Women in Bread and the Fibershed at SHED

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Brief highlights

  • The logic of the hegemonic system created by white men: life can be owned as property. Womyn as wives, people of color as slaves, and natural resources as commodities;
  • The expectation that owners have of property is that they should function according to the owner’s expectations, and that property can be manipulated to meet those expectations. Females are expected to be well-behaved, pretty, and docile at the expense of health, safety, and agency. People of color are expected to produce goods for consumption without being compensated. Seeds and landscapes are transformed for quantifiable use-value despite near and long-term ecological damage;
  • I announced that I’m pregnant; and
  • The California Grain Campaign (Grist & Toll and I) and Fibershed met to discuss coordinating our efforts to push for construction of scale-appropriate infrastructure for regenerative agriculture.

Capitalizing on food waste

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A few months ago I expressed my frustration with the misdirected efforts of food waste reduction organizations in this blog.

Stephen Satterfield’s recent article for Civil Eats digs deeper into this issue by covering Phat Beet’s open letter to Food Shift shines a light on an example of the recent capitalizing on food waste at the expense of small scale producers.

I want to reiterate that we need to think of systemic solutions, such as shifting our values away from overproduction at all initial and human costs and towards equitable distribution of quality regionally- and culturally-relevant foods. Doing so requires creating new infrastructure to cycle nutrients instead of relying on (and blaming) individuals.

Hello Giggles

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Vice

“We see how society worked. It can no longer work that way again.”

These words set the tone for the first installment of Pabst Blue Ribbon’s documentary series, America Dreaming. The YouTube series examines how the most diverse generation in American history (43% of young people identify as multicultural, according to the documentary) is fighting for a country that actually abides by the tenets of the American Dream, which Dictionary.com defines as the idea that every person “should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.”

But for as long as America has existed, we know that oppressive systems have been in place so that only certain people — those who are white enough or rich enough or male enough — can achieve success and prosperity, no matter how hard they work.  America Dreaming follows young people who are transforming their communities and “redefining the American Dream” through social justice — people like Niecee X, a founder of the Black Women’s Defense League (BWDL) in Dallas, and Farmer Mai (Mai Nguyen), a Northern California farmer focused on organic farming, sustainability, and food justice. I caught up with Niecee and Mai in Downtown Los Angeles’s Arts District right before they discussed the documentary series on a panel called, “A Conversation About Today’s American Dream,” hosted by Flaunt, Vice, and PBR.

…Read more at Hello Giggles.

Changemaker: Hungry for Change

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BFI
I’m honored to be counted as a Changemaker among many of my inspiring peers. You can read about us in the book written by Berkeley Food Institute (BFI).

Here’s what BFI has to say about the Hungry for Change project:
BFI announces Hungry for Change, a project featuring California innovators working to transform food and agriculture systems within their community and beyond.

Hungry for Change grew out of BFI’s Changemakers project and takes the form of a print publication, written by Sarah Henry, and a 10-minute movie, produced by Fabian Aguirre and Maya Pisciotto of The Understory.

Highlighted are 20 up-and-coming trailblazers who represent a broad range of geographic regions, area of reform, and socio-economic backgrounds. What these leaders have in common: a desire to remake food systems in order to bring about greater equity, justice, sustainability, and health for all.

What motivates these pioneers? What challenges do they face? How do they measure success?

Meet these advocates for reform and remember their names. You’re sure to hear more about them in the future.

PS I finally watched this and am tearing up. Agh! I love all these people and their truly inspiring and amazing work.

(wheat) Berry Good Foundation Dinner

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graindinner

My grains will be featured in this six-course meal next Monday. Proceeds will go to supporting San Diego farmers. If you’re interested in attending this event in La Jolla, you can purchase tickets here.

From the event site:

In collaboration with the Berry Good Foundation and Jack Ford of Taj Farms, Catania chefs Dusty Karagheusian and Ryan Johnston along with Catania alum Vince Schofield are putting on a six course meal featuring a variety of housemade pizza and pasta dishes all made with local grains in an effort to support San Diego’s farmers.  Each seasonal dish will be mindfully created to enhance the unique properties of the wheat and paired with wines selected to complement the flavor profiles.  

Cal Ag Roots: Digging Deep

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Do you have a favorite podcast? Are you a serial and simultaneous podcast subscriber? I’m not, but I paid close attention to Cal Ag Roots podcast over the years. I’m impressed by the gentle, easy-sounding, yet poignant conversations that elucidate and enrich our agricultural history.

Thus, I was honored that Ildi Carlisle-Cummins, the show’s producer, invited me to be on the podcast. She was principally interested in how history informs my farmer organizing work. I found it difficult to fully convey how every moment, every action is informed by history and memory. Organizing farmer listening sessions comes from the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, seed saving comes from grandparents who hand-picked rocks out of stock for seed and food, and mobilizing multi-ethnic movements comes from Delano, Oxnard, Detroit, and Selma. It’s hard to capture all that in a short interview, but I hope it’s enough encouragement for others to reflect on how we arrived here — the struggles, strategy, and solidarity that has made the world more inclusive and equitable.

While I encourage you to listen to all the episodes through the link above, here’s the episode I’m on and the Cal Ag Roots introduction to this series:

Mai Nguyen is an innovative grain farmer and an influential farmer organizer. In this interview, the first in our new series of conversations with food movement leaders that we’re calling “Digging Deep,” Mai talks with Ildi Carlisle-Cummins about how examining our agricultural past is the only way to move into a just, healthy farming future.

As she puts it, “I, like other farmers, have perhaps 40 tries to grow my crops. That’s not many, but we have more data points by looking back and looking around us. Scale isn’t about one individual using their monoculture of the mind to manage vast acreage. Scale is time, human history, diversity — the polyculture of many minds working lands in different ways throughout time and at the same time.”

Mai_1-1400x604-669x289.jpg

This new Cal Ag Roots podcast series–Digging Deep: Conversations with Food Movement Leaders about the History of Farming– will be released every other month. I’ll be talking with people who are working to shift farming right now, bringing California farming into the future. And we’ll be talking about how their understanding of the past, and how what they learn from Cal Ag Roots stories, has shifted their thinking about their work. Each of the conversations will draw on Cal Ag Roots stories, so if you haven’t heard them all yet, take a listen on our Story Hub (or subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher) !

Particularly relevant to today’s podcast is the last one we released—#5, Borderlands of the SJV. We’ll keep on producing that style of podcasts and releasing them here—there are so, so many more histories to unearth. The two different kinds of podcasts are going to be in constant conversation with each other, so we’re hoping that you’ll tune into both and that each episode will be more meaningful that way.

Big THANK YOU goes out to Mai Nguyen, of course, for the wonderful interview, to Nangdo for the use of all the music in today’s episode, and to Cal Ag Roots Funders including the 11th Hour Project and the Food and Farming Communications Fund.

Small Farms and Land Access: Farm Dreams Deferred

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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.