmers movement for justice. 

Black Farmers Have Been Robbed of Land. A New Bill Would Give Them a “Quantum Leap” Toward Justice. by Tom Philpott November 19, 2020. This article details the injustices Black farmers in the U.S. have faced in the U.S. and explains the intentions of a new Senate bill called the Justice for Black Farmers Act. The article explains the history of land grabs and land grants in the country and outlines the precedent for such a bill. According to Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) who is quoted in the article, this bill would represent an “equitable balancing of the scales after decades of systematic racism within the USDA that disadvantaged Black farmers, excluded them from loans and other programs, [and] prevented them from holding on to their land” (n.p.). This article is an important read to understand the history of injustice that Black farmers have faced, as well as a new proposal toward reparations.

How Saidiya Hartman Retells the History of Black Life by Alexis Okeowo October 19, 2020. This article from the New Yorker covers the life and work of Saidiya Hartman, a scholar and writer on Black history. Beginning with the story of her upbringing and early education, the story arcs toward Hartman’s current projects and her reactions to current events such as the coronavirus and the recent racial uprisings and police brutality and violence Cultural theorist, Judith Butler and poet, Fred Moten are quoted, among other theoretical luminaries, but these two summarize Hartman’s work neatly. Butler notes that the question that drives Hartman’s work is whether slavery ever really ended, and Moten told the author of the article, that “Saidiya does the very crucial work of expanding our understanding of the Black radical tradition,” revealing that it is “fundamentally the work of working-class Black women and young Black girls.” This is a beautifully written piece about an important contemporary thinker.

‘We Deserve a Country that Values All of Our Lives’: Highlander Director Talks COVID, BLM and Racism in America by Taylor Sisk August 19, 2020. In this interview, Highlander Research and Education Center co-executive director Ash-Lee Woodward Henderson discusses what it means to be Affrilachian and her family’s roots in the South, racism as a public health crisis, and the intersections of racism and the coronavirus pandemic. Woodward Henderson also discusses the significance of being the first Black woman to serve as executive director of the Highlander Center and the evolution of the Highlander Center over time, among other themes. This interview with the executive director of this storied and influential Center is absolutely worth reading.

The Perils of “People of Color” by E. Tammy Kim July 29, 2020. This New Yorker article takes an in-depth look at the term ‘people of color,’ examining its use and function thoroughly. The author, who is Korean American, describes her firsthand experience with the term as well as the way the term is wielded by and within different communities. She discusses the unity and solidarity the term evokes, as well as instances where the term becomes problematic or unhelpful.

Poverty Is a Choice by Anne Lowrey July 29, 2020. This article’s title seems to be controversial, but really the article covers the choices economists make in setting the metrics used to measure global poverty. The author discusses the different ways the World Bank and the UN measure and report on poverty and progress and poses a series of important questions related to the ways that poverty is calculated and viewed by world leaders. Her questions include: “What if world leaders and multilateral institutions focused on the $5.50 line, or measures of poverty that capture social exclusion and relative deprivation? What if the headline story were that half the world still qualifies as desperately poor, and poverty head counts remain stubbornly high in dozens of countries? What if the story were not that we are succeeding, but that we are failing?” (n.p.). Here’s an important response to world leaders’ views on declining rates of catastrophic poverty and stagnating rates of normalized destitution. In reading the article we learn that the triumph of neoliberalism in abating global poverty is a farce and worth critically questioning.

Urban planning as a tool of white supremacy – the other lesson from Minneapolis by Julian Agyeman July 27, 2020. This article by Dr. Julian Agyeman of Tufts University discusses the racist urban planning policies that have led to racial divisions and disparities. In it, Agyeman discusses Minneapolis as a case example to show that even in what is held to be one of the most progressive and liberal cities in the US, racist urban planning has shaped the demographic make-up of its neighborhoods, excluding Black people from areas deemed to be highly desirable. He describes the significant wealth gap in Minneapolis as well as the zoning that has contributed to its existence. Agyeman also demonstrates through examples what anti-racist urban planning might look like in this must-read article.

The Invention of the Police by Jill Lepore July 13, 2020. In this piece from the New Yorker, Jill Lepore breaks down the history of policing in the United States from its history as an English colony to the present. She studies the etymology of the term and discusses the history of policing in European countries before turning to examine the rise of the neighborhood watch (which originated in Europe and was exported to the colonies of the Americas). She traces the history of the police in the US to the slave codes and slave patrols of the colonies and then of the states, and the ways that police were employed to control and oppress slave communities and free Black communities in the early US. In addition to the history and statistics of policing in the US, Lepore focuses on the issue of gun ownership in the US and the relationship between police, firearms, and police-inflicted injury and death. She writes of the dysfunction of the US police force, noting that “To say that many good and admirable people are police officers, dedicated and brave public servants, which is, of course, true, is to fail to address both the nature and the scale of the crisis and the legacy of centuries of racial injustice. The best people, with the best of intentions, doing their utmost, cannot fix this system from within.” (n.p).

What is Owed by Nikole Hannah-Jones June 30, 2020. Here, MacArthur fellow and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones covers the Black Lives Matter movement and traces the history of violence and social control from times of slavery into the present. She notes the lack of significant change throughout the U.S.’s brutal history: “the names of the mechanisms of social control have changed, but the presumption that white patrollers have the legal right to kill Black people deemed to have committed minor infractions or to have breached the social order has remained” (n.p.). Hannah-Jones discusses the politics and policies that allow for continued oppression of black people and their continued segregation and she calls for widespread policy reform that would provide better protections for black people and would allow for the prosecution of ‘armed agents of the state’ who kill Black people. She also surveys, at length, the historically rooted wealth gap that defines and maintains black oppression, connecting the conditions Black people faced when slavery ended to those of the present moment. Through this discussion Hannah-Jones makes a compelling call for reparations, especially in light of the financial hardships disproportionately affecting Black people in the pandemic. This is a long read but Hannah-Jones’ powerful prose and effective tracing of historical injustices in her call for reparations make it absolutely worth reading.

Reckoning with Racial Justice in Farm Country by Gosia Wozniacka June 10, 2020. Wozniacka’s latest article covers racial justice and reform in the rural United States. This article traces the systemic racism that structures the agricultural industry in the US and notes the disadvantages Black farmers face not only within production systems but in their capacity to assert their rights given the threat of violence and other repercussions. She notes the silence in the farming community around racial justice issues and also the delay with which agricultural organizations responded to the recent uprising. Wozniacka also notes instances where farming communities have spoken out against injustice and she highlights some of the movement toward racial justice reform that has been taking place in agricultural spaces. This article spans a large historical period, underscoring the political importance of the current moment and the role of farmers of all races in advocating for change.

I’m a black climate scientist. Racism derails our efforts to save the planet by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson June 3, 2020. In this piece, Johnson discusses the ways that racism negatively impacts the potential contribution of people of color in stopping and reversing climate change. In her article, Johnson asks, “How can we expect black Americans to focus on climate when we are so at risk on our streets, in our communities, and even within our own homes? How can people of color effectively lead their communities on climate solutions when faced with pervasive and life-shortening racism?” (n.p.). She describes the ways that racism has impacted her capacity to contribute to her field as a scientist. She asks the reader to “consider the discoveries not made, the books not written, the ecosystems not protected, the art not created, the gardens not tended” (n.p.) in considering the myriad damaging ways that racism impacts the lives of people of color and their capacity to contribute to their fields given the pressing need for them to resist racism before all else.

Black Farmers in Arkansas Still Seek Justice a Century After the Elaine Massacre by Wesley Brown July 27, 2022. This Civil Eats piece provides a historical account of the Elaine Massacre of 1919 when a shooting incident turned into mob violence at a meeting of the Progressive Farmers and Household Union, a Black-led group aimed at improving living conditions for Black farmers and communities in Arkansas. The deadliest racial conflict in Arkansas and one of the bloodiest in U.S. history. The article provides a window into the economic and social impacts of the massacre on the lives of the residents in Elaine through the story of the Flenaugh family, a farming family in the Mississippi River Delta whose land dwindled from 30,000 acres within a vibrant Black farming community to just 400 acres due to theft, intimidation, violence, and fraudulent property records. The piece explores legacies of land theft in Arkansas and delves into the potentiality of reparations to families who had lost farmlands and their lives during the massacre, along with larger themes like reconnecting Black families to farming and land, and advancing racial justice nationwide.

Black Joy in Pursuit of Racial Justice by Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts May 28, 2022. Here, Lewis-Giggetts explains the complexity of holding loss or grief and joy and pleasure together at the same time. This article centers on the context of Black joy, and the ancestral legacy that precedes, informs, and shapes it. As Lewis-Giggetts writes, “They knew that joy and pain, joy and rage, joy and grief occupy the same vessel” (n.p.). She also describes “a sort of survivor’s guilt” (n.p.) that accompanies the complexity of holding both at once—it’s difficult to admit that certain things are going well while others (and ourselves) experience hardship. But as she further explains, joy can transform traumatic experiences, and the ways that Black people have always held joy, rage, and sorrow together is not new, but in Lewis-Giggetts view, this practice has declined in the recent time, especially among social justice leaders and racial justice organizers. Lewis-Giggetts offers empathy and grace as a way to allow oneself to experience the duality of these emotions again.

‘Gather’ Centers Efforts to Heal and Rebuild Indigenous Traditions and Foodways by Jade Begay October 14, 2020. In this article, Jade Begay interviews Gather director Sanjay Rawal. Gather, a documentary film focusing on North American Indigenous foodways, food and land sovereignty, and intergenerational trauma, was released in September. Here, Begay asks Rawal about his connections with the topic and the people at the center of the film, about the thread of intergenerational trauma within the film, and about his hopes for the message and impact of the film. They also discuss Rawal’s reflexivity as an outsider creating a film about Indigenous groups and about his stance on reparations for Native American communities. This is an incredibly thoughtful conversation between Begay and Rawal and also includes the trailer for the film. 

Indigenous Peoples Day comes amid a reckoning over colonialism and calls for return of Native land by Abel Gomez October 12, 2020. This article focuses on Indigenous land sovereignty and sense of place in North America. Tracking activism and land sovereignty movements from Canada to the U.S. border with Mexico, Gomez underscores the importance of land to Indigenous people in North America and the realities of land that was stolen from Indigenous groups across the history and present state of American colonialism. 

Native American capital among 11 most endangered historic sites by Andrew Lawler September 24, 2020. Here’s an article on land sovereignty in Virginia. This article discusses the ancient capital of the Monacan tribe and the fight to avoid a new pumping station being installed in a location that would jeopardize and endanger the ancient site. This National Geographic article outlines the history of Monacan resistance to invading colonizers and discusses the contemporary development of a water pumping station that would accommodate the increasing population of Louisa and Fluvanna Counties. This article follows the back-and-forth between the tribe and the water authority and underscores the need to recognize the land sovereignty issues present in our own state.

‘Make Farmers Black Again’: African Americans Fight Discrimination To Own Farmland by Jillian Forstadt August 25, 2020. This article shares the story of the struggle for Black landownership and the lack of Black representation in agriculture through the story of a Black farming family in upstate New York. Highlighting the hard-won successes of the Minton family and interspersing their story with statistics that demonstrate the difficulties Black people face in accessing land and resources to farm, Forstadt underscores the importance of ‘making farmers Black again.’ This is a beautiful story that weaves in historical context and modern-day struggles to demonstrate the need for an equitable agricultural system.

Black Farmers Look to Regain Their Land by Lindsay Campbell July 20, 2020. This article highlights the need to reclaim Black-owned land following mass dispossession over the course of the twentieth century. Here, the author features a fundraising campaign spearheaded by a group of Black farmers in Mississippi. The campaign aims to raise money to purchase the land of a recently deceased Black farmer to turn the land into an agricultural training center for aspiring Black farmers. This short article offers a brief overview of the injustices that have led to the loss of Black-owned land and Black farmers and highlights an exciting project and is worth a look!

Land loss has plagued black America since emancipation – is it time to look again at ‘black commons’ and collective ownership? By Julian Agyeman and Kofi Boone June 18, 2020. In their article, Agyeman and Boone note Juneteenth as an “opportunity to look back at how Black Americans were deprived of land ownership and the economic power that it brings.” They detail the systemic racism and discriminatory practices that have stripped Black communities of their land over the last century and they advocate for land reform and reparations in the form of “black commons” which they define as being based on “shared economic, cultural and digital resources as well as land” (n.p.). By their account, by ensuring Black commons, the U.S. could move forward in undoing the “racist legacy of chattel slavery by encouraging economic development and creating communal wealth” (n.p.). 

Ask Who Paid for America’s Universities by Tristan Ahtone and Robert Lee May 7, 2020. This article recounts the violent history of land grant universities noting their economic basis on the expropriation of indigenous land. The authors implore readers to go further than perfunctory acknowledgements in recognizing the impact the Morrill Act (which established land grant universities) had and continues to have on Native American communities and provides suggestions for moving forward within this context.

Land-grab universities: Expropriated Indigenous land is the foundation of the land-grant university system by Robert Lee and Tristan Ahtone March 30, 2020.  The authors of the article critically investigate the land legacies of land grant universities that hold “creation stories that start with gifts of free land” (n.p). In the piece, the authors trace the land that was expropriated from indigenous communities by coercion or fraud. They also note the contemporary continuation of revenue gains from unjustly acquired lands emphasizing the need for conversation about this difficult topic rather than allowing for the perpetuation of faulty creation myths.

She, The People: Dara Cooper On Food Redlining, Reparations, And Freeing The Land by Kirsten West Savali June 19, 2019. This article was recommended by Brandi and Carlton Turner in advance of their (virtual) visit to Virginia Tech in April of 2020. The article is framed around an interview with Dara Cooper, a national organizer with the National Black Food and Justice Alliance. The interview focuses on the sacredness of land for many black farmers and focuses on themes of afro-futrism tied to reparations, black sovereignty, self- determination, and anti-capitalist land reclamation and collective stewardship. The article chronicles the systematic ways in which southern Black communities were stripped of their land and cites Black women scholars such as Monica White, Leah Penniman, Ashante Reese, and Naa Oyo Kwate as carrying the torch for Black healing and liberation through the creation of a sustainable food infrastructure. 

A New Map Reconstructs the Social Landscapes of Southwest Virginia Prior to European Arrival by David Fleming November 15, 2021. In this article, historians from Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment, faculty, and members of the Virginia tribal community collaborate to re-create a map of the region prior to European arrival. Led by Stewart Scales, an expert instructor at Virginia Tech, the project recreated the map using the Siouan Language as its focal unit, thus the map instead of depicting a territory, depicts the estimated spread of the Eastern Siouan Language, offering a critical snapshot of a world that has been too long forgotten in the collective history of the land where Virginia Tech is situated. The expanded map provides a contemporary view of what life was like in the region four centuries ago, as well as the critical ways that trade influenced interactions between various language groups. 

The Healing Work of Returning Stolen Lands by Penneleys Droz November 15, 2021. This article centers around the worldwide #Landback movement. It features the story of the native Wiyot people in Northern California and their leaders who are fighting for the protection of their sacred sites and homelands from contamination and desecration by industry. Their work is “set against the backdrop of the violent and genocidal settler colonialist history of this nation... the movement to restore Tuluwat Island to its original stewards is remarkable” (Droz, 2021, n.p). The article expands on the Wiyots’ imploration of vigils and relationship-building to generate healing while telling their stories. Consequently, the article explores how the #Landback movement spiraled into activism around the Red Road to DC project in 2021. 

Study: Indigenous tribes lost 99% of land to colonization by Mark Armao October 28, 2021. A study published on Thursday, October 24th revealed that Indigenous tribes in what is now the United States lost 99% of their land to colonization, as this article explains. Through the study, researchers aggregated a large data set to reveal how the stolen lands and forced migration resulted in continuing land loss. The article also notes that, as a result of this near-total loss of land, Indigenous tribes face “increased exposure to climate change risks and hazards, especially extreme heat and less precipitation” (n.p.) in the lands they currently occupy. To bring the point home, the article’s author draws attention to the fact that “Indigenous people had a documented presence in more than 2.7 million square miles of what is now the contiguous U.S. The government-recognized tribal land base of today is 93 percent smaller, at roughly 165,000 square miles” (n.p.).

Meet Alexis Nikole Nelson, The Wildly Popular 'Black Forager' by Diba Mohtasham and Manoush Zomorodi September 9, 2021. Here’s another article on the ‘Black Forager’ from NPR. This article emphasizes Nelson’s exploding popularity on social media as well as the significance of foraging as a way to connect with African American and Indigenous food traditions. This article takes the form of an interview with Alexis Nikole Nelson and covers the ways Nelson began connecting with land as a child and learning about through the ‘onion grass’ growing in her backyard. We also learn about knowledge exchanges between enslaved people and Indigenous people and then the loss of that knowledge as Black people in the U.S. were forcibly separated from the land through sharecropping and the Great Migration during which many migrated to cities in the North. Nelson also talks about the ways she is helping people reconnect with land and with their ancestral knowledge, and heal their relationship with food. 

How Black Foragers Find Freedom in the Natural World by Cynthia Greenlee July 30, 2021. Foraging for food has been on the rise during the pandemic, according to this article from the New York Times, and Black foragers are an increasingly visible contingent in the foraging scene. This article reviews the dispossession and separation from land that Black people have faced in the United States and notes that there is an overwhelming perception “that Black people just don’t do the outdoors” (n.p.). The article explores the roots of this idea dating back to slavery when enslaved people were forced to find food in nature. Following the end of slavery, sharecropping and land loss (and the physical and legal violence that accompanied them) began to sever Black people’s connection with the land. Drawing on examples of Black people foraging in the 21st century, the article notes the discrimination many experience while in nature. It also describes the deep knowledge required for foraging and the ‘rebelliousness’ one Black forager feels in that knowing and in “being able to take things because the way we are told we’re not supposed to” (n.p.).

Salt, Soil, & Supper: This one's for the trees by Xander Peters July 21, 2021. Here is an excerpt from Scalawag’s weekly newsletter, Salt, Soil, and Supper. It contains a discussion of heirs’ property and the author’s relationship to his family land, as well as an interview with John Schelhas, a research forester at the Department of Agriculture's Southern Research Station, who talks about the role of forestry management to help heirs’ property landholders afford to keep the sometimes very large parcels of land they’ve inherited. In the interview, Schelhas explains what ‘heirs’ property’ means and why it can be precarious and how land can sometimes feel like more of a burden than an asset—and the ways forestry management can reverse that by generating income for the landholders.

‘The Real Damage’ by Hannah Dreier July 11, 2021. Opening with the story of a FEMA agent working to get help to underserved communities in Hale County, Alabama—a community already hard-hit by climate change—this article tells of the dilemma of heirs’ property, a system by which many Black people in the South inherit land that makes them ineligible for disaster relief. According to the article, more than a third of Black-owned property in the south is handed down informally, without deeds or wills, which denies them a clear title to the land. This tradition dates back to the Jim Crow era, the article says, when Black people could not access the legal system. Heirs’ property “is the leading cause of Black involuntary land loss” (n.p.), according to the USDA. This long-read continues with the story of the FEMA agent, and his encounters with people who are ineligible for benefits due to the complications of heirs’ property and has images to complement the story.

Op-ed: The High Cost of Cheap McDonald’s Fries by Winona LaDuke and Donald Carr April 15, 2021. In this article, LaDuke and Carr discuss the vulnerability of White Earth and Red Earth tribal lands in Minnesota to the exploitation imposed by large scale agriculture. LaDuke and Carr point to the logging and destruction caused to the Minnesota Pineland Sands, a 770-square mile area rich in biodiversity, by the R.D. Offutt Company (RDO), a major agribusiness that supplies potatoes to McDonalds for its French fries. RDO, according to this article, is the nation’s largest producer of potatoes. The article touches on the devastation that has occurred under RDO management including the destruction of land held by the White Earth and Red Earth tribes, as well as the pollution of drinking water and the contamination of the headwaters of the Mississippi river. The article also discusses the roundabout ways that the company has taken control of so much acreage in northern Minnesota and the ways residents of the region are resisting and reversing the environmental injustices caused by RDO.

Bill Gates is the biggest private owner of farmland in the United States. Why? By Nick Estes April 5, 2021. Bill Gates holds the title of largest private owner of farmland in the U.S., according to this article, with over 242,000 titled to his name. The article’s author notes that Gates owns more than the native nation in which he is enrolled: the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. The question of why a “handful of people own so much land” (n.p.) frames the article and the author frames the answer in the context of exploitation, dispossession, discrimination and legacies of White wealth based on racial capitalism. The article speculates on the purposes Gates may find in owning so much land, as well as his position on climate change and his “global green revolution” (n.p.). Estes remarks on the disparities in carbon emissions between the rich and the poor and the irony in Gates’ stance on promoting climate-mitigating practices among small-scale and indigenous farmers (who generally produce fewer carbon emissions than large-scale farmers and may be more conscientious stewards of the land, according to Estes). This article advocates for small-scale land ownership and makes a compelling case for a more equitable distribution of wealth and land.

Translating land justice through comparison: a US–French dialogue and research agenda by Megan Horst, Nathan McClintock, Adrien Baysse-Lainé, Ségolène Darly, Flaminia Paddeu, Coline Perrin, Kristin Reynolds, and Christophe-Toussaint Soulard 2021. This is a discussion piece that offers a French and American “bi-national comparison to deepen our collective understanding of food and land justice” (n.p.). The article examines land justice within the context of food justice paradigms, breaking it down into three key areas: “access to land for cultivation; urban agriculture; and food provisioning beyond the farm and garden” (n.p.). The guiding questions for this piece include: “What is land justice? How does it relate to food justice and thus serve as a framework for critical agri-food activism and scholarship? And how might it translate as a critical lens in different countries and in different languages?” (n.p.). The authors’ understanding of the different historical and colonial contexts of these countries, and their contemporary similarities and differences gives depth to the article and the authors close with recommendations for further comparative land justice scholarship.

Ancestral Homeland Returned to Rappahannock Tribe After More Than 350 Years by Sarah Kuta April 5, 2022. The Native American tribe, the Rappahannock, has reacquired 465 acres of ancestral homeland after more than 350 years of English settler invasion. According to a statement by the Department of the Interior and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the section of the area reacquired includes a section of the rocky east side of the Rappahannock River called the Fones Cliffs. It is believed that the area was largely inhabited by several Indigenous peoples hundreds of years ago. This significant event was made possible by the Chesapeake Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental group based in Maryland, which bought the land for $4 million with assistance from the William Dodge Angle family, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Walmart Acres for America Program. The conservancy then donated the easement to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and gave the land title to the Rappahannock tribe, which plans to place it in trust with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

The Lethal Inequality on American Farms by Jonah Goldman Kay December 22, 2020. Here, Goldman Kay tells the story of farm labor in the United States, noting the prominent injustices and inequalities within the labor system. He describes the ways farmworkers on H-2A visas become bound to their employer through “an exploitative and one-sided relationship that leaves them vulnerable to all kinds of abuses” (n.p.) and says that during the pandemic, these already abusive relationships turned lethal due to that lack of precaution and oversight that could have controlled coronavirus outbreaks among farmworkers. Goldman Kay discusses wage theft, mistreatment, and lack of farmer accountability in farmworker conditions before offering suggestions for the Biden administration that could mitigate some of these failures. 

Migrant Workers Restricted to Farms Under One Grower’s Virus Lockdown by Miriam Jordan October 19, 2020. This article from the New York Times shares the story of Mexican farmworkers employed by a large tomato enterprise in the Eastern Shore of Virginia. This disturbing account explains the ways Lipman Family Farms has sought to control the incidence of coronavirus outbreaks among their employees by forcing them into lockdown. As the article explains, “The large tomato enterprise has been able to impose the restrictions on its workers because they are beholden to the company for their visa, housing and wages” (n.p.). There are harsh repercussions for breaking the enforced lockdown as doing so would result in being fired and sent back to Mexico, resulting in the loss of pay and future opportunity to work in the U.S. According to farmworkers, the lockdown has made the worksite feel more like a ‘prison.’ This is an important read about Virginia agriculture and the ethical implications of reducing coronavirus through the use of an enforced lockdown, one that would not be possible with more enfranchised workers.

‘Treated as expendable’: Migrant farmworkers fall through gaps in the rural South’s patchwork health system by Timothy Pratt October 7, 2020. As the title suggests, this article tells the story of migrant farmworkers in the rural south and their ability to access healthcare. It tells of the perils of slow test results and the lack of information on farms, especially information available in Spanish or Indigenous languages about the coronavirus. The article covers the role nonprofits and other community-based organizations have been trying to fill in disseminating information and helping farmworkers access care. The author also writes of the lack of unified strategy within and across the southern states for combating and treating coronavirus cases in rural areas and among farmworkers. With personal stories and quotes from experts, this is an excellent read to stay informed about the situation of farmworkers in the South during the pandemic.

Automated Harvest Is Coming. What Will it Mean for Farmworkers and Rural Communities? By Twilight Greenaway Septembe 29, 2020. In this article, Greenaway discusses the politics of automation of agricultural practices. The author provides a thorough overview of the benefits and drawbacks of automation for farmers and farmworkers and offers a glimpse into what automation of a strawberry harvest would entail. This article also covers the impact of coronavirus in accelerating demand and enthusiasm for automation as California’s Central Valley’s coronavirus cases have surged among farmworkers. It also includes a section on the impact of agricultural automation and the dead end it presents to rural communities.

How California’s farmworkers are banding together to survive the pandemic by Yvette Cabrera September 24, 2020. In this article written for Grist, Cabrera documents the injustices farmworkers in California face, the role of unions and farmworker-led mutual aid programs working to protect them, and the details of a proposed relief package that could help shield farmworkers from the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cabrera outlines the three bills within the relief package and the advocacy groups who are encouraging the governor to sign it. A quote from State Assembly Member Robert Rivas who took lead in writing the relief package bill in California underscores the importance of the issue of farmworker justice in California for all of us, including in Virginia and beyond: “Many of our agricultural regions here in California have seen disproportionately high rates of COVID-19 cases, and clearly this has threatened California’s most vulnerable workers. It has threatened their families, in an industry that is vital to our food security — not only in California and in the United States, but globally.” This article emphasizes the importance of just conditions for farmworkers and offers a glimpse at a potential pathway that could offer justice to farmworkers.

The Immokalee Way: Protecting Farmworkers Amid a Pandemic by John Bowe September 14, 2020. This article compares the labor conditions of farmworkers employed by labor contractors compared to those organized through the Fair Food Program and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The author exposes the working conditions within one hydroponic tomato production system in upstate New York noting that high tech agricultural practices don’t necessarily correlate with better working conditions. The article describes the work of labor contractors who are accused by critics with creating “a legal firewall, shielding larger employers and corporations from civil and criminal liability for failure to comply with labor, worker safety, and immigration laws” (n.p.). The article provides vivid detail on how cases of coronavirus broke out at the hydroponic operation before moving to discuss the Fair Food Program and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers—groups tasked with advocating and fighting for fair and just labor conditions in agricultural production. The article provides information on the work of these groups and how they’ve dealt with the pandemic in contrast to that of labor contractors.

American’s Food Supply Chain Was Already Deadly. Then Came the Wildfires. by Nick Martin September 15, 2020. For this article, Marin investigated and reported on the conditions of farmworkers in California and Oregon amidst raging wildfires and spiking cases of coronavirus. In the article, he underscores the agricultural labor conditions that have led to the current precarious situation of farmworkers in the west noting that “Much like the Smithfield plant workers forced back into slaughterhouses shortly after the pandemic exploded, farmworkers in California and Oregon are being pushed out into the fields despite chaotically dangerous conditions. Their pay hasn’t budged, nor do they have the promise of health care for potential long-term health impacts from repeated smoke and ash exposure”. Underlining the injustices farmworkers face in this country, he writes of situations where workers are forced into the field (both by labor contractors and by their own economic instability) under the dire circumstances of critically poor air quality and a global pandemic. This article covers pending legislation that could protect farmworkers and other possibilities for a more just food system while underscoring the grave conditions farmworkers face at present.

Berry Farmers Break Free From Big Agriculture by Lynsi Burton August 29, 2020. This is a story of workers taking control of the means of production, containing themes of food justice and food sovereignty. This article shares the story of a group of agricultural laborers who advocated for better working conditions with their employers and then formed their own berry growing cooperative in Washington state. The article highlights the injustices the workers faced and the opportunities that having their own farmworker-led cooperative offers.

‘The sun is hot and you can’t breathe in a mask’ - life as an undocumented farmworker by Gabriel Thompson May 28, 2020. This article offers a firsthand account of what it’s like to be an undocumented farmworker working in the United States during the coronavirus crisis. In it, a farmworker, given the pseudonym Roberto Valdez, describes the experience of trying to protect himself from coronavirus as he harvests crops in the desert southwest. This article highlights the precarities and injustices farmworkers face, as well as the pride they feel as they fulfill the duties of their vital work.

Op-ed: Migrant Farmworkers, Native Ranchers in Border States Hit Hardest by COVID-19 by Gary Nabhan May 22, 2020. Here, Nabhan details the working and living conditions that make migrant farmworkers and Native ranchers particularly susceptible to COVID-19. He reminds us that “Navajo Nation farming, herding, and ranching families are being hit by COVID-19 at rates double their contribution to the overall population in the Southwest” (n.p.) and explains the language barriers and other obstacles that migrant farmworkers face in protecting themselves and accessing care if they do fall ill. In his article, Nabhan sets this tragic scene with compassionate prose, making this thoughtful and well-researched article a must-read.

The farmworkers putting food on America's tables are facing their own coronavirus crisis by Catherine E. Shoichet April 11, 2020. Last Saturday, CNN covered the unique challenges farmworkers face during the pandemic. With direct quotes from farmworkers and farmworker organizers and advocates, this article details lapses in safety and farmworker protections, as well as the seeming inevitability of a devastating outbreak of COVID-19 among farmworker communities. CNN also recognizes advocates’ call for several policy changes that could reduce risk and ensure worker protections. These changes include requiring sick leave, guaranteeing federally funded healthcare services, and covering COVID-19 testing and treatment regardless of immigration status.

 

 

‘They’re literally hot all the time.’ How a heat standard would help NC farmworkers by Adam Wagner and Aaron Sánchez-Guerra September 30, 2021. Beginning with a video of an interview with a North Carolina farmworker, this article describes the heat that farmworkers endure both in the fields and in their living environment. The article describes the proposed federal heat standard designed to help protect workers from heat, but currently, most states lack standards that protect workers from high temperatures. The article discusses climate change and the warming temperature of North Carolina summers, as well as the incidence of heat illness reported by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (more than 3,000 people were admitted into the emergency room with symptoms of heat illness this summer, with many of them identifying as male and reporting having been working outside when symptoms began). 

N.C. has vaccinated over 13,000 farmworkers. Advocates are making it happen. by Victoria Bouloubasis May 28, 2021. Here, we follow one farmworker who travels annually from Mexico to North Carolina on an H2A visa. We learn of his decision to get vaccinated, as well as the efforts of advocates who have been promoting vaccination among farmworkers in N.C. This article revisits the issues that others that we’ve highlighted have covered: the COVID-19 outbreaks in farmworker communities in 2020, a lack of personal protective equipment provided to farmworkers, lack of isolation housing for sick farmworkers, and the pervasion of myths downplaying the severity of coronavirus or denying its existence altogether. It also provides an overview into the obstacles presented in the effort to get vaccines to farmworkers, many of whom are undocumented and/or move from state-to-state depending on the season. Bouloubasis also paints a picture of a “proactive 2021” (n.p.), wherein the agriculture industry is held more accountable for its inaction and advocates come up with a comprehensive plan to protect workers.

‘You can’t take that from me’: A former North Carolina farmworker’s fight for protection by Victoria Bouloubasis May 11, 2021. Yesenia Cuello, an activist fighting for changes in farmworkers protections, takes center stage in this article from Southerly. Cuello is a first-generation American who worked on tobacco farms growing up. By documenting the health risks farmworkers face, like green tobacco sickness—an acute nicotine poisoning—Cuello drew attention to the need for farmworker protections. She now works as the executive director of NC FIELD (Focus on Increasing Education Leadership and Dignity). The article discusses the struggles small justice-oriented non-profits like NC FIELD face, as well as the need to uplift people like Cuello who have firsthand experience as a member of the communities they serve.

Getting Farmworkers Tested and Vaccinated Depends on Building Trust by Christine Herman and Dana Cronin January 29, 2021. Here, Herman and Cronin describe the barriers to safe working conditions for farmworkers in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, they address the struggle farmworkers face in accessing what they consider “the most basic tool to fight the spread of the virus,” testing. The authors describe the living and working conditions that make farmworkers particularly susceptible to the virus, as well as the outreach programs that have been largely unsuccessful in offering testing to farmworkers due to structural barriers, and the fact that “a positive test can be financially devastating” (n.p.). As the title of the article suggests, the authors also focus on the trust-building necessary to get more people to come to get tested, but also to take part in vaccination programs once they become available. Part of this trust-building includes education about cost and safety of the vaccine.

Op-ed: Farmworkers Face Stress and Depression. The Pandemic Made It Worse. By Amy Quandt and Luis Flores July 28, 2022One of our Center’s anchor programs, AgrAbility Virginia is dedicated to supporting farm safety, health, and wellness, which includes a focus area on mental health for farmers and farmworkers. We chose to uplift this article this week to highlight the importance of supporting farmer and farmworker mental health. Citing a recent study by Keeney, Quandt, Villaseñor, Flores, and Flores (2022), this article notes the various stressors farmworkers face, including excessive heat exposure and climate crisis, isolation and illness due to the COVID-19 pandemic, language barriers, and difficult working and living conditions. The authors of the article (who we also co-authors of the study) note that 40% of the farmworkers who participated in the study experience levels of stress high enough to pose ‘significant mental health risks.’ This piece from Civil Eats outlines themes related to farmworker justice and farm stress and mental health issues facing farmworkers. Read the article for details. For resources related to farm stress, visit the AgrAbility Virginia website and the AgriSafe Network’s page on mental health which includes resources in Spanish.

Her foot was crushed on the job. When she asked to be compensated for lost wages, ‘they said no.’ by Sky Chadde and Madison McVan July 21, 2022. This article relates to one of our Center partner programs, AgrAbility Virginia—a program that promotes safety, wellness, and accessibility on the farm through education, rehabilitative services, and assistive technology, and it involves farmworker justice, an issue we care deeply about. The article explains the difficulties undocumented farmworkers face in accessing workers compensation following on-the-job injuries. Agricultural jobs are among the most risky, and many states deny workers’ compensation to people based on their immigration status. This piece follows the story of Maria, a worker in a vegetable packing plant whose foot was crushed by a forklift. The authors contextualize Maria’s story within the larger issue of farmworker justice.

A former bracero farmworker breaks his silence, recalling abuse and exploitation by Selene Rivera July 18, 2022. This piece from the LA Times offers a look into the bracero farmworker program, the bracero program was formed by a 1942 agreement between the U.S. and Mexico that allowed Mexican workers to come to the U.S. temporarily to provide labor to farmers, and to build railroads. The Mexican Farm Labor Program became known as the ‘bracero’ program because it was associated with men who worked with their arms, brazos in Spanish. The program enrolled 4.6 million Mexican workers between 1942-1964. This article highlights Fausto Ríos’s experience. He joined the bracero program in 1957 at the age of 17. Through this article, Ríos shares about the hardships and abuse he faced while working as a bracero. The article’s author explains that though information about the bracero program is easy to find, historians and activists recognize the importance of recording and sharing stories from the braceros themselves in order to promote understanding about the abuses within the program and the continued need to improve farmworker working conditions.

Farmworkers Bear the Brunt of California’s Housing Crisis by Gosia Wozniacka January 18, 2022. This piece from Civil Eats discusses the housing deficit in California’s agricultural and rural communities . Though housing shortages and increased homelessness are rampant in the state of California, farmworkers with permanent U.S status face the brunt of it According to the author, most farmworkers and their families are unable to afford the rent because their salaries fall below the minimum wage. Another conundrum is that  agricultural employers who employ temporary farmworkers through the H2A visa program need to show proof of housing; hence they buy up most of the available housing facilities, leaving the permanent US farmworkers vulnerable to homelessness. Ildi Carlisle-Cummins, the executive director of the California Institute for Rural Studies, suggests that to mitigate the housing challenges faced by farmworkers, farm communities and other nonprofits can team up to form mutual housing cooperatives. These housing facilities will be collectively owned and controlled by the farmworkers, the nonprofit organization, and the community at large. She also suggests the need for purposive allocation of funds towards farmworker housing projects by the California housing authorities at the local level.

Indigenous groups unveil plan to protect 80% of the Amazon in Peru and Ecuador by Latoya Abulu December 3, 2021. This is a timely article that highlights the latest development on the Amazon Sacred Headwaters initiative. This is a plan developed by an alliance of indigenous people and nongovernmental organizations that proposes the protection of 80% of the Amazon in Peru and Ecuador by 2025, consisting of 35 million hectares (86 million acres) of rainforest. This new plan is a counter to the initial plan by world leaders to conserve 30% of land by 2030. As stated by one of the Amazonian Indigenous leaders: “One of the key points that we must underline is that governments are considering protecting only 30% of the area that includes 35 million hectares [86 million acres] of land by 2030, what [we] want to achieve is the protection of at least 80% by 2025.” The Amazon Sacred Headwaters will serve as a model for future conservation efforts in other regions. A major hurdle to this plan is the fact that both Peru and Ecuador rely on extractive industries operating within the Amazon to help pay off foreign debt. To mitigate that, the leaders of the indigenous alliance group sought to rally support from international financial institutions and industrialized nations for debt relief.

Air Pollution from a Virginia Land Fill is Making Residents Sick. Officials Won’t Call it an Emergency by Sarah Wade December 1, 2021. The Twin Cities of Bristol, VA, and Bristol, TN take center stage in this article. The author shares the stories of the residents of the twin cities who are living with environmental pollution in the form of a landfill. HOPE for Bristol, a non-profit organization and other activist groups are organizing to protest and demand justice for the residents. The article highlights the some of the injust conditions that low wealth communities are subjected to. According to the article, residents, particularly children, have had numerous emergency room visits for severe sore throats, headaches, coughs, and other respiratory ailments. For those who cannot afford air purifiers, they resort to gas masks. The predominant cause of the pollutants, as observed by the residents, are structural defects of the landfill causing excessive subsurface heating of trash above the permitted temperature, pooling of waste water on landfill base, and toxic gases filtering into the atmosphere. Thus, creating a state of emergency in this community. 

The Contested Swamps of Robeson County by Barry Yeoman September 21, 2021. This article highlights an issue of environmental justice in Robeson County, in southern North Carolina. Robeson county is one of North Carolina’s most diverse (43% of its residents are Indigenous, 24% are Black, and 9% are Latino), but it’s also home to a ‘behemoth’ natural gas facility placed directly over a disrupted archeological site. Many Lumbee and Tuscarora Indigenous peoples reside in Robeson County, and in Wakulla, North Carolina, the entire population is Indigenous. Wakulla is now the location of Piedmont Natural Gas’s newest facility designed to house one billion cubic feet of natural gas which has caused irreversible damage to an archeological site dating back to 1000 B.C. The article states that residents of Robeson County describe their county “as a ‘sacrifice zone’: a favored location for industries that would be (and have been) run out of more affluent places.” (n.p.). “Robeson County, with its long history of racial tension, has become a crucible of 21st-century environmental justice struggles,” the author writes, and this article describes the many reasons why. 

Tourism vs. CAFOs: A New Front in the Fight Against Industrial Animal Ag by Mallory Daily September 28, 2021. Land-use tensions between tourism and industrial agriculture take center stage int this article from Civil Eats. The article zeroes in on the Buffalo National River in Arkansas, along which a large confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) was bought out by the government to protect the river and the tourism it brings to the region. By “pitting the need to protect their waterways and natural areas for outdoor recreation against factory farms” (n.p.) rural communities across the nation are “[opening] the door for unlikely allies to join the fight for heavier regulations” (n.p.) which sometimes results in bipartisan support for environmental protection and regulation of animal agriculture in sensitive areas. This article outlines the risks CAFOs pose to tourism and bodies of water, and the case for turning to recreation and tourism, rather than large scale agriculture, as an economic driver for rural communities.

A Clarion Call to Environmental Consciousness by Heather McTeer Toney February 10, 2021. In this article, Toney, a climate activist addresses the ways Black people “encounter and address climate and environmental injustice” in the U.S. She links this to intergenerational trauma as well as ancestral knowledge. In this beautifully written article, Toney asserts: “No, our mothers did not raise fools, and this one simple phrase serves as a clarion call to environmental consciousness that invokes both an expectation of excellence and survival, as well as a reminder of the respect owed to the ancestors who suffered so that we may thrive” (n.p.). She reflects on Black people’s ability to survive and adapt and Black communities’ tenacity and grit in the face of abject inequality and predisposition to being victims of climate change, as she writes: “As temperatures rise and vector borne diseases spread, our communities are at risk of being disproportionately impacted simply because over half our nation’s Black population live in the warmest part of the country: the South” (n.p.). She links ancestral knowledge with Black communities’ capacity to learn, adapt, teach, and thrive in the face of hardship. She also advocates for Black folks’ inclusion in decisions related to climate change, asking: “All of the facts, history, and stories beg the question: Why aren’t African Americans sought after, let alone better engaged in conversations about climate solutions?” (n.p.). 

‘We all feel targeted’: Rural N.C. community pushes back against landfill, hog farms by Joey Horan February 3, 2021. Here, reporter Joey Horan chronicles a North Carolina community organizing against the influx of a landfill and hog farms to their town. The group is advocating for clean air and water for their community. The article describes the landfill and the Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in the area as an issue of environmental justice. Horan provides a brief history of Snow Hill, a predominantly Black community in Sampson County, North Carolina and describes two eras as “before the landfill, and after the landfill” (n.p.). The article goes into detail about the landfill and the CAFOs and how these issues of environmental justice have “frayed the social networks of a once vibrant center of rural Black life” (n.p.). 

Indigenous communities transform a Mexican desert landscape into forest by Juan Mayorga March 23, 2022. In the article, twenty-two communities in the Mexican state of Oaxaca have taken on the arduous challenge of reviving soils depleted by centuries of overgrazing. The author digs into the historical events leading to the environmental degradation and deforestation of Oaxaca in the 1990s, which began with the expansion of goat ranching. Several governmental efforts failed to successfully restore the land, but a group of Indigenous leaders have managed to restore at least 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres) over the last two decades turning many sites into burgeoning forests. The restoration was extremely successful, thus prompting the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to select it as the venue for World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17, 2021. To Salvador Anta, a forestry expert with the Mexican Civil Council for Sustainable Forestry (CCMSS), the success of the initiative is a huge testament to the collective power of indigenous knowledge and the communities can now look forward to more options for forest-based livelihood, such as agroforestry or even selling carbon credits.

Indigenous-Led Report Warns Against ‘Simplistic Take on Conservation’ by Sheryl Lee Tian Tong March 8, 2022. In this article, the “30 by 30 plan”, a conservation proposal aimed at conserving 30% of Earth’s land and sea areas by 2030 through “area-based conservation measures” comes under scrutiny. The author notes that the lack of meaningful participation of local Indigenous communities perpetuates unequal power dynamics and calls for a more human-based approach. The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework scheduled for May 2022 in China particularly focuses on a more spatial-based approach to reaching “30 by 30”, to which several Indigenous leaders have protested calling it an overly simplistic approach. Rukka Sombolinggi, one of the leaders of the Indonesian Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago states that “The word ‘conservation’ is a nightmare for Indigenous people” because it precludes the rights of Indigenous people who live in tandem with nature but have very little land tenure rights. The article concludes by restating the importance of adopting a human rights-based approach in dealing with climate change and biodiversity loss effectively and equitably.

Once Called Naïve for His Focus on Returning Land to Black Farmers, Thomas Mitchell Is Now a MacArthur Genius by Nadra Nittle December 9, 2021. For over two decades, Thomas W. Mitchell has been leading the charge for reparations related to the loss of farmland owned by Black farmers. He has recently won a MacArthur Fellowship for his efforts. In this interview with Mitchell, Civil Eats contributor Nadra Nittle gets the scoop on the Justice for Black Farmers Act that was recently proposed in the Senate, as well as on the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, and uncovers details about Black land loss in general. This is an important interview with a key figure in the quest to recover Black-owned farmland and is worth a look.

Kamala Harris Brings Food Justice to the Democratic Ticket by Nadra Nittle August 18, 2020. The latest article by Nadra Nittle for Civil Eats highlights vice presidential nominee, Kamala Harris’s commitment to food workers and notes her longstanding commitment to combating hunger in the US. Quoting Jessica Bartholow who works for the Western Center on Law & Poverty, the article shares that “Short of having somebody who has actually worked in the food system or has experienced hunger themselves, she’s about as good as they get on food and hunger” (n.p.). This article shares Harris’s political record on fighting hunger and supporting agricultural workers in her native state of California and is worth reading to understand the track- record of a leading candidate for VP in the presidential race.

Enhancing science–policy interfaces for food systems transformation by Brajesh Singh, et al. 2021. The fragmentation of food systems, science, and policy is presented in this article as major factors affecting the ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The authors explore and propose options for enhancing science–policy interfaces (SPI) through partnerships and resource utilization. They suggest three major interventions: increasing partnerships between existing SPIs, enhancing the mandate and resources of existing SPIs, and establishing a new mission for food system transformation. Conclusively, the authors note the importance of political investment, leadership, multi-stakeholder consultation, societal trade-offs, equity, and a broad-based approach to knowledge sharing and capacity building as imperative to improving SPIs. 

The Biden Administration Must Restore Funding to the Cooperative Extension Services by Madison Sankovitz November 9, 2021. This article highlights the work of extension value chain coordinator for Virginia Cooperative Extension and Center Fellow, French Price and asserts the importance of maintaining and expanding Cooperative Extension services across the country. Sankovitz notes the importance of Smith-Lever Act of 1914 which enacted Cooperative Extension Services in the U.S. and describes the services as “bridging the gap between academic knowledge and practical application” (n.p.). 

Unlike the US, Europe is setting ambitious targets for producing more organic food by Kathleen Merrigan November 3, 2021. Organic agriculture releases fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional agriculture largely because organic growers don’t use synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. Cutting down greenhouse gas emissions is essential to mitigating climate change, but Europe is paving the way to cutting agricultural emissions, with the U.S. lagging far behind, according to this article from The Conversation. Here, former United States Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and current director of the directs the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University, Kathleen Merrigan explains “In contrast with the EU, the U.S. has no plan at the national level for expanding organic production, or even a plan to make a plan” (n.p.) and discusses the different approaches European countries and the U.S. are taking to reduce agricultural emissions. Europe aims to increase organic production while the U.S. is emphasizing technological advances in conventional agriculture. Merrigan ends the piece with a call for the Biden-Harris administration to develop a clear and comprehensive plan to increase and enhance organic production in the U.S. 

Violence Strikes, and India’s Farmers Want You to See It by Emily Schmall, Hari Kumar, and Mujib Mashal October 22, 2021. This article draws attention to the “dangerous new phase” (n.p.) in the farmer demonstrations against new agricultural laws in India. This new phase was marked by violence in early October when a Jeep plowed into protestors, according to the article. The goal of the demonstrations is to increase visibility of the damaging impacts of these new laws on a national and international scale. Here, Khandelwal explains the intricacies of the new laws and the farmers’ protest and demands. According to the article, “No one disputes that the current system, which incentivizes farmers to grow a huge surplus of grains, needs to be fixed” (n.p.), but that “the protesters fear the speed . . . and the breadth of the changes will send the price of crops plunging” (n.p.). 

What Happened at the UN Food Systems Summit? By Dan Nosowitz September 29, 2021. Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, announced a $10-billion package “to promote food systems transformation” (n.p.) at the U.N. Food Systems summit last week. This article explains how the $10-billion investment will be distributed—half to Feed the Future (the U.S.’s international hunger and food security initiative) and half for domestic initiatives. The article also deals with the criticism and boycotts surrounding the summit, citing the concerns around an overemphasis on “on corporations, on technological advances in production and for neglecting to include many smaller and Indigenous farmers in the process” (n.p.).  

Black US Farmer Awaiting Billions in Promised Debt Relief by Roxana Hegeman and Allen G. Breed Sept 1, 2021. Black farmers occupied more than 16 million acres of land and made up about 14% of farmers in 1910, according to this article. Those numbers have plummeted in the intervening century due to discriminatory lending practices and other factors, leading to today’s numbers: Black farmers take up less that 4.7 million acres and make up 1% of the farming population. This article from the Associated Press discusses the bill, held up by dozens of lawsuits from white farmers claiming reverse discrimination, that would forgive debt for farmers of color. The article also includes the story of one of Virginia’s Black farmers—John Wesley Boyd Jr.—in both the article and the short video that accompanies it, as well as the story of a Black farming community in Kansas. The article also touches on heirs’ property and other factors that have contributed to Black land loss in the United States. 

All hat and no cattle: Accountability following the UN Food Systems Summit by Namukolo Covic, Achim Dobermann, Jessica Franzo, Spencer Henson, Mario Herrero, Prabhu Pingali, Steve Staal 2021. This article from the editors of the Global Food Security Journal focuses on the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) and the expectations that surround it. The editors discuss accountability issues surrounding the summit noting that “While the UNFSS may be impressive in its planning, without accountability of what, who, and by when, it could fall short in its execution” (p. 1). The authors also note the difficulties embedded within the context of the UNFSS, including the complexities of competing agendas, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Great Food Reset? By Dan Saladino July 25, 2021. In this podcast from the BBC, host Dan Saladino explores how and why the UN Food Systems summit— “a summit to transform the global food system” (n.p.)—has become so controversial. In essence, the involvement of large food corporations has “led to concerns over the direction of the summit, and of the global food system itself (n.p.). This podcast provides an overview of the UN Food Systems summit and the goals of the people protesting it.

Debt forgiveness for Black farmers is clearly constitutional by Mekela Panditharatne June 28, 2021. Here’s another article about the USDA debt forgiveness program for Black and minority farmers. This one makes the case for its constitutionality and claims that it strengthens our democracy, despite pushback from White farmers. This article describes the reasons the program is constitutionally defensible, particularly in the ways it serves the interests of the state by forgiving the debts of minority farmers. The article goes over the ways that Black and minority farmers have been disadvantaged and discriminated against in the United States as well as the reasons small White “family” farmers and Black and minority farmers should be able to find common ground: “Both groups have motive to oppose industry consolidation and to support fair prices, fair access to markets and more investment in local food production. . .”.

Black US farmers dismayed as white farmers’ lawsuit halts relief payments by Mike Jordan June 22, 2021. The lawsuits disputing the federal relief granted to Black and minority farmers take center-stage in this article. The article discusses the difficulties of “farming while Black” (n.p.), and tells of the history of racist policies in the U.S. We learn of the work of Tracy Lloyd McCurty and the Black Belt Justice Center and its Black Agrarian Fund. The need for access to capital among Black farmers is emphasized here, as well as a need for means of communication like access to broadband.

Op-Ed: Hunger is a Political Decision. We Can Work to End It. by James McGovern and Jahana Hayes May 26, 2021. Rates of hunger are surging above rates of hunger pre-pandemic, according to this article, but Congressional aid has been making a difference. This article discusses the ways in which hunger is not an inevitable outcome of poverty and inequality but, rather, it’s a policy choice. Following the authors, what is needed is a “substantive, policy-based conference focused on ending hunger throughout the United States by 2030” (n.p.). The authors, both members of the House of Representatives, discuss the last such conference held in 1969 and the impact the policy decisions made there have had. They call for a holistic approach to ending hunger that involves key stakeholders, to include ‘a diverse group of Americans who have experienced hunger firsthand” (n.p.)

After a Run for Ag Commissioner, Donovan Watson Wants Systemic Change for North Carolina’s Black Farmers By J. Nailah Avery May 20, 2021. Donavan Watson, a 26-year-old farmer was the youngest person, and the first African American to run to be the Commissioner of Agriculture in North Carolina, according to this article from Civil Eats. This article covers the status of Black farmers in North Carolina, who represent about 1,500 of the over 46,000 farms in the state. Here, Avery also discusses Watson’s platform, which was based on diversity and agricultural innovation. This article contains an interview with Watson and also discusses the history of his family’s farm. In the interview, Watson describes his experience as a young Black farmer in North Carolina and explains his perception of the barriers that Black farmers in North Carolina face.

Banks Fight $4 Billion Debt Relief Plan for Black Farmers by Alan Rappeport May 19, 2021. In this article, Alan Rappeport for the New York Times explains the resistance banks are placing on the federal government to counter the $4 billion in debt relief to minority farmers who have faced decades of discriminatory lending. According to Rappeport, banks claim that the quicker repayments on loans will cut into their profits. The article describes the controversies this debt relief package has spurred as well as the intricacies of lending that the banks use as a reason to demand relief for lost income for themselves as well. The article also includes the voices of Black farmers and activists who are frustrated by the process and the banks’ resistance to the debt relief package.

Biden aid for Black farmers: The view from one Louisiana farm Xander Peters April 12, 2021. This article details President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan through the lens of the Nelson family farm in Northeastern Louisiana. Specifically, this article reveals the obstacles and prejudices Black farmers continue to face, even in light of the American Rescue Plan which has been hailed as some form of reparations. According to this article, and the story of the Nelson family, the funds that come may be “too little, too late” (n.p.). The story of the Nelson Family is telling and is worth reading to see how the American Rescue Plan is rolling out on the ground.

Tracy McCurty Has Worked a Long Time to See Historic Wrongs Righted for Black Farmers by Nadra Nittle March 29, 2021. Here’s an interview with Tracy McCurty, the director of the Black Belt Justice Center. In this article, she discusses the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that will provide five billion dollars in debt relief and related assistance to farmers of color. The article provides insight into McCurty’s work advancing equity for Black farmers as well as into the history of the Pigford settlements which didn’t go far enough in providing compensation to Black farmers to make up for decades and centuries of discrimination and systemic racism. We learn from McCurty, a lawyer by training, how the Pigford class action lawsuits came up short and the effects of these shortcomings on Black farmers. McCurty also provides perspectives on the notion of this act as a form of reparations that is ‘unfair’ to white farmers, and the ways the act could benefit Black farmers.

Vilsack calls for structural changes in U.S. food distribution systems to deal with hunger, equity by Karina Piser March 17, 2021. This article from the Fern’s Ag Insider summarizes Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s priorities according to his keynote address on Wednesday at the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference. According to the article, the agriculture secretary aims to fight hunger while promoting better health outcomes by improving access to healthy foods. In his speech, Vilsack also alluded to the need for structural change in America’s food system, including the need to promote cooperation between farmers and food distribution sites. With particular attention to equity, Vilsack also noted his commitment to using an “equity lens” (n.p.) when working on food systems policy and to examine and keep in context “past discrimination” (n.p.), in order to close the economic and resource gap between Black and white farmers.  

How urban planning and housing policy helped create ‘food apartheid’ in US cities by Julian Agyeman March 9, 2020. The uneven spread of hunger and food insecurity across America occurs through design, according to this article by Julian Agyeman. Agyeman discusses the terms “food deserts” and “food swamps” noting their limitations and explaining why many food systems scholars prefer to describe food injustices as “food apartheid.” The article then details the racist development practices that have led to areas of limited healthy food options and offers urban planning as a potential solution that could begin to reverse food apartheid. 

After 20 years of advocacy, Black farmers finally get debt relief by Monica Nickelsburg March 8, 2020. This article discusses the history of organizing and advocacy behind the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act, a relief program for minority farmers designed to cancel $4 million worth of debt. Here, Nickelsburg provides a brief overview of the history of discrimination against Black farmers in the United States before detailing the many years of activism and advocacy that went into making this bill possible. Here, we learn of the failure of the Pigford settlements and the ways that this new bill will rectify elements of that failure.

Relief bill is most significant legislation for Black farmers since Civil Rights Act, experts say by Laura Reiley March 8, 2020. This article focuses on the history of oppression and racism that Black farmers in the U.S. have faced and frames the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act as a form of reparations. Quoting Tracy Lloyd McCurty, executive director of the Black Belt Justice Center, an organization which provides legal representation to Black farmers, the article states “This is the most significant piece of legislation with respect to the arc of Black land ownership in this country” (n.p.). The article also provides firsthand accounts from Black farmers, and again quoting McCurty, describes the relief as reparations: “It’s reparations, but it’s more than that. It is historic . . . When Black farmers did acquire land through our own grit and determination, the USDA did what they could to erode those gains. Once again, Black farmers, because of their dedication to organizing, have created liberation for farmers of color. Our farmers are due a field of flowers, not a bouquet, for the sorrow they’ve carried” (n.p.). The article also details G.O.P. opposition to the bill as well as the legacy of the Pigford class action lawsuits. 

Op-ed: We Need to Get Food Industry Dollars Out of Politics to Save Our Democracy by Lucy Martinez Sullivan February 26, 2021. In this article by Lucy Martinez Sullivan, western mega-corporations are observed as blocking the raising of the minimum wage, argued here as “one of the most powerful tools we have to fight hunger, poverty, and racial inequality” (n.p.). Sullivan exposes trade corporations and lobbying groups as a threat to democracy in the U.S. through the way they shape our food system and cites a report from the organization, Feed the Truth, that identified the ways that the “$1.1 trillion food industry uses trade associations like the [National Restaurant Association] to do the dirty work of blocking public health measures, stripping frontline food workers of health insurance amidst a pandemic, and blocking regulations designed to protect a predominantly Black, Latinx, and immigrant workforce” (n.p.). She comments on corporate spending more generally and calls for reform to “curb the industry’s political influence and restore control to the public whose lives and livelihoods depend on a safe, healthy food supply” (n.p.).

President Biden, Who Controls Our Food System Matters by Bonnie Haugen, Darvin Bentlage and Barb Kalbach February 23, 2021. This article advocates for a “democratic, decentralized farm and food industry that works for people and our planet,” arguing that “the status quo is not sustainable” (n.p.). This article is framed as a plea to President Biden to preserve family farms and rural communities by putting limits on the consolidation of the agricultural industry. The article uses the recent disruptions as a result of COVID-19 as an example of the limitations of industrial-scale agriculture and advocates for the Biden administration to “redirect public spending toward supporting the public good” (n.p.). The article warns of continued food systems catastrophe if the status quo of endless consolidation and the expansion of industrial agriculture is maintained.

Two Biden Priorities, Climate and Inequality, Meet on Black-Owned Farms by Hiroko Tabuchi and Nadja Popovich January 31, 2021. The Biden administration’s aims to tackle both racial inequality and climate change will converge on Black-owned farms, according to this article. Incorporating the story of a Black peanut farmer in southwest Georgia, and quotes from change-makers including the leader of the Southeastern African-American Farmers Organic Network, the article covers underrepresented stories of Black agricultural communities and traces their history from Emancipation through the Jim Crow era and into the present day, noting the oppression and racism they have faced including from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the article Tabuchi and Popovich discuss the Biden administration’s plan to upend these discouraging trend to face both inequality and climate change head-on through assistance programs directed toward Black farmers and programs like ‘carbon banking’ that would reward farmers for sequestering carbon in the soil.

How America’s Food System Could Change Under Biden by Kim Severson January 26, 2021. This article discusses President Biden’s cabinet and his plans for reforming food and agriculture policy moving forward. With quotes from food systems activists and change makers, this article describes the incremental changes this administration can make to bring justice to food and agriculture in the coming years. Severson also describes the policies and advances made during the Obama administration and the ways the Biden team can build upon them. The Trump administration’s policies and the setbacks to food systems justice seen during the Trump era also appear in the article. Severson discusses the challenges the Biden administration is presented with as well as the changes to come to school nutrition, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and to agribusiness in the U.S.

Small Ranchers, Big Problems by Catie Joyce Bulay January 25, 2021. This article describes the challenges small ranchers face, including finding USDA-certified processing facilities for their meat—a major issue Virginia farmers and ranchers confront. Here, Bulay discusses a bill called the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption (PRIME) Act which would leave it up to states to regulate the retail sale of meat. The bill would allow states to “[expand] the exemption status of custom-exempt processing facilities” (n.p.). The author discusses the current regulations as well as the groups opposing the PRIME act, including National Pork Producers Council, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the North American Meat Institute which argue that the bill would jeopardize food safety. The bill would help small producers but has failed to pass Congress five times though its advocates continue to fight for its success.

The next farm bill can support community-based food systems by Maureen McNamara Best July 21, 2022. From our friend and colleague, Maureen McNamara Best, executive director of the Roanoke-based nonprofit Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP), this piece examines the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) within the context of the 2023 Farm Bill. McNamara Best discusses SNAP’s benefits and shortcomings and identifies changes to the Farm Bill that would make SNAP more effective in reaching those in need, while supporting local agriculture and community-based food retailers.

USAID Could Improve Food Security Assistance, Says Watchdog Report by Teresa Welsh June 2, 2022. This piece breaks down a recently released report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on effectiveness of USAID strategies and food security programming. The report is based on an evaluation of the programs in Guatemala, Kenya, Niger, and Bangladesh. The report revealed that the U.S. government’s global food programs (i.e. those led by USAID) could be “improved” (n.p.) to enhance the programs’ effectiveness in distributing food and enhancing food security in lower-income countries. The report offered two recommendations for improvement: 1) increased collaboration between relevant U.S. agencies “in the planning and coordination of food security assistance” (GAO, n.p.), and 2) that the administrator should collaborate with agencies within the Global Food Security Strategy Interagency to ensure that these agencies are sharing information effectively. USAID has accepted the GAO recommendations. 

USDA Announces Framework for Shoring Up the Food Supply Chain and Transforming the Food System to Be Fairer, More Competitive, More Resilient (USDA Press Release) June 1, 2022. In this press release from the USDA, we learn about the USDA’s Food System Transformation framework. The framework includes 1) recognition of the need for more distributed and local supply chains to enhance resilience and access, while reducing carbon emissions, 2) acknowledgement of the dominance of large corporate players in the food system and the impact of their market dominance on smaller producers as well as consumers, 3) reaffirmation of USDA’s commitment to enhancing food access and affordability, 4) reassertion of the need for equity within the food system. The framework goes on to cover specific sectors within the value chain and the funding commitments to fulfill the need for more robust, resilient, and equitable food systems and supply chains.

Activists vow to take EU to court to fight its forest biomass policies by Justin Catanoso March 14, 2022. The European Union comes under scrutiny in this article as its members continue to burn forest biomass to produce energy, a phenomenon that policy science has shown to be climate destabilizing and destructive to biodiversity. In a quest to put a radical end to this phenomenon, a group of international NGOs and their lawyers has convened and are ready to take the EU to court. In the article, the plaintiffs argue that the European Union violates its own rules and policies which are based on the implementation of “environmentally sustainable economic practices” for companies, investors, and policymakers. The plaintiffs further argue that the EU, in creating its current bioenergy and forestry policies, has disregarded numerous scientific studies that showcase the environmental harm caused by the harvesting and burning of wood pellets to make electricity. Several scientific studies have concluded that unless current policies change, the global demand for biomass as a source of energy will triple by 2050. Once this occurs, the impacts on the existing forests’ ability to act as carbon sinks in undermining emissions will reduce. Adding his sentiments, John Gunn, a forestry expert at the University of New Hampshire stated, “The majority of the volume of wood that comes out of forests globally comes out of practices that don’t consider the next 50 years and whether we’ll be resilient to climate impacts. All the things we expect from forests are going to be harder to come by — the flow of wood products, the need for ecosystem services, carbon sequestration, and clean water. We will need some intense stewardship of our forests to continue reaping those benefits.” Gunn’s statement goes in line with the claims held by the activist group thus calling for immediate action from the EU Commission.

Is Michelle Wu America’s Food Justice Mayor? by Steve Holt March 9, 2022. Food is a powerful cultural force. This is reiterated throughout this report on Boston’s mayor Michelle Wu, who has taken a personal interest in ensuring the discourse on food moves from an access lens to a justice lens. Wu embarked on a critical food policy agenda with the hopes of bridging the gap between the city’s wealthiest and poorest populations. In the report, Wu is said to have an agenda “designed to go beyond access to pursue food justice,” to include “community control of land for their food; dismantling systems that oppress food chain workers and elevate white supremacy; and creating real economic opportunity for all Bostonians, especially those in BIPOC communities, to create food businesses and build assets and wealth.” Wu asks that food be reimagined through a inclusive lens: “Imagine if each one of our hospitals and universities serving their faculty, patients, and students joined together with the City of Boston to think about how we can source, collectively, the healthiest, farm-produced Massachusetts apples, the jobs right here in Mattapan to help produce that produce” (Holt, 2022, n. p).

Op-Ed: One Year in, Where Vilsack’s USDA Stands on 10 Key Measures by Ricardo Salvador February 21, 2022. This op-ed in Civil Eats, from Ricardo Salvador of the Union of Concerned Scientists presents a reflective review of the USDA’s Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack’s, one year in office with a focus on the mandates he set out to accomplish. As Salvador looks at the past year, it is “clear that Vilsack’s USDA has made some progress in a number of important areas and yet there are other areas where the department is lagging. There are reasons for hope and a continued resolve to press for, and support, the department’s new direction.” Vilsack has claimed some of his work has been geared towards igniting “transformational change” in the food system. In his argument, Salvador purports how some of the USDA’s initiatives are on track to changing the status quo of the food system but there is a call to remain cautious as these decisions are still in their early stages of implementation.

GMO is Out, ‘Bioengineered’ is in, as New U.S Food Labelling Rules Take Effect by Joe Hernandez January 5, 2022. “As of Jan. 1 2022, food manufacturers, importers, and retailers in the U.S. must comply with a new national labeling standard for food that's been genetically modified in a way that isn't possible through natural growth” (Hernandez, 2022, n.p). In the article, Sonny Perdue, the former U.S. agriculture secretary, discloses that the regulation is vital in ensuring and promoting accountability and transparency in the nation's food system. Thus, its core mandate is to provide consumers with choice to purchase foods labelled as consisting of ‘bioengineered’ ingredients.

The Biden-⁠Harris Action Plan for a Fairer, More Competitive, and More Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain by The White House January 3, 2022. In this recently published factsheet presented in the White House’s News Brief, the U.S. meat and poultry industry is in the spotlight with the White House releasing an action plan by President Biden to create a “fairer, more competitive, and more resilient meat and poultry supply chain.” The Action Plan includes four core strategies for creating a more competitive, fair, and resilient meat and poultry sector. This is in-line with the Biden-Harris administration’s vision to de-centralize the concentration of agriculture in the hands of a handful of large companies that control most of the business and most of the opportunities. According to the plan presented, this will ensure that small businesses and small farms remain in business. 

Queer Farmers Are Changing the Landscape by Jaya Saxena June 2, 2021. This article discusses the ways queer folks in rural and urban settings are changing the images people associate with agriculture. As the article states, depictions of queerness do not often go hand-in-hand with depictions of agriculture, not because queer people haven’t been an integral part of rural agricultural communities for centuries—they have—but because agriculture is largely associated with the image of “a white, cis, conservative, heterosexual man clad in denim and riding a tractor” (n.p.). In opposition is the stereotypical of queerness—of “coming out and moving to a city to find a kindred community away from the judgment of conservative, rural life” (n.p.). This article turns this binary on is head, calling it out as false. The article tells the stories of queer farmers and beekeepers, urban and rural, and tells of the struggles queer people face in accessing land and capital, as well as of the discrimination they face and the ways that agricultural labor can help one come to more deeply understand one’s identity. This article breaks up the heteronormative image of agriculture.

The Queer-Led Groups Modeling a New Form of Land Access by Jeff Feng April 22, 2021. In this article from Yes! Magazine, Feng touches on two enterprises—one farm and one activist organization—that aim to “defeat the extractive capitalist economy that fuels the climate crisis” (n.p.) and replace it with a “regenerative economy of care” (n.p.). Central to this mission, according to this article, is taking back the land. The article discusses the multiple overlapping histories of oppression in the US that have targeted Queer Trans Two-Spirit Black Indigenous people of color (QT2S BIPOC) folks and have impacted QT2S BIPOC access to land for both housing and food production. It details the ‘original theft’ as well as the continuing systems that “[enshrine] white supremacy and white wealth accumulation” (n.p.). It also relays the connections between land access and climate change mitigation as well as the ways these enterprises, and ones like them are working to build the world they want to exist.

How a Queer and Trans Latinx Gardening Collective Is Working to Reverse Food Insecurity in Atlanta by Eva Reign March 8, 2021. Here is an article describing the work of Mariposas Rebeldes (translated as ‘rebel butterflies’ in English), a queer and trans Latinx activist gardening collective based in Atlanta. The group seeks alternatives to capitalism and explores themes of sustainability, with the goal of promoting food justice and combatting food insecurity in their home city. The group was recently awarded a grant from A Well Fed World and also relies on crowdfunding and donations to pursue their work. The article offers beautifully captured images of group members and describes the context of food insecurity and food justice in Atlanta. 

Some of Iowa's queer farmers are taking a different approach to agriculture by Catherine Wheeler June 30, 2022. In this article from Iowa Public Radio, relates the underrepresentation and invisibility of queer people in agriculture and rural spaces. The article also discusses the ‘queer approach to farming’ that some queer farmers embrace. As rural sociologist Michaela Hoffelmeyer summed up: “To embrace a queer farm approach is very much to question things like the family farm model, to question things like, "How are we feeding the community? Who is the community that we're engaging with? How am I bringing myself into the community?” (n.p.). This article highlights the contributions of queer people to agriculture and rural spaces as well as the systemic discrimination that can deter potential queer farmers, depriving all of us from their innovative solutions to big problems. 

Reclaiming Nature for the Queer Community One Ranch at a Time by Sarah Melotte June 23, 2022. This is the story of Penny Logue, a trans rancher operating an alpaca ranch in rural Colorado that also doubles as a ‘queer-safe haven’ and as a “refuge for LGBTQ+ individuals in a variety of challenging circumstances” (n.p.). The article touches on the legacies and relationships of queer people in rural spaces, and challenges the assumptions that 1) queer people live only in cities, and 2) that rural America is intrinsically more homophobic, transphobic, and hateful than urban America. This article tells of Logue’s experiences with trans hate and threats of violence, and also of her hope for the future, both that of her farm, and for the trans community in rural America.

“We Need To Bring Joy, Power, and Queerness Back to Agriculture” by Michaela Hayes-Hodge June 22, 2022. Michaela Hayes-Hodge, who co-owns and operates Rise & Root Farm along with Karen Washington, Lorrie Clevenger, and Jane Hayes-Hodge, shares her story with Bon Appetit’s Chala Tyson Tchitundu in this piece that describes the ways that the Rise & Root farmers are working to embrace and uplift the contributions of BIPOC and queer folks in agriculture. This is a story a queer farmer exploring the question of how queer folks can show up in spaces where they’ve been previously invisible and “keep queering the norm” (n.p.). As many of the articles we’re featuring this week do, this story speaks to the ways that working with the land can promote healing in individuals who have been marginalized or have undergone traumatic experiences. The piece also explores the racist and exploitative history of U.S. agriculture and the ways this farm is working to upend that model. This article also offers a list of queer-owned farms and organizations in New York and beyond.

The Rancher Creating Community for Queer Farmers, One Social Media Post at a Time by Lindsay Campbell June 16, 2022. Ryan Goodman, of Meadows of Dan, Virginia, is working to make shifts in the agriculture industry toward inclusion and diversity. Ryan Goodman, using his popular internet alias ‘Beef Runner,’ has created a platform to both uplift members of the queer community working in agriculture and to directly challenge those who oppose his cause. In this interview with Ryan Goodman, we learn about Goodman’s motivation to launch a Pride in agriculture social media campaign, how Goodman engages and works to win over those who are not willing to support or recognize the presence of people who identify as LGBTQA+ working in agriculture, as well as what it means to be an LGBTQIA+ ally in the agricultural industry. Importantly, in the interview, Goodman shares his experience of coming out in his small conservative ranching community, and offers advice to those who may be questioning their sexuality or identity and are worried about safety or inclusivity in such communities.

Queering the Food System by Daphne Chouliaraki Milner June 16, 2022. This article shares how queer theory can be leveraged to improve equity and justice within the food system. As Benedict Morrison, member of Quinta, an ecovillage and LGBTQIA+ community project, explained: “Queer theory complicates reductive binary understandings of the world; it complicates ideas of hierarchy; it complicates the idea that there are better positions and worse positions. . . . Queering our food systems is an attempt at radical empathy. It’s an attempt to always find the value in difference.” This article from Atmos shares the ways that queer people are working to overturn the oppressive systems of heteronormative patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism that have long governed the ways food and agriculture operate in the US, to the detriment of people and the planet. It also discusses the need for safety, inclusivity, and the presence of a queer-centric community in agricultural spaces. The article also draws upon queer theory to look at alternatives to monoculture and other exploitative ways of working with the land.

The Queer Farmers Reimagining American Agriculture by Emma Banks January 3, 2022. This piece from Modern Farmer aims to answer questions of how queer farmers differ from straight and cis-gender farmers, and with that, how those differences can be harnessed to change and enhance American Agriculture. In examining these questions, the article studies the origins and importance of queer farmer networks, including Queer Farmer Convergence—a three-day conference taking place at Humble Hands Harvest in Iowa. The conference is a space for “queer utopian imaginings to come to life” (n.p.). The article lists several nonprofits involved in ensuring rural LGBTQIA+ folks have community and connection. Those listed include, Out in the OpenCultivating Change Foundation, and Lesbian Natural Resources, as well as projects like Idyll Dandy ArtsThe Quinta and Country Queers. In this article, we learn about queer contributions to American agriculture, which include queering systems of capitalism by establishing co-ops, emphasizing community connections, and engaging in mutual aid, as well as healing traumatic relationships with the land, helping people who work with the land heal, and healing the land itself by reversing exploitative relationships with land.

Op-ed: Overthrowing the Food System’s Plantation Paradigm by Ashanté Reese and Randolph Carr June 19, 2020. In this incredibly powerful article, Reese and Carr discuss prison farms as contemporary forms of plantation geography and they provide an overview of abolitionist theory, which according to the authors “invites a critical-historical awareness of unfreedom and a creative prescription toward the possibilities of freedom” (n.p). Here, the authors map the connections between concentrations of power in police forces and prisons and the injustices within the food system. They advocate for a more just food system by calling on the abolition of prison farms noting that abolition means halting the continual transformation of plantation geographies entirely by building a food system defined by justice and self-determination.

Abolitionist Organization Takes On Maryland’s Prison Food System by Emily Nonko September 22, 2021. Food is weaponized in many prisons, according to this article from Next City. This article focuses on a recently released report by the Maryland Food and Prison Abolition Project, titled “I Refuse to Let Them Kill Me”: Food, Violence, and the Maryland Correctional Food System, that is characterized as “a first-of-its kind investigation into a state’s prison food system from an abolitionist lens” (n.p.). The article explains the trajectory of the Maryland Food and Prison Abolition Project, which began as The Farm to Prison Project based in Maryland. The report compiles two years of research and looks into “the experience of eating in Maryland’s prisons” (n.p.). This article offers insights into the main themes covered in the report, in addition to providing background information on the report’s creator.

Op-ed: Despite Providing Respite and Healing, Prison Gardens Can Perpetuate Racial Injustices by Evan Hazelett August 16, 2021. Here, Evan Hazelett makes the case as to why prison gardens are problematic—Hazelett notes the concrete benefits gardens provide to inmates but also argues that “there are serious limitations to the efficacy of the dominant prison garden model in pursuing justice for the millions subjugated to mass incarceration” (n.p.). Citing a lack of critical thinking around institutional oppression and “the political economy of prison and policing” (n.p.), as well as the racist, classist, and ahistorical roots of the concepts of recidivism, rehabilitation, and correction, Hazelett provides a solid argument against the “mild reform” (n.p.) prison gardens promote as actually serving to “reinforce the existence and oppressive functions of the prison in the first place” (n.p.). With data collected from staff at 10 prison garden programs across the U.S., this article is both comprehensive and compelling. 

A prisoner's apothecary: Solitary Gardens reimagines six-by-nine cells by Roshan Abraham June 30, 2021. The ‘prisoner’s apothecary’ project called Solitary Gardens imagines a world without prisons. This article describes a project which allows prisoners in solitary confinement to curate a garden from their prison cell that is the size of their prison cell with space marked off for the bed and toilet. The idea is that eventually the garden overruns the space asking the onlooker to imagine a world without prisons. This article shares the background of and impetus for the garden project, as well as the stories of those who have been incarcerated.

How corporations buy—and sell—food made with prison labor by H. Clare Brown May 18, 2021. In the first installment of The Counter’s series “Sourced From Inside,” we learn about the prison’s little-recognized role in the food industry. In this article, Brown explains that food is the exception to a rule that makes it illegal to source prison-made goods across state lines, and explains the ways that corporations become involved in the prison supply chain by sourcing food products made with prison labor. Brown opens with the story of Leprino foods, a company that sells mozzarella to some of the nation’s major fast food pizzerias. According to the article, Leprino was sourcing its buffalo milk for a reduced price from Colorado prisons who pay incarcerated people an average of just $4.50 per day. This article tells the story of the prison food supply chain and traces the $40 million in business that has occurred between corporations, prisons and prison industries since 2017. In tracing these dollars, the article draws connections to the roots of our industrialized food system: “In some ways, the small world of prison food production is a microcosm of the American food system, which has roots in slave labor and all too often functions as a race to the bottom: Fueled in part by cheap labor and low overhead, the drive toward production and profit leaves behind the people who plant the seeds and butcher the beef.”

The ‘Hidden Punishment’ of Prison Food by Patricia Leigh Brown March 2, 2021. Framing prisons as food deserts, Brown discusses the issues surrounding prison food and profiles one project aimed at improving the meals served to people currently incarcerated. This article centers around a program in Maine where the prison is “a pioneer in a nascent farm-to-prison table movement” (n.p.). At this prison meals are cooked from scratch with many ingredients sourced from the prison grounds. Here, Brown comments on the low quality and low nutrient density of most prisons’ food and details the reasons why having quality food in prisons matters—namely, because the prison system disproportionately impacts communities of color due to racism, and because “sending a healthier person back into society is in everyone’s interest” (n.p.), with nutrition a component of a holistic rehabilitation process. 

This rural N.C. farm helps formerly incarcerated women build back their lives, careers by Victoria Bouloubasis  May 16, 2022. As the title suggests, the goal of Benevolence Farm in Alamance County, North Carolina, is to address lapses in rural justice. Benevolence Farm is set up to allow formerly incarcerated women have a supported and safe transition after their release. The farm provides housing, guaranteed jobs, and other services including transportation. This article explores the program’s roots and incorporates quotes from former residents about their experiences in the program.

The Invisible Violence of Carceral Food by Kanav Kathuria January 27, 2022. Here, Kanav Kathuria presents a telling story about the eating and living conditions of the incarcerated in U.S correctional institutions. According to Kathuria, food plays an integral role in the Maryland correctional institution “— namely, as an everyday mechanism of control, dehumanization, and punishment; as a site of exploitation and profit for private food service corporations; and as a form of premature death due to long-term impacts on individuals’ physical and mental health.” Maryland spent on average $3.83 per day per person — averaging to $1.28 per meal. The author urges food apartheid organizers and food system front liners to work in tandem to disrupt he prison food system which is a microcosm of the larger macrocosm of the food system. To Kathuria, the long traditions of food and land-based forms of resistance can and should be used as an abolitionist tool to build power for prison and food system reformation. 

Incarceration, Abolition, and Liberating the Food System by Ashanté Reese January 17, 2022. Here, Ashanté Reese engages community stakeholders and food system activists in unravelling the ever-present dilemmas in the contemporary food system and also the institutions that contribute to the inequities. The article highlights the work of Beatriz Beckford, an artist, educator, and strategist with over 20 years’ experience in community organizing; Randolph Carr, an organizer with the National Black Food and Justice Alliance; Joshua Sbicca, an associate professor of sociology and director of the Prison Agriculture Lab at Colorado State University; Navina Khanna, the executive director of the HEAL Food Alliance; and Kanav Kathuria, co-founder and collective member of the Maryland Food and Prison Abolition Project. Reese concludes with an advice, “sit with the contradictions of the world that we want versus the world that we have. That space between those—that’s where the process is. But until we get there—and we might not ever see it in our lifetimes—we just have to embrace the contradictions.” (2022, n.p).