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Digging for Answers: Exploring Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming

Feathers In Car

Below is an excerpt from the opening chapter of Natasha’s book, The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming:

The Color Of Food 

Many people ask me what inspired the creation of my photographic storytelling project, now turned book, The Color of Food. My answer always starts off with, “Well, I was just a girl who wanted to farm and then…” And it’s that ‘and then’ which brings them on a very personal journey with me. To these curious folks I always launch into explaining how, after joining the food movement and the beautifully crunchy calvary of organic farmers picking up the pitchfork nationwide, I instantly felt more alive and connected to the earth than I ever had. I had found my path.

But at the very same time, I also began to question whether I, and other people like me, belonged on the farm. As a young woman of color, the food and agricultural industry — crunchy, organic, or not — didn’t seem to represent me, or other communities of color. Nor, for the most part, did the farmer and activist movements working to bring change to the industry. My heart sank with the realization that this was yet another arena communities of color were being excluded from.

But then, within, something lit up. Whenever I pushed seeds into the earth with my hands; when I bit into a freshly harvested tomato from the vine; when I knelt in the sun watching the sweat drip from my brow to the black soil below, I felt a pull to discover a deeper truth. It was a truth that recognized the historical inequities in agriculture and the food system for communities of color, but also carried beautiful legacies resiliently persisting in our communities.

It was a shining promise that if I began to dig with open eyes, I could unearth an agrarian story far different than the one I was seeing for people of color. It was a story where food deserts, farm labor or the history of oppressive sharecropping and slavery didn’t define us. It was a reminder — no, a validation — that stewarding this land and eating the diet of my ancestors was indeed a path laid out for me, for all of us.

This promise of truth tugging at me on the farm is how I ended up out on the road digging for answers. This, I always conclude, is how I found myself living out of a 1990 Oldsmobile station wagon during the second-hottest year on record toting my Canon, pen and notebook around from farm to farm, traveling from the red-clay farms of the Black South to the desert farms of the Navajo Nation.

This is the story of The Color of Food and I hope you’ll join me as I share its lessons, reflections, and inspirations along with my continued experiences as a brown girl farming.

Photo by Natasha Bowens

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