Small Farms and Land Access: Farm Dreams Deferred

The Berkeley Food Institute broadcasts a podcast called Just Food. A recent episode includes graduate researcher Adam Calo and I talking about land access. You can follow this link for the podcast and transcript, which also includes photos of Adam and I. Or, listen in the file below.

Adam points to structural challenges, particularly racism, as a principle barrier to accessing land. Yes, we can point to America’s long history of land theft, red-lining, and discrimination. We can also point to the many instances of selective application of the law and norms. But, the trend now is that they want to hear a personal story. They want to hear the details of how racism affects an individual. I know that was supposed to be my role in this podcast.

Now, I’ve spoken about the discrimination I’ve faced as a womyn of color trying to gain leases and, despite my due diligence, paperwork preparedness, references, and sometimes trusted working experience with landowners, how ultimately I’m passed over for a less experienced and buttoned-up white person. To me, it’s not a story. Racism is a daily reality and it is painful. When I’m interviewed and asked about my experiences of racism, often as though I’m asked to prove that it exists (see: Summer of 2016 and the world around us), I think to myself, “Is this worth peeling back scabs for? This will cause me harm today, and will it do me good in the long run?” If the answer is no, then I assert that I don’t want to talk about it.

It took me a long time to ask myself those questions. It took practice to recognize that my inclination to trust an interviewer, as though we’re having a personal conversation, needs to be checked. I don’t get to ask questions, so it’s not a conversation.

Fellow POC, we don’t need to make ourselves vulnerable for the benefit of others. We, our ancestors, have already done so much for the benefit of others who seek to extract from us. We don’t need to explain racism because it’s not our problem. Racism is a problem created by white people, and they need to take back their problem.